Brighton & Hove Homelessness: The Shame Of Europe

Ive been speaking to some non UK nationals about homelessness in Brighton and Hove.

Last year I met a student from Holland who was staying in Brighton and Hove for the winter to study, he was studying homelessness and rough sleepers. He spent so much time with rough sleepers observing and learning. He went back to Holland with his results which painted a realistic gloomy view of the homelessness issues in Brighton and Hove.

We know that we have 144 official rough sleepers but what about the extended community within the homeless sub-culture? these are people living in hostels, people who are now homed and left without support and therapy to fully recover.

We know that we have a very visible issue on the streets of Brighton right now, as I am writing this blog I am tucked up in bed with a horrid chest infection, warm under my duvet and only a few feet away from the kettle to make some honey and lemon hot water.

I was speaking to a rough sleeper last night, he is 19 years old. He also has a chest infection, but does not have to comforts we are privileged to have today.

He will be walking the streets all day to get warm.

He will be begging or doing criminal activities to survive.

He is slowly dying inside and at risk of assault or sexual abuse. How can this be right?

The homeless are five times more lively to attend A&E than the average Brighton and Hove resident, most die in their forties.

Check out this post worried about another young lad.

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Non UK Citizens in Shock Horror at Brighton and Hove Homelessness Issue

So back to this guy, who is quite cute, he has recently arrived from Spain with an open mind as to what he will find in the the city and has taken up full time work in a restaurant working 40 hours a week. He works in the city centre and can see first hand the homelessness crisis bringing doom and gloom to the streets of Brighton.

He said “In my whole life I’ve never seen this, people sleeping on the streets, we do not have this where I am from”.

Which is something I am hearing more and more often, many of the volunteers we see helping out with grassroots groups are people from other countries in Europe, this number is increasing which is great.

He then said “There no help by the government?”

I laughed out loud and coughed everywhere with this stinking cold, as if! Since the Conservatives came into power rough sleeping has doubled.

These people who come to live in the UK from Europe, they come to learn English, they work hard, long hours and see the carnage on the streets as totally unbelievable and unnessessary.  Why? because they don’t have this, yet they have much higher unemployment levels than the UK.

It doesn’t make sense, that is until you factor in the freeze in wages, the increase in living costs and most importantly the high rents and lack of new council housing being build. We have different societies, they have cheaper food, cheaper rent and a system in Spain which helps those who have fallen to hard times.

How do we clean up the streets?

Id certainly recommend people check out the Sussex Partnership, headed up by Jim Deans and a community or volunteers those of you from across Europe or local who want to help tackle the homelessness crisis should start with him.

The Sussex Partnership feed the most homeless in the city, they can be found at the clock tower in Churchill square every Sunday, to get involved and help feed and get to know the real people behind the stigma, drop by! Check out a recent Argus article about the work done by the Sussex Partnership here.

We also have OPSafe – who do some wonderful things in the city including the Rucksack Project which provides the homeless with life saving footwear and suitable clothing to help rough sleepers warm and dry. Sometimes the people who make up the rucksacks leave little messages of inspiration for the homeless or give them creative items to keep their minds active. One of the organisers said:

“its the little things that make a real difference, the human touch”.


Their are many initiatives in Brighton and Hove designed to help the homeless, I would recommend looking for those organisations and groups who have volunteers with lived experience of homelessness. Do this as a start before, even considering some of the larger charities who get huge amounts of funding.

Homeless people have their own culture, a sub-culture within our society which is marginalised. Rough sleepers are often abused or ridiculed by those in our society who clearly demonstrate that they have no sense of compassion, but for so many people within in minority culture being left behind to die.

As recently reported the Brighton Centre to be used as homeless night shelter this winter 30 new places will make a very small difference, but the idea come from the local community originally. Brighton and Hove News reported this:

“The places at the shelter will be allocated from referrals by outreach workers from St Mungo’s and BHT (Brighton Housing Trust). The outreach workers will also offer support to those staying at the shelter, linking them to services and sources of support across Brighton and Hove.”

Talk about taking over from the little people, the establishment keeping their funding options closed to a small number of charities, who by the way have an invite only selection process if you want to get involved in their Galvanise Project. A tick box exercise designed to keep the tills ringing.

No worries the grassroots community are staying away from this project and setting up there own emergency pop up shelter, which will help 60 people sleeping with. They have no help from the council, they don’t get one of the empty buildings or funding from the council, its being entirely funded and crowdsourced by locals for all homeless.

They want to save lives, not use those lives!

