Petition calls on Crawley council to open empty buildings to the homeless

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Crawley Borough Council has issued a statement after more than 1,200 people signed a petition calling on it to open its empty buildings to the homeless this winter.

A council spokesman said it sympathised with the concerns but had no empty buildings or control over the privately-owned empty units in the town centre.

The local authority has a duty to provide emergency provision in severe or extreme weather conditions to rough sleepers with a Crawley link.

A spokesman said it worked ‘very closely’ with partners at Crawley Open House homeless shelter, St Mungo’s Broadway, Adult Social Care and Sussex Police.

The partnership aimed to engage with rough sleepers and make sure they were offered all the support available to them, said the spokesman.

Claire Wells, 39, of Ifield Drive, said she started the online campaign after seeing a rise in the number of homeless people in the town.

She said: “I feel passionate about this as homelessness is becoming such an issue and housing as a whole is steadily becoming a luxury especially with the cost of private renting in this area.

“I understand that opening buildings will bring up problems such as facilities and health and safety but I believe that if somewhere could be opened during nighttime hours it won’t require heating as it could still provide substantial shelter from the elements compared to sleeping outside.”

A council spokesman said: “In Crawley we are fortunate to have fantastic charitable facilities like Open House, which is a unique service offering tailored support to really change lives for the long term.

“Many rough sleepers in the town centre have been offered a range of support including, in a number of cases, accommodation. Unfortunately this support is not always accepted, sometimes due to the high amount of money obtained through begging in Crawley.

“Through experience of working closely with people sleeping rough, we know the best form of support is through ‘diverted giving’. This means donating your money or time to a dedicated charity rather than directly to the rough sleeper. That charity or organisation can then offer the practical, emotional and holistic support that many rough sleepers will need to be able to address the wider issues that they have. Visit the charity websites mentioned to find out more about how to donate.”

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