Brighton and Hove City Council: Crackdown On The Vulnerable

ETHRAG Press Release 27th November

Brighton and Hove City Council residents living in temporary accommodation confirm they’re being made homeless and forced to decide whether to sleep rough or move into the private sector.


ethrag-logo-brighton-hove-temporary-accommodationDistressed residents have contacted ETHRAG claiming that Brighton and Hove City Council are breaking the law and removing there housing duty, which councils are required to provide accepted homeless households.

For sometime now the Labour Group have been warning things need to change in Temporary Accommodation, which they blame on government cuts. ETHRAG have been contacted by concerned residents who claim they are victims of lies from bad landlords and the council and are being forced to choose between living on the streets, or being moved into the ever increasingly insecure private housing sector. 


One resident who wishes to remain anonymous has said

I’ve been to the Council and they are not helping me, I’ve been told I’ve got a be out of my accommodation in matter of weeks. I have nowhere to go, the council aren’t helping me,  I ‘am 23 and have depression and anxiety, I’ve got a try find somewhere and fast they say.

The concerned resident also explained:

Brighton Council placed me in long term temporary in 2015 but now I have been told I am being evicted. They have discharged duty of care for me they told me I’ve got a find private.

The minority Labour council led by Warren Morgan recently reported a 1 million pound overspend in temporary accommodation budgets, which is the plausible reason as to why this is happening, but is this right?


Another young mother confirmed:

Brighton Council housing department passed my details to social services because I have two children and they simply said they cant help, and that I need to go private

With rents in Brighton and Hove well above the Local Housing Allowance maximum payment rate, our residents feel like they are being socially cleansed from the city they were born.


Finally another resident contacted us today to confirm:

I’m not sure if you can help me but I’m in temporary accommodation. I received a call from the Housing Acquisitions Team yesterday.

They had called to arrange a meeting between the landlord, a council rep and myself this morning. The call was very vague but basically the council are attempting to make my contract a private one between the landlord and myself. I don’t want this.

I’m now terrified that I’ll become a private tenant and removed from the housing register. I’ve got an appointment at my local MP’s surgery on Monday and I’ve made my mental health team aware. I’ve managed to put the council meeting on hold. Do you know of anyone else who has been in this situation?

ETHRAG have referred residents to the newly Elected Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown Lloyd Russell-Moyle for help. We urge Lloyd and other MPs to stand up for vulnerable constituents and speak out in parliament against these draconian policies, which are leaving our residents at breaking point.


Have You Been Affected By This Issue?

If so we want to hear from you! Right now we know the council are doing this in phases, gradually removing their legal duty to house you, this is potentially putting your household through more upset as the number one reason for homelessness applications is because of private landlords evicting tenants.

We urge you to take a stand and speak out; this is your future and the council are messing with it.


 

Who are ETHRAG?

ETHRAG (The Emergency And Temporary Accommodation Residents Action Group) represents 4,000 people living in emergency and temporary accommodation in Brighton and Hove.

Formed in 2016 to fight back against cuts, bad landlords and a council-housing department, which is not fit for purpose, we are the UK’s first residents association for people living in Emergency and Temporary Accommodation.

We provide a voice for the vulnerable.


 

CASH STRAPPED AND TRAPPED: Growing Concern for Brighton Residents

Brighton and Hove have a housing crisis and its about to get exposed, last year I was the first campaigner locally to highlight the fact that 10,000 people locally were culled from the council housing waiting list, and just last weekend a senior council executive admitted the council are at a loose end with the cities Emergency and Temporary Accommodation.

I’ve recently been contacted by concerned residents living in temporary accommodation in the city, it turns out there are hundreds of vulnerable people currently in arrears due to the high cost to sub-contract out temporary accommodation to private companies.

One concerned mother has reported being told she would need to find an extra £175 per week toward her rent, not only was she forced to move out of the city, she is today in debt of over £1500.


Residents are at breaking point, not only with threat of eviction but they are also reporting being ‘overlooked’ for council housing due to the arrears. One mother described “being trapped” with high rents, often unaffordable.

This is a growing concern because under the Housing Act Part 7: Homelessness Councils have a duty to provide accommodation to families which are suitable for there needs, however if they are unaffordable they are certainly unsuitable.