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Dont Moan Take Action

Speaking to my sister today got me thinking and I actually said this to her

Stop moaning about your housing situation and take action, do something about it?

Granted she is a mother of two girls under the age of 2. My sister who was up until 2014 was living in a flat in Brighton and Hove, sadly a knock came to the door one day and it was a council officer, my sister answered and they said this is a council property you are illegally subletting.

For months my sister was getting letters for the landlord and were left unopened as the landlord move away to live with a partner, never did my sister think she was actually sub-letting a council property.

Anyway my sister assisted with the councils investigation to take action against the so called dodgy landlord, who not only has taken advantage of my sister, but also lied to the council and state and profited from council property.

To my sisters amazement she was then told she had to move out by Brighton and Hove city Council, leaving her homeless.

My sister ended up moving into a family members spare room and was on the council waiting list. She then after 10 years and no success found out she was pregnant, up until this point she was working.

The council placed her in private rented accommodation with a long term tenancy agreement, I think 10 years. She was in Band D, she as told me today she is spending £5 per day on electric, as her flat doesn’t have central heating. She told me its full of damp and on top of that her second baby girl arrived this year.

The council then remove her from the council housing waiting list, after evicting her from her previous place, through no thought of her own.

Ive learned that you need to take action

Its hard to know where to start with taking on the council or ensuring your rights are being met, I discovered this first hand. Being homeless myself had its challenges, but from day one I know I had to speak out and take action.

We have choices on where we go or how we go about it, but I soon discovered that I wasn’t alone in my crisis and struggle, I discovered that their were many like me living in a temporary and emergency accommodation nightmare.

The press in the city are kind to those who have been marginalised but they only publish a few stories, to get a real voice I set up this blog and started writing and evidencing the issues people and myself faced.

I believe this continued partnership will eventually lead to better prospects for locals in terms of secure and affordable accommodation. The Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition which launched their website this week, is an organisation bringing thousands in the city together, collaborating for all our futures.

In conclusion I’ve seen many people speak out and help to change the futures of others and themselves, they’ve been brave and often been persecuted for this bravery by the establishment. I’ve come to see that, we need to have a no fear attitude and follow through until we are happy with the outcome.

Contribute to keep this blog site going

 

When Will The Homelessness Establishment Wake Up

Andy Winter Needs A Reality Check

Following the recent report that a 21 year old rough sleeper in Brighton and Hove has sadly been found dead, the housing and homelessness establishment have responded. Andy Winter the Chief Exec at the Brighton Housing Trust wrote today:

We don’t need new initiatives, or new groups, or ways to make life a bit more bearable for those on the streets. We need to help them off the streets. Some worthy and well-motivated initiatives can hinder that process.

With 5 million a year being spend on homelessness services in the city and each year the number is rising, with now over 150 people sleeping rough in Brighton and Hove, I note this quote from Andy:

In reality, a lot is happening. We provide, for example, through First Base Day Centre, the basics for survival and basic dignity – hot drinks and meals, showers, toilet facilities, clean and dry clothes and critically, with our partner organisations, we help several hundred people off the streets and into housing.

I have to say why is Andy defending BHT? why is he not talking about the huge misuse of funds which are not delivering a service which saves lives? Why is Andy essentially using this horrid death to promote the activities of BHT?

The Young Rough Sleepers Mate Who Found Him

I have been informed by grassroots homelessness activists and front line volunteers that the young lads friend who found him dead at the weekend, actually spent the evening sleeping rough himself.

Imagine finding your friend dead, what affect would that have on you? I would be messed up, but then to have to sleep rough that night, this is not how we should be treating anyone in our society, especially young people.

What Can Be Done

Those groups Andy Winter is putting down are actually changing things, the Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition, which now has 30 organisations signed up is the largest in the city and Andy is starting to see that things are changing.

For example The Community Night shelter team are crowdfunding for a huge marque which will be erected this winter and set to put a roof over the heads of 60 rough sleepers. This can be achieved for a fraction of the money the establishment get, for just £20,000 we can provide sanctuary and warmth for up to 60 people at risk of death.

If you want to find out more information on the crowd funder check out the just giving page here.

Candlelit Vigil In Solidarity With The Fallen This Thursday

Come and pay your respects for those we have already this on the streets of Brighton and Hove this Thursday. The community will be meeting at Brighton Town Hall from 4pm, just before the Full Council Meeting, where elected councillors will be debating rough sleeping.

RSPV on the Facebook Event page here.

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.


