Homeless Women: Why They Deserve Better

I would say around 80% of all my housing and homeless clients are women, most are young and under 25. They are mostly Brighton and Hove born and raised and either come from a disturbed / traumatic past or present or they are from what society calls a deprived upbringing.

Firstly deprived is a word given to us from academics, I call these upbringings good old fashioned challenging life experiences, others will put people like me into a box and class structure. Often missing the point.

Did we ever feel deprived growing up that’s the question?

I am speaking out today in this blog article in the hope that others suffering similar experiences to what I am about to describe, will come forward and speak out also!

Should homeless women be better safeguarded in Homelessness Accommodation?

Firstly what is safeguarding? the council have a definition, charities have another and those affected by the actual issues have their own lived version. For some time now I have had brave women coming forward to expose the homeless system locally with their own stories, some have progressed to ombudsman complaints and won, and others have suffered in silence.

History has proven that the homeless are right in almost everything they describe and say about the system which fails homeless women and others.

We have had issues in Brighton and Hove ranging from mothers being placed into unsuitable non-self-contained hostels with kids for long periods of time and in breach of the law. We have had young women fleeing violent ex-partners or family members left in unsafe accommodation and poorly supported. We have had women with children complain about the living conditions they are forced to bring up their kids, only to be revenge evicted when complaining about speaking out.

We have had young women blackmailed and even threatened by senior ex-executive officers (paid off with a 300k redundancy package) and made to feel like a piece of dirt. For too long women have been forgotten and sidelined. Especially women from deprived backgrounds who become homeless and in need of Temporary Accommodation.

More often than not I will be approached or meet and speak to women, it is not that I think it’s a weakness coming forward for help, I personally think they are stronger because they are speaking out and taking action against wrongdoing. Whereas I find men more likely to suffer alone, and most of my interactions with men are from the LGBT+ Community.

I grew up with a mother and father and at one time in my youth, I remember a time in which I had to stay in a homeless hostel (it was 3-5 Percival Terrace) as a child. They were dark and dingy places back then and definitely not the sort of place you would choose to be with young children or even pregnant. The reality is many are forced into these places.

Picture it, you are a single mother with two children, you have lived and worked in the city your whole life. You grew up in what is considered a deprived area, you read in the press or through your friends that where you are from is bad or negative so you start to feel shame or embarrassment in where you come from.

This is how it works, you are fed lies such as its better to go private for housing (better for who?) you are told not to rely on the state for basics like housing, after all, why would you want to live in a council house on a council estate? when you can be private…

As a young adult, I believed this lie, I wanted to run away from my upbringing on the Whitehawk Estate Brighton. That shame placed on me by others (tories and the working class controllers) created internal embarrassment. I will admit for a time in my life I lost myself, I lost my identity, my roots and my sub-culture. Don’t make the same mistake!

These “Judgers” are a funny sort, they seem nice and act like your friend, you can even learn to trust them, but do they provide us with real opportunities? very rarely…

They might give your partner cash in hand job working on a building site, normally with no work-related benefits, a lack of job security and workers’ rights and more often or not they are re-developing properties for lawyers and tax-avoiding property developers, whilst you yourself are homeless. Is that fair?

Surely a good secure job with the local council, contributing to our society and building good quality and affordable council homes for all would be better for all? Housing is a human right, It is not a means for making a small fortune out of a basic human right. Housing!

Do these people truly value what we have to say? do they take the time to mentor and befriend us? do they encourage us to take ownership of our own issues and destinies?

In my experience very rarely, although I have met some amazing and genuine middle-class people who value our subcultural differences and unique life experience. But yes it is very rarely and when they do value us it’s either to get you on-side, to control and use or to manipulate or steal our ideas.

You Cannot Bottle the Life and Experiences of someone from a so-called Deprived Council Estate upbringing?

When I started my corporate career back in 1999, did I tell my prospective employer I was from Whitehawk, no way!

I wrote my address as Kemptown and often avoided questions around school due to the smears from outsiders and the privileged on people like me.

Life is literally divided into haves and have nots, the haves often look at us as the deprived working-class communities with either an open or closed outlook. Some will try and put us in our places, with comments like you should go for a job in MacDonalds or take up a cleaning job (for people like them?); whereas others see our hunger for change, passion and commitment as to competition and will do whatever they can to sabotage, demotivate and stop our progression.

How many genuine working-class people who have grown up in our council estates across the country have made it into top positions of power and influence? (*if you have any suggestions do so comment below).

I mean people like Kathy Burke, George Michael, Professor Green and Stormzy, have done well in life but remained true to their upbringing, they have not sold out and are genuine.

For me the working class (especially those from deprived backgrounds) are the backbone of our society, do we have our own culture / sub-culture…? Absolutely, does this mean we are worth less than the privileged / academics in society? Definitely not. It is all about perspectives and experiences.

In the four years, I have been campaigning and advocating for people, I have seen for myself how they (the system/establishment ) control us and try to stop us from being able to self organise and take positions of power and influence. Often by cheating, lying and smearing good people.

