Green Light Given in Brighton and Hove: To Open Vacant Council Buildings for Rough Sleepers.

Yesterday saw the full council meeting in Brighton and Hove, in a bold move there was a motion submitted by Green Group Councillor Tom Druitt asking for council owned vacant buildings to be allowed to be opened for rough sleepers in the city.

Many councillors contributed to the passionate and sometimes embarrassing debate which saw members of the public in outcry at some of the political point scoring by certain councillors on an issue which quite frankly is not about politics, but people.

The amendment from Labour failed, although the amendment effectively waters down the motion and tried to keep this plan within the existing partnership.

It was recently reported that Brighton and Hove had a 100% increase in rough sleeping numbers in the city and with roughly 144 people sleeping rough on the streets last night, things need to change.

Empty Council Buildings To Be Available As Temporary Homeless Shelters: The Detail

That the Council requests the Policy, Resources & Growth Committee to commission and give consideration to an urgent report within the rough sleepers strategy framework that would enable the city council to:

  1. Investigate appropriate vacant City Council buildings to be made freely available for use such as temporary homeless shelters, to be run by community charity and voluntary organisations that are able and willing to do so;
  2. Publicises the availability of appropriate vacant City Council buildings to the voluntary and community sector, and calls for expressions of interest from the community to operate these spaces;
  3. Make preparations for this at the earliest possible time, given the onset of winter; and
  4. Sets Terms of Reference within the scope of the rough sleepers strategy for use of the spaces, Conditions of use and clearly details the arrangements for reclaiming possession of the relevant premises when circumstances require it.

Tom’s Tweet after getting the motion passed:

Greens Want The Green light To Open Council Owned Buildings As Temporary Homeless Shelters

Tom Druitt opened his moving speech by saying:

This is a very very upsetting issue for many people in the city, I’ve brought this notice of motion to the city council not to make political points but to simply respond to the growing humanitarian crisis, right here on our pavements.

Tom went on to say:

I met with a number of homeless men and women outside the town hall, I was particularly moved by one of the stories from a young man I spoke with.

He was only in his 20’s and he’d moved to Brighton 10 years ago, studied at City College then went on to Brighton University and graduated with a degree in Art & Design. Unable to get work in his chosen field he worked in Kitchens in the cities hotels and then fell out of work and fell to a life on the streets.

He said that he feels like his life has been taken away from him.

Some In Labour Leave Empathy At The Door

Brighton and Hove City Council Rough Sleepers Table 2016
UK Rough Sleepers Worst Table Brighton and Hove are 2nd with a 100% increase since 2015 to 144 rough sleepers.

Cllr Anne Meadows Chair Of Housing for the Labour and Co-operative Group then relied to Tom’s motion with an amendment as mentioned above, she started off by saying:

This is a really really serious issue, however….

Of course its political, its political when the conservative government cuts welfare payments, and its political when the green party who actually did nothing to help rough sleepers get off the streets when they were in administration, they encouraged us to be a protest city Mr Mayor.

The shocked gasps from the greens and public in the gallery could then be heard by the initial statement by Anne Meadows and is quite frankly an inappropriate response to a serious and positive motion, Anne really let the labour and co-operative group down yesterday.

She went on to say:

It is this Labour Council that is working with partners across the city, It is this Labour administration who is working with Rough Sleepers, It is this Labour Administration which is committed to tackling this issue.

Anne then went on to say that this motion would undo any hard work already undertaken on the councils rough sleepers strategy. I was confused by this defensive tactic which seemed to shrug off the rough sleeping issue we have, Anne does not seem to cope well to change based on this performance and sadly this cannot be our position on housing.

John Hadman an elderly Pensioner set up a petition which got 4000 signatures, he is one of the folk who want to help the city, this is a community project and it was sad this none of this was acknowledged.

Later on in the debate Cllr Clare Moonan retracted and said the group would support the motion, she said:

We are willing to listen to any initiative, any idea, i’ve always been someone who is willing to talk to anybody and any ideas that are out there to address this problem, we will listen and we will debate.

Clare admitted that the rough sleeping policy has only been going for 6 months and that they are learning and willing to listen to new ideas to tackle rough sleeping, things over time will start to have an impact she said.

Clare got a great response from the floor and public gallery and really showed the differences we have with councillors, so the motion passed and this will now go to a report back to policy, growth and resource committee.

What Lessons Can Be Learned

If I was Warren Morgan I’d be listening to people like me who are out there daily working with the vulnerable and homeless, we gave up our time over Christmas to help the needy and often reach out to councillors to educate them on the real realities.