Emergency and Temporary Accommodation: FACTS

  • MORE than a third of the city’s 2,200 temporary accommodation residents are in rent arrears with debts of up to £22,000, as revealed in the Argus earlier this year.
  • Almost 900 families and individuals housed by Brighton and Hove City Council in bedsits, hostels, flats and BnBs had rent arrears totalling £1.4 million in March.
  • 64% Rise in the number of Children in Brighton and Hove without a home. Now almost 2000 children are living in emergency and temporary accommodation, second only to London. (For Sussex it is 2700, a rise of 33%.)
  • There were 24,000 people on the council housing waiting list until Band D was removed, I believe 12k people have been removed, with no hope of a secure home for themselves.
  • For every 100 people who present as homeless to the council, just 35 or 35% are accepted with a priority need housing duty. The national average is 52%.

Join ETHRAG: Emergency and Temporary Housing Residents Action Group


Have you been affected by arrears?

If you have contact me below with details.



 

People Fight Back With Bold New Brighton and Hove Housing Conference

The Housing Crisis in Brighton & Hove has hit the point of no return and this Saturday the people affected and left behind finally have a voice with a radical new housing conference set to launch a movement to push for more accountability and transparency from Brighton and Hove City Council.

This is a new vibrant campaign launched based on action not words

Caroline Lucas MP and Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP will lead off at the launch of the Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition this Saturday by answering questions from more than 200 housing activists in Brighton.

Around 20 organisations are coming together to establish a Housing Coalition that will challenge the moribund policies of our City Council and national Government.

Steve Parry, acting Chair of the Coalition, said “With co-operation on this scale we intend to challenge in a real way homelessness, housing squalor, housing for profit rather than for people, and the payment of £millions to overseas tax havens for so-called emergency and temporary accommodation” 

He emphasised that “the Coalition is bringing together those that build homes with those that occupy empty properties, those that help feed the homeless and those that will be opening up community night shelters, those that have a vision for all to have a right to shelter and those who are advocating for those discriminated against by our local authority due to vulnerability or disability.”

It is a welcome sign of possible change that Larissa Reed, the newly appointed Executive Director for Neighbourhoods, Communities and Housing at the City Council will be spending an hour discussing the policy and practice of the council.

Local housing campaigner Daniel Harris said ” The time has come for change, for too long vulnerable people have been exploited and neglected, all whilst greedy landlords line their pockets at the expense of people’s lives.

Standards in some places have improved recently but we have a huge crisis with government funding cuts which are hitting the most vulnerable, recent government figures show Brighton and Hove already underperform against national average standards, this is a great concern”.

Council residents, leaseholders, private renters, the homeless, and those in temporary accommodation will be working together and participating in workshops ranging from Community led housing to ‘Alternative housing choices and well-being in later life’, from Living Rents to the horrors of some privately rented housing, from accessibility to the need for respect to be shown to those who are disabled or vulnerable.

To Book Tickets To The Housing Coalition Be Quick

Organisations involved include:

a. B&HCC Tenants

b. Brighton and Hove Pensioners Group

c. Brighton Benefits Campaign

d. Brighton People’s Assembly

e. Bunker Self-Build Housing Co-operative

f. Community Land Trust

g. Community Night Shelter

h. Co-operative Housing in Brighton and Hove (CHIBAH)

i. ETHRAG

j. Good Health Projects

k. Invisible Voices

l. Justice for Tenants

m. Living Rents Campaign

n. Love Activists

o. Mutual Aid in Sussex (MAIS)

p. NFA Residents Association

q. Opsafe

r. Sussex Economic Partnership

Community Pledge Support for Callum King Who Died After Falling From Eastbourne Pier Last Weekend

Callum King 19 Eastbourne Pier Drowning
Remembering Callum King, Lost But NOT Forgotten!

Callum King who would have been 19 today died last weekend after falling from Eastbourne Pier, as reported in The Argus, the article details the incident, but not the facts or history of Callum, who was a popular resident and member of ETHRAG. Callum drowned and The East Sussex coroner’s office has been informed and an inquest will follow.

How I Met Callum King

I first came across Callum last May when I was living in Percival Terrace, which is unsupported emergency accomodation, I remember seeing him outside with residents who were not the type he should’ve been hanging around with.

He would be outside a lot because he used to use the wifi, which some residents had access to, although the provider was not keen to give out the code. I remember thinking he looked really young, much younger than the 18 years he was at the time.

It was only a little later when I was in another residents room that I got to talk to Callum, he was quite shy but took a shine to another resident and former teaching assistant who often looked after some of the most vulnerable residents, he often chilled out with the elders who would look out for him.

