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.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fdan.farrell.775%2Fposts%2F722011114670460&width=500

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!

[emailpetition id=”2″]

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.



 

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.