They buy up our council homes which were meant for the many. Then they demolish our council homes and finally either rebuild luxury homes to replace them (essentially socially cleansing our culture) or they do what they do in Brighton and Hove and that’s to rent them back out privately for four times the rental price.

This is simply not a sustainable system long term.

Four Years Fighting For Women. Where is the change?

I genuinely thought by now we should have achieved change, the hostile environment which awaits most who become homeless would be the past and that Brighton and Hove City Council would treat homeless women better. I was wrong!

Lets face it Brighton and Hove were promised a women’s hostel during the recent local elections, the greens and labour both agreed with this and pledges were made.

Argus Article via a Labour Press Release from 11th March 2017 Titled: Brighton and Hove Labour Party vows to defend women’s rights.

How many more women need to die in Brighton and Hove or become seriously injured, before we deal with this failure?

Granted there was no timetable for delivery, but considering the need, one needs to ask why it’s been a year, and the whole subject has gone on the back burner.

So I’ve provided some of the context and background as to how I feel about this subject and most have come from my own personal experiences and opinions from my lived homelessness experience and subsequent advocacy when I am well.

Now I want to detail a few issues recent issues involving women that have been personally leaked to me. I have to report them to get change.

Brighton and Hove Labour Group Women’s Rights Pledges

The pledges are:

  • To protect the local authority investment in independent women’s domestic and sexual services which are LGBT inclusive
  • To maintain a specialist women’s hostel to help women who are rough sleeping to escape homelessness
  • To support the campaign to acknowledge misogyny as an official hate crime
  • To maintain at least 50-50 women in the most senior leadership positions in Labour. The Fawcett report recommendations require political leadership to be fully implemented. This pledge demonstrates the party’s commitment to creating a local government democracy fit for the future.
  • To end the negative impact of period poverty for schoolgirls by ensuring the Red Box project is in place in every school in the city and to campaign for national public funding
  • To continue to oppose austerity which disproportionately affects women. The party supports the Waspi (Women Against State Pension Inequality) campaign to return pensions to women affected by the changes to state pension ages without adequate notice and welfare reforms that penalise women such as the “rape clause”.

Women in Hostels

The law states women with children in hostels are not allowed to be housed for no longer than six weeks in non self contained hostel accommodation commonly known as B&B Rooms.

I have a lot of younger clients ironically who are in hostels and not youth-centred emergency housing, one client who is legally a youth was placed into the notorious Baron Homes Slum Hostel on Grand Parade, I briefly discuss her case in the video at the top of the page. She is the one who had the issue with the broken window. (Image below).

Broken Cheap and Unsafe Window Client was blamed for doing which is a lie

Just two days ago my client was served a ‘room cancellation’ notice, which is essentially an eviction. Not just an eviction but what is known as a revenge eviction, this is an eviction whereby private landlords evict on the basis of someone maybe complaining about issues or the conditions and environment they are living.

Baron Homes are subcontracted by Brighton and Hove City Council to provide ‘good quality’ Emergency Accommodation, they are paid very well for the privilege and gain lots of benefits from this contact, which is helping to fund their ever-expanding property empire. I exposed the company which what looks like good old tax evasion with my Panama Papers expose on the property developers.

This practice has to stop. The effects are that my client is now homeless, she has walked, and all Baron Homes care about is getting their door keys back. What they and the council should be concerned with are the conditions people are living in.

This is triggering and has a significant impact on people’s health and wellbeing, not to mention the financial cost of services from this neglect.

My client reports that Baron Homes speak down to her, they are clearly classist, and they place the most vulnerable in their worst buildings. Makes zero sense.

Women with Families

What amazed me more than anything, and remember I was once a child with my mother and father on separate occasions living in emergency accommodation was how much things have not changed at all.

The old cliché dark, dingy and dangerous reputation was certainly still the case, the danger cannot always be blamed on the residents. The system is creating these issues with the genuine crisis in the lack of support and lack of essential facilities.

Parents often get a microwave, id like to say things are improving, but imagine spending Christmas in one of these places with your children? This is not a life.

I have a client who I have been working with for some time, I mention her in the above video, it has been 6 weeks and still, she is trapped in a traumatic loophole, suffering the loss of her murdered black partner during this covid-19 crisis, when we hear the city council are turning buildings purple in recognition to the George Flloyd murder and subsequent demonstrations, the irony when this happened in this city just weeks ago.

Look how the council have treated this traumatised partner and mother of his unborn children, they have largely not taken her needs into account. Initially trying to place her back into Emergency Accommodation, she lived in Temporary Accommodation atm.

To me the human thing to do is help this person with some sort of compassion, she would gain strength during this difficult time, instead, we see issues.

I am however told that my client is viewing the third property next week, lets’s hope it’s the third time lucky.

How can you speak out

Right now the crappy system is showing the cracks we who have lived it have seen and raised time and time again. This is a fight which needs those affected to come forward and speak out yourselves.

We can change the system if we learn to change our habits, and know our rights.

Contact for any help you may need. I can always signpost if I can’t personally help.