 

Iain McNicol Pay Labour Party Conference Workers Real Living Wage

Iain McNicol Pay Labour Conference Staff The Real Living Wage

Howdy Comrades

As you know it’s the Labour Party Conference next week I’m Brighton and Hove.

We are saddened that conference staff will not be paid the £10 per hour as Labour Party Policy / Manifesto.

THIS IS A DISGRACE AND WE URGE Iain McNicol to resolve this and pay the conference staff what they deserve.

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Brighton Image view

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Pledges to Suspend The Right To Buy

As a housing campaigner and formally homeless resident living in emergency accomodation and now living in temporary accomodation I can confirm Jeremy Corbyn’s Housing Manifesto plan will transform Britain and provide a Secure and Affordable Home for All.

Suspending the Right to Buy

First introduced by the tories in the 1980’s the Right to Buy Policy which has now been scrapped in Scotland and Wales, although provided the opportunity for the working class to own there own council homes, has been a grossly unfair policy which has also been raided by tory bad landlords.

The manifesto states: 

More council homes have been sold off under the Conservatives and only one in five have been replaced, despite long housing waiting lists. Labour will suspend the right-to-buy policy to protect affordable homes for local people, with councils only able to resume sales if they can prove they have a plan to replace homes sold like-for-like.

Taking the lead where Brighton and Hove City Council seem to have failed in recent years, Labour are promising to reverse the rip off privatisation which is costing all tax payers and bringing back in-house council housing only rewarding local authorities who build like for like.

Council House Building is BACK

It’s no secret I am a fan of council housing, having been raised in a council house which was then subsequently taken away from my family in 1994, I am fully aware how a secure home can help families prosper.

The Tories have demolished estates and built luxory accomodation, forcing locals to move sometimes over 100 miles away from friends and family.

Broken Dreams Brighton and Hove City Council Housing Waiting List
Brighton and Hove City Council send in the bulldozers to demolish 10,000 locals from the council’s housing waiting list

Just last week a local from Whitehawk in Brighton and Hove wrote to me telling me that when her mother died of cancer last year, the day before the funeral Brighton and Hove City Council hand delivered a notice of eviction from the family home they had lived in for 25 years.

I was disgusted to hear that this council had lost all compassion, and I see this on a regular basis when they reward tax evading limited companies over real locals who were born and raised in the area.

The manifesto states: 

Under the Conservatives, affordable housebuilding has fallen to a 24-year low. Labour will build the genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy that the country needs.

We will remove government restrictions that stop councils building homes and begin the biggest council building programme for at least 30 years.

We will ditch the Conservatives’ ban on long-term council tenancies to give council tenants security in their homes. We want more people to have a secure tenancy in a home built to high standards.

Thats 500,000 new council homes, build by locals for locals and a further 500,000 truly affordable homes for those who are in work and being bit by high rents from bad landlords.

Homelessness

 

With 2000 children living in Temporary Accommodation in Brighton and Hove last Christmas, and over 120,000 families nationally labour have pledged to tackle this countries homelessness and housing crisis once and for all.

20160528_131927_resizedThe manifesto states:

Homelessness is not inevitable in a country as decent and well off as ours. However, since 2010 the number of people sleeping rough in shop doorways and on park benches has more than doubled. This shames us all. There can be no excuses – it must end. Full stop.

Labour will set out a new national plan to end rough sleeping within the next Parliament, starting by making available 4,000 additional homes reserved for people with a history of rough sleeping. We will also take action to tackle the root causes of homelessness, including safeguarding homeless hostels and other supported housing from crude Conservative cuts to housing benefit.

With a council locally who enforces Tory policies of hate and targeted at the most vulnerable minority groups, a Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party will take the lead nationally and help the homeless not criminalise them.

Private Renters

Labour will end insecurity for private renters by introducing controls on rent rises, more secure tenancies, landlord licensing and new consumer rights for renters.

Labour say:

Soaring rents are a real problem and leading to more families living in temporary accommodation, more people sleeping rough, and many not having enough money to save up for a deposit or for a rainy day.

Labour will make new three-year tenancies the norm, with an inflation cap on rent rises. Given the particular pressures in London we will look at giving the Mayor the power to give renters in London additional security. We will legislate to ban letting agency fees for tenants.

Labour will also empower tenants to call time on bad landlords by giving renters new consumer rights. Renters are spending £9.6 billion a year on homes that the government classes as ‘non-decent’. Around a Quarter of this is paid by housing benefit. A Labour government would introduce new legal minimum standards to ensure properties are ‘fit for human habitation’ and empower tenants to take action if their rented homes are sub-standard.