We cannot have councillors who are simply to political and ridged, we are a democratic socialist party who have strong values around homelessness, housing and the social welfare state, we know the real costs to homelessness, poverty and addictions yet in our politics we fail to really show we care and understand.

If we are to go from a minority administration to a majority administration, we need to be bold and more empathetic to the real issues and come up with creative solutions to tackle this, this includes interacting with campaigners on the ground.

We should not be abusing our authority to sabotage community groups and activists attempts to improve the homelessness issues in Brighton and Hove, we should be recruiting and learning from them.

Tory Councillor Joe Miller spoke about the legislative failure by officers to apply the recent supreme court ruling which would effectively give all street homeless people a duty of care to be housed, yet we still have 144 people living rough. We as an administration should be listening to Joe who is studying housing law.

In conclusion this was an embarrassing performance on an issue which we should be leading the debate. 

1000’s of home seekers taken off the housing waiting list in Brighton and Hove

Brighton and Hove City Council have begun the council housing waiting list cull, announced back in November 2015 the new allocations policy was designed to remove home seekers by cutting thousands of people from the register.

With some 25,000 people on the list and with a distinct a lack of truly affordable housing being build, the labour council decided to strengthen the allocations policy by setting harsher polices around who can be on the register.

800 properties become available each year in Brighton and Hove and the council decided rather than build more homes to instead cut people off the housing list. No more waits, no more hope!

Letters from the council are starting to hit peoples door mats

I have been contacted by one source who tells me he lives in a home with multiple occupancy with 9 other people currently, he said “I have to also share a toilet and bathroom”. The person who is currently so down that he has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety claims his Dr has sent the council supporting evidence so cannot understand why they have removed him from the register.

My source said “I fled domestic violence and feel there is stigma associated with men who suffer domestic violence”, should people like my source be left to live in victorian squaller? He advised me that he had previously lived in the cities emergency accommodation but had to leave because the living conditions were so bad and it was affecting his mental health.

So what are the key changes

If you have failed to bid in the last 12 months then its bye bye I am afraid.

  • That the criteria for being a qualifying person include those who have lived in the area continuously for five years preceding the date they make their application, and at least 2 years immediately preceding this date (with the same exceptions provided for in the draft policy)

Currently I am still in the dark as to what the affect is going to be but by judging from above, I think there will be many stories yet to come.

Can You Appeal?

Yes! even if you don’t think so still appeal on the basis that you have not been aware of how to bid on homemove and that you lost your number, simply ask for a new number and ensure you bid regularly.

Have you got a story?

If you have just had a letter on the door mat and want to highlight your story, I would be happy to listen and point you in the right direction, this is a cruel way to shatter peoples hopes for a home of there own. Email me: daniel@survivorblog.co.uk

Two Revenge Evictions – Both Victims Shipped Out Of The City To Eastbourne

Last night through ETHRAG I was contacted by a severely upset lady who informed me after an altercation in which she was assaulted at the notorious Percival Terrace emergency accommodation in Brighton and Hove.

The 26 year old who has recently moved back to Brighton and Hove following domestic violence, was provided an interim duty to be housed by Brighton and Hove City Council under homelessness legislation. The individual has various vulnerabilities in relation to the years of abuse she suffered from family members.

This is not the first time, check out this story

Her First Accommodation

Our service user was placed at Percival Terrace, the initial room she was placed in she describes as one of the worst rooms she has stayed in. below is an image of the mattress she was expected to sleep on.

I remind people that council contracts with the providers state that a new mattress is to be provided, her reason to complain to the council is valid.

Dirty Mattress at Percival Terrace
Dirty Mattress in Room 8, we know it was a new mattress before the service user moved in, so we know the provider changed this dirty mattress over before.

The Incident At Percival Terrace

Our service user states that on the communal stairwell she was approached by an older male resident who told her to keep way from two younger residents, our service user states she is a mother figure and wanted to take the young care leavers under her wing so to speak. He then got verbally abusive and she immediately went to the office to report to staff.

Whilst in the office, our service user states that the hatch was open therefore the man saw she was reporting after started hurling abuse at her through the hatch, calling her fat and swearing. Our service user has an eating disorder and is displaying symptoms for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as a sufferer myself, i am well aware that people can trigger episodes.

Our service user reacted to the comment and left the office and confronted the man in the public hallway, which is covered by CCTV. She defended herself, and the man reacted by aggressively pushing her which hit her in the breast.