He told me he was under the care of social services and explained he was placed in Percival Terrace by Social Services, he also told me he was a care leaver. He didn’t have a huge amount of money so residents would often band together and cook for him, I asked if he wanted help moving somewhere with more support and he said yes, so I contacted his ward councillor and Lead for Children’s Services

A Request For Help

In the email which I sent on 09/06/2016 to Cllr’s Tom Bewick and a Former Cllr for the East Brighton ward, I pleaded for help saying

Hi Tom,

Its been a mad few weeks but being a care leaver no one can say we
aren’t resilient. Anyway there is an 18 year old vulnerable care leaver in
percival terrace and i am worried about his safety.

I really this under gvmnt leglislation we should be helping this young
man get back on track, i cant allow him to slip through the net, he has
no idea what his rights are which is sad.

Tom Responded by saying

Hello Daniel,

Good to hear from you.

I’m asking Faye to set something up with me and Maggie.

I don’t like what I’m hearing about Percival Terrace and I’d like to
understand more.

Also, if the care leaver you’re assisting wants to share any details,
I’m happy to see if I can do anything.

Go well.

Tom

In a reply I provided contact details and advised

He’s got a section 17, he has a probation officer, who is putting in an
appeal to get him a duty of care until 21.

He shouldn’t be in here and we can save him.

Tom then Replied

Thanks Daniel.

Maggie and I are in close touch on this.

I did a couple of months later meet with Tom, although not much came from the 20 minute meeting, I understand that Pinaki Ghosal Director of Children’s Services was also aware of Callum’s case, however Callum was evicted from Percival Terrace for bringing friends back to his room.

There is a No Visitor Rule in place, which he breached and therefore the manager at the time called Phil ended his licence, even after we pleaded to allow him to stay.

Callum was moved to Grand Parade which was a much worse accomodation, he hated it there. After then Callum sadly like many others fell off the radar.

Moved To Eastbourne

Callum was then moved to Eastbourne, a tactic often used for residents with difficulties, as I said previously Callum wasn’t difficult, he was hiding pain which I will not go into.

Sources in Callum’s family said Callum made friends in Eastbourne, but the events surrounding his death will come out, but thats is not for this blog post, that is for later. He was not rough sleeping, he was sofa surfing due to previous evictions from emergency accomodation with a friend.

He was loved and often supported by family, he was NOT neglected by his family and he certainly DID NOT commit Suicide. The Truth Will Come Out!

Community React and Pledge Support

I have been so affected by Callum’s passing, that I thought it would be a nice touch to honour Callum and help his family during this difficult time, they are firstly wanting answers around what happened on the day of Callum’s death and obviously need to grieve.

I have set up a Crowdfunding campaign to help toward the funeral costs and the local community and donors from across the country have acted pledged support.

If you knew Callum or want to help his family you can do so by going to Callum’s JustGiving page.

Did You Know Callum?

If you want you can like and comment on a Memorial Facebook page which has been set up by family here.

You can also leave your messages of goodwill below in the comments section below.

Happy 19th Birthday Callum, your cheeky personality, smile and kindness to others will be remembered by your friends at ETHRAG. Your Family loved you loads and loads and I truly hope the answers everyone seek are provided.

Sleep tight young man xx

 

 

18 Year Old Care Leaver Found In Azaro Doorway Hove Sleeping Rough

18 Year Old Care Leaver Found Rough Sleeping In A Hove Doorway: Community Activists Rally in Support To Re-house.

On Monday 1st of May I was walking home in Hove when I noticed a young lad sleeping in a doorway outside a closed commercial restaurant, If you live in Brighton and Hove you will be used to seeing people sleeping rough, but its rare to see someone so young so I approached him.

It was a wet, cold and windy night, normally when I approach rough sleepers I give my name first to break the ice as I know it can be intimidating when approaching people in the evening, I gave him a few quid and explained I was homeless last year.

I asked his name and he reluctantly muttered his name Joey back, I asked his age and he said he was 18 and a care leaver, I explained I was also a previously looked after child, which I think made he relax a little more, I was quite taken aback myself and told him to wrap up warm.

I explained to Joey I was a housing campaigner and asked how long he was rough sleeping he said “4 weeks this time”, and I could tell he was streetwise, I then went home. I couldn’t get the thought that a care leaver so young was living on the streets, and in particular Joey’s story evoked some emotion me as I had a little cry for the lad. I had to go back to help him, so I returned 30 minutes later.

After hearing Joey’s story I simply had to help, he was in foster care from 2 years old, due to a difficult start to his life, essentially neglected! – Having spent his whole childhood in foster care, Joey as teenager was left to fend for himself, in and out of leaving care placements Joey, like many other previously looked after children got into crime and difficulty, some of which he describes as bad treatment from staff.