Finally reversing Tory Policies that hit the vulnerable and young

Labour have promised to scrap the Bedroom Tax and Reverse the cruel decision to abolish housing benefit for 18 to 21- year-olds, which risks putting even more vulnerable young people on our streets.

Let me know what you think about these housing polices, will these policies make a difference to your lives?

Are you one of the 10,000 people who have recently been taken off the council housing waiting list?

If so let me know your thoughts and as always please share.

 

 

 

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.

DESTRUCTION: Safety Fears With Council Emergency Accommodation

Destruction Leaves Residents In Fear After A Ceiling Collapses

Last year I exposed a similar emergency accommodation story, a families ceiling collapsed due to structural and disrepair issues which almost collapsed in on him. Just one year later the same thing has happened again.

The premises on Westbourne Villas Hove is an Emergency Accommodation building housing  vulnerable people, I was contacted by a concerned resident with these images.

brighton-emergency-accommodation
Four inch thick plaster covering the whole room and soaked in water

One resident said:

They’ve already been and cleaned the flat up and ushered the resident to another building, the clean up has started

I understand the initial fall happened on the Thursday evening, whilst the resident was out.

Emergency-Accomodation-Westbourne-Villas
Collapsed Ceiling at Baron Homes Emergency Accomodation Building

I was then informed on the Friday that at around 1:30pm in the afternoon, the Emergency Accommodation building began shaking and then another fall happened.

emergency accomodation two huge holes in the ceiling baron homes
Two huge holes left after the ceiling collapses

ETHRAG (Emergency And Temporary Housing Residents Action Group) have raised this and other incidents with ward councillor’s Tom Bewick and the lead for homelessness Clare Moonan with the images and our concerns.

Clare Moonan was contacted by ETHRAG and has responded saying:

I will make some enquiries into this property and get back to you.

Emergency Accommodation Tips For The Council

  1. 19-20 Westbourne Villas, Hove needs to be inspected by Health and Safety and Council Structural Surveyors.
  2. The Building needs to be given the green light as safe.
  3. Ward Councillors need to ask for the inspections reports for these properties and see if these issues have been raised previously.
  4. Ward Councillors need to visit the building and talk with residents.
  5. Brighton and Hove City Council need to change the regulations around Temporary Accommodation and require landlords to provide structural surveys to ensure safety standards.

At A Recent Committee Meeting

Watch me ask the question at the Housing & New Homes Committee – Wed, 18th Jan 2017 – 4:00 pm – via the Brighton & Hove City Council Webcasting here.

On the 18th January I asked the council this question:

Can the council explain why they do not request and record structural survey reports for Emergency Accommodation buildings which house the vulnerable?

The Chair Anne Meadows said this

Structural Surveys remain the responsibility of the building owner or head licensee, the contracts contain standards required of the accommodation.

I then raised a further question stating the the Town, Country and Planning Act states that when buildings are listed that its the councils responsibility to enforce action to retain the buildings structure in accordance with the grade listed status.

The response was 

I think we are going to have to get a written response to this, a full written response will be sent on to you. We will circulate the response to all members of the committee.

Basically people they the council are actually liable when these buildings are listed and they knew this, so they accepted it requires a written response, basically I was armed with knowledge know they would provide a pitiful response to my initial response which has to be submitted 7 days before to give them time to respond.

Your supplementary question is hidden and thats the key question in these matters, get the avoidance of responsibility in response to question number one and follow up with a killer question.

The Labour Council Needs To Do More

The images above, this blog and the people out there daily helping others deserve a voice and need to be heard, on some issues we are being heard, quietly! We are actually giving the councillors heads up yet they are still not listening.

The fact is these landlords like Baron Homes, are making over £1100 in total per room when you include management fees, now this regular income spread across literally 100’s of rooms in the city provides a nice regular income, which can be borrowed against and even re-mortgaged.

But the income continues, this capital is then used to buy more buildings and feed the role they now play in society, that is to literally suck the welfare state dry, if you consider tenants are vulnerable and often unemployed then this money is coming from housing benefit money.

The tax payer is paying for this poor practice, which has little regulation and safeguarding in place to protect the vulnerable with a legally binding housing duty, its these people who ultimately suffer and until this council realises this and walks with the people, I fear for the day when we have a catastrophe here in Brighton and Hove and lose lives.

Change needs to happen and it needs to happen fast Labour and Brighton and Hove City Council.