The situation then escalated and our service user states at this point she was refused help and that in fact it was tuned on her and the police were allegedly called. Although she never saw them.

Percival Terrace Reaction:

Percival Terrace reacted as they have done multiple times and simply cancelled the room with a reason which was completely one sided. Our service user was given just 24 hours to vacate the room and present to the council.

Angelique the manager for Helgor Trading Ltd said to our service user “my staff are not liars, I trust them 100%”

Back to the council

On Monday 16th Jan our service user went and presented to Brighton and Hove City Council, visibly upset and alone with no support, she felt the council were siding with Percival Terrace, I understand the police were called however they have taken the word of the accommodation provider and not her.

I have concerns around this, we have had a spate of revenge evictions in the city, whereby these providers whom are paid on average over £800 a month per person to house these vulnerable people, on one hand the providers are acting unethically and the council are being forced to clean up the mess, its unacceptable especially when many of the providers have no safeguarding policies in place.

We then accompanied the service user back to the council on the 17th January 2017.

The Meeting at the council 17/01/17:

Myself and Nikkie from ETHRAG went along to support the homeless victim at the council due to her being unsupported and at the mercy of housing staff whom are not listening to her needs. The interview started.

Me: Lets not worry about the issues, she is street homeless she cannot see BHT until tomorrow so lets just take steps to ensure she is housed tonight and not left on the streets.

Me: Under homelessness legislation you have discretionary powers to house.

Nancy BHCC: Please don’t be quoting me legislation, unfortunately we have discharged duty and there was a quite a kick off in here yesterday, i was sitting next door.

Me:  You have discharged the duty and taken the word of a provider who has previously cancelled peoples rooms unethically, is that right?

Nancy BHCC: Yes, we took the other side of the story yesterday and it was decided to cancel the duty.

Me: But you have making a vulnerable young lady street homeless?

Nancy BHCC: You need to talk to the original advisor.

Well that was a complete waste of time, we waited patiently for another Advisor called Ross, Ross listened and went the extra mile to help our service user, even apologising for the traumatic experience our service user had the previous day.

In the meantime I contacted Cllr Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who is the ward councillor which covers Percival Terrace, he listened to our service users side of the story and the actions which were taken by Brighton and Hove City Council and ultimately came to the same conclusion, the duty should not have been discharged like the council initially did, she should have been moved pending an investigation into the revenge eviction / Incident.

Lloyd spend the afternoon talking with Brighton and Hove City Council management, he has issued a statement which I will publish below.

The Result

The council have accepted there was a mistake, however they did issue a warning to the service user, whom has confirmed that she accepted this warning on the basis that when she makes a complaint that as a resolution Brighton and Hove remove this warning and issue an apology.

Sadly due to the limited accommodation an the fact Percival Terrace’s mother company own five buildings in the city meant her options locally were nil, she was moved to a hostel instead in Eastbourne.

Our service user now will be in contact with Brighton Housing Trust who offer a legal help service, this is legal help under the homelessness legislation. They will be challenging the decision to move our service user to Eastbourne because why should a victim be placed miles away when its clear the failure lies with the accommodation provider.

The Lesson To Learnt

I feel the advisor Nancy at BHCC needs retraining, this is not the first incident in which people have felt she is more worried about turning people down than actually finding ways to help them.

Having spent all afternoon and morning in the housing department at Brighton and Hove City Council, I now have a wider awareness on the impact these revenge evictions are having on the council frontline staff, whose hands are sadly tied.

Whilst the council need to do more to stop the providers of emergency accomodation revenge evicting people, not only because its unethical but because the councils resources are limited and this time could have been spent with new homeless applicants who sometimes do not get seen.

If the city had a temporary accommodation board like Manchester and Newcastle, these incidents would turn into positives with new policies in place to protect the vulnerable.

Statements Issued

Cllr Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour East Brighton statement
Cllr Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour East Brighton
” I’m happy that we were able to get it right in this instance, when constituents come to Labour Councillors we work hard to ensure that the council is working for them. Housing remains highly underfunded by national government, and there still much more to achieve to abolish homelessness in our city, but as a ward councillor we will contribute to work hard, with Labour’s lead councillors on housing and on homelessness and with council officers to improve and increase accommodation in our city for all”
Sadly because I am banned from contacting Helgor Trading Ltd, I wasn’t able to get a statement from them.
At the time of publishing I am still awaiting a statement from the Housing Spokesperson for the Green Party.