I instantly wanted to help him and agreed to meet Joey the next day to help advocate and provide support and advice, which I do on a voluntary basis which recovering from my own homelessness experience.

Step One: Register Joey At Arch Homeless Healthcare Centre in Brighton

Joey mentioned he had no registered Doctor so I took him to Arch Healthcare, a new Healthcare trust co partnered by Dr Tim Worthley, as well respected homelessness medical Dr and GP.

Arch-Healthcare Brighton & Hove Tim Worthley

The process was simple, there were a few forms which needed to be completed in order for the surgery to be to able to find Joey, This took around 10 – 15 minutes to complete, later on that afternoon, the receptionist contacted Joey to confirm she had found his records and his registration was complete.

If you are a rough sleeper and want more information on Arch Healthcare you can you can call them on 01273 003930, alternatively why not visit the Arch website.

Step Two: Register With YAC (Youth Advice Centre) For Under 26 Year Old’s

We initially we to Brighton and Hove City Council to complete a homelessness application, however I was informed because Joey is under 26 years old that he would be required to attend YAC in Brighton.ymca-logo-footer-Brighton

This is a sub-contracted service run by the YMCA.

The process was simple we needed to attend a review meeting, so we dropped in, the staff were extreamly helpful and within 15 minutes after I explained his circumstances, Joey was seen by a student social worker.

The interview took around an 1 hour, Joey was nervous due to the bureaucratic questioning, however having a non authoritarian advocate like me by his side enabled Joey to relax and open up.

At the end of the interview, the staff member left the room to consult with colleagues, this basically took into account what Joey had said and accessed his priory need around homelessness and housing. Joey fulfilled the requirement for housing being a care leaver and the social worker provided a letter to hand into the council when presenting as homeless.

Although the process went around the houses and took longer, the staff were much more friendly than many I have encountered at Brighton and Hove City Council, of late!

If you are under 26 years old and want housing advice in Brighton and Hove, you can contact YAC, here’s how:

01273 624432 yacservices@ymcadlg.org 11, St Georges Place Brighton BN1 4GB YAC Website

Step Three: Present At Brighton and Hove City Council Housing Options.

Normally the most difficult stage for people, however Joey had me to advocate and fight his corner, the first staff member Elizabeth was professional, caring and polite, we then presented the letter from YAC, and was then passed to a senior advisor, called Parminder.

I wish I could praise Parminder, but she was quite rude, and at one point walked off in a strop, this is not my first encounter with Parminder and on form she failed to provide advice and forced her negative and uncooperative attitude on Joey a vulnerable 18 year old.

I wont get into the in and out’s for safeguarding and confidentiality reasons, but she was perfectly willing had I have not stepped in to allow him back on the streets.

Thankfully Housing Options Manager Jerry Aldous was more helpful in conjunction with Bob Proctor Senior Manager in helping to get Joey placed that evening, although an emergency placement, it was in a local emergency accommodation property.

Step Four: Escort To Emergency Placement Property

I cant reveal the location, but it was a property run by Helgor Trading.

I asked Joey for feedback, he advised the Manager was welcoming, the room was good and I understand he felt comfortable, which is nice to hear.

Obviously being a rough sleeper, Joey had nothing but the clothes he had on, whilst not showering for 4 weeks, I sent out a plea to community activists and they answered in there droves.

A colleague and DBS Checked Activist called Jim Deans provided Joey with toiletries, and fresh clothing, I understand Helgor gave Joey fresh towels, and through ETHRAG, I was able to get Joey a small food package.

Conclusion

I hope this blog post gives those of you reading a greater understanding of the process and challenges as well as providing insight into peoples generosity locally, it just goes to show that with co-operation we can indeed change peoples lives.

I saw Joey’s face when he was placed into secure accommodation and I can tell you that it was well worth all the stress and complication.

Brighton and Hove City Council have promised to bring a Temporary Accommodation Board into the City and I hope this process demonstrates that collaboration and feedback between service providers, landlords, council staff and residents shows that we can make a difference to peoples lives and take people off the street and house them securely.

Thank you for reading and if you want to get involved you can always email me on daniel@survivorblog.co.uk or add me on Facebook



 

 

Brighton and Hove: Let’s Save Kings House and Retain as a Community Asset

As a local housing campaigner and someone who has been homeless and lived in Emergency Accommodation in the city, I am embarrassed as a born and bred brightonian with the increased visible homelessness in the city, which at the last count was 144 rough sleepers.

Brighton and Hove City Council have been trying to flog off Kings House now for sometime, however know that we spend almost £20 millions a year paying private limited companies to house the statutory homeless in emergency and temporary accommodation, and I feel we should be providing these services in-house.

As reported in the Brighton and Hove News this week, the sale of Kings House has collapsed, there has been little to no information revealed around this and I believe we as a community now have a chance to retain this as a community asset.

Firstly the consortium buying kings house was kept quiet, no details revealed to us, its our asset and we were frozen out, I think there is an appetite in the city to get this building retained as an asset even if it is just in part.

Image of Building
Baron Estates Ex Brighton and Hove City Council Building Redevelopment

I don’t think we should give up on this just yet, look at the old Priory House Council Offices, these were sold to Baron Homes, they are one of the cities Emergency and Temporary Accomodation providers and are beneficiaries to a lot of money from Brighton and Hove City Council, this was clearly a mistake, and so is the sale of Kings House, as it stands.

Image of Collapsed Roof
Ceiling Collapse Percival Terrace Brighton and Hove.

The community, homeless charities and medical services should come together and organise against this sale, it was originally designed James Knowles, he lived at 3 Percival Terrace in Brighton, this is now an emergency accommodation building also owned by a private limited company.

We need to provide for our own and with the homeless reduction bill demand is set to rise, we need to get the rough sleepers and those stuck out of the city housed, we need a homeless hub a central place for all homeless services to work from and finally tackle this issue.

Together we can make changes. If you want to get involved in saving kings house get in touch, it would be good to get a campaign and organising team together and start lobbying for a change in policy here.

What do you think we should do with the building? leave a comment.

Caroline Visiting Windsor Court in 2015 Image

Shocking Revenge Eviction: Baron Homes Caught Out Live On Camera

Last weekend Baron Homes Corporation Limited yet again revenge evicted a single mother from Windsor Court Brighton, the company illegally changed the locks and we understand have also refused to give the poor victim her deposit back.

There has been no paperwork given to Maggie in relation to the eviction or notice given, the council have failed


Shelter have confirmed that this is an illegal eviction and entitled to compensation on three separate grounds. This time we will win.

I was shocked that events were allowed to go this far, I tried everything to help Maggie this day, social services did not want to know which you can listen to in this exclusive recording with social services manager Indra.

Whilst I am not attacking social services in general here, I am highlighting a particular individual who I believe hopefully does not represent the Children’s Services Department.

I don’t know about you but that is not the way to help a victim in need.

EXPOSE BARON HOMES FOR THEIR CORRUPTION AND NEGLIGENT

There is a petition which has been set up to get the revenge evictions and other issues investigated, please can you sign and promote this petition.

HERE ARE SOME OF THE COMMENTS

My daughter was kicked out of one of their shit holes for complaining about damp mould ever where and a blocked sink and was told to keep her mouth shut and not to tell council how bad the place was if she wanted to keep a roof over her head she also received threats from the thugs who call themselves “the caretakers”

I’m signing because I lived here with Joey when he was 6months, black carpets, fleas, silver fish, damp! Was only moved a week before joeys open head surgery because I refused to take him back there after leaving Great Ormond Street! The place needs knocking down!

My friend is young, hard working and lives with her 8 year old daughter in one of their flats. The flat got broken in to on three consecutive nights a month ago. The door was kicked out the frame and the third attempt was through the windows (which don’t close let alone have locks).

Neither Baron Homes or the Council have repaired the door or windows rendering them homeless or unsafe. They’ve been living at mine to keep them secure. Baron homes even shared the internal pictures of the flat to a neighbour (which must be a confidentially breach) suggesting the place was a mess so how do they know if it had in fact been broken in to (despite three crime references and witnesses).

The mess was only due to her having lost her Mum a few weeks previous and inheriting all her belongings in to the studio flat in which they resided. The real joke is the police could not get finger prints due to the property being too cold at only 12 degrees!! The reason being that the windows don’t close and the heating doesn’t work. This costs her £650 a month. Disgusting!!!

READ MORE COMMENTS HERE

Elected Councillors Have A Duty To Pressure the Council for the Urgent Report into Revenge Evictions

In November at the housing and new homes committee Green Councillor David Gibson passed an amendment asking for the council to urgently investigate the revenge evictions and provide the committee with this report urgently. Its now February and we have heard nothing, this amendment was seconded by Conservative Mary Mears.

Our labour council are failing around housing issues, we keep providing the evidence and nothing is done, they aren’t challenging the officers and double checking standards, they simply aren’t listening hard enough.

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