I, Daniel Harris – How Injustice and Homelessness Made Me An Activist

How I Became Homeless In Brighton & Hove

In May 2015 on a typical sunny day in Brighton and Hove, I came face to face with the man who 26 years before sexual abused, groomed and took away my innocence, this changed my life forever!

I remember literally turning back into a six year old at that point, I became angry for the first time which led me into a downward spiral which ultimately led to me becoming addicted to drugs and then homeless and unemployed.

Faced with a choice between a future stuck in the past with street homelessness I decided to fight back, anyone who has ever suffered exploitation will know that ultimately the only people who can change our lives are ourselves.

Left with the choice between living with other people with drug issues and street homelessness I decided to present myself to Brighton & Hove City Council.

How To Kick Someone When They Are Down

In order to change I asked myself these questions: At the age of 33, could I continue living this way? Did I want the past to define my future? was I happy? could I continue lying to family and friends? would I be strong enough to beat the addiction?

I didn’t have the answers because I suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder & Bipolar, although I didn’t know this at the time, anyone who has this will understand that we are either one extreme or the other.

When I went into the council offices on Bartholomew Square, I was still battling the addiction and trying hard to break the cycle of  drug use. I will not write here and say I was clean because I wasn’t, however my usage changed and ultimately my way of thinking changed more.

 

I came face to face with the civil servant from hell, you know the types, the ones who have had the same job for over 20 years, the people who are happy to sell there soul to the devil and ultimately traded empathy and compassion for emptiness and authority.

Believe it or not, I was sofa surfing for 4 years after I left a voilent relationship, now I am not a victim I am a survivor, we should be helping people turn there lives around, not fail to prevent homelessness.

I was asked a series of questions, Why are you Homeless? Why cant you rent private accommodation? can’t you move back home? etc etc..

She looked at me like I was a piece of dirt, I had to tell this woman whom I had never met before my reasons for becoming homeless and guess what, she said “There is nothing I can do, you don’t meet the criteria for homelessness accommodation”.

I call some of these people Gatekeepers, essentially if they like you then they help you, if you question them in the slightest, they close the door and throw away the key.

So I was told I was not vulnerable enough for secure housing, so I want to live with 4 people in a 1 bedroom flat, all of whom had drug problems.

How I fought Back Against A System Designed To Demoralise People

I remember it was the 28th December, I had the worst Christmas in my life, no tree, no family and no festive spirit, unless of course you include a bottle of vodka. In my heart of hearts I know she was wrong, how could living with people with drug problems be better than homeless accommodation?

Ok so in my mind I thought the homeless accommodation would be small but nice, it is after all 2016, I went to get some legal advice from Brighton Housing Trust and initially they were not much better, more smiles that the front line council staff, but then they are making loads money from the legal aid I was awarded.

The first time they took me seriously was when I took along an advocate, the charity was called Mind Out, a specific charity to help LGBT people with Mental Health issues, for the first time they took my needs into account and helped me, albeit quite sloppy and slow.

On the 28th January I finally got the homelessness decision overturned in an appeal, at a cost to the tax payer I never wanted and serious risk to my health, I lost 12kg in weight and my dignity all because someone felt they were more important than a human in need.

What Was My Reward?

  • Emergency AccommodationPercival Terrace. A room so small you could touch both walls with your arms wide open, no bedding, a microwave, signs of drug usage on the mattress, urine up the walls and a ceiling about to cave in. Cost to the tax payer £800, who gets this money? A tax evading private limited company called Helgor Trading Limited.
  • Isolation – There is a no visitor rule.
  • Depression – How would be happy living in those conditions?
  • Victimised – the more I complained the more Brighton and Hove City Council staff treated me unfairly, they spoke to me like I was 6 years old, they even arrived at Percival Terrace trying to convince other vulnerable people to write a statement to get me evicted.
  • I got Evicted, 3 times and stopped them all.
  • Breach of Data Protection – Staff at Brighton and Hove City Council, used an incident when I was 12 years old against me in a housing decision 21 years later.
  • Being spied upon – Brighton and Hove City Council Staff trawl through my social media accounts and this blog daily, how sad!
  • Intimidation – I get security staff contracted out by the council following me when I enter public buildings, even waiting outside when I went to the toilet. Listen to my call to the company when I challenge this treatment
  • Lies – Senior management have lied to me on purpose.
  • Blacklisted – I have been placed on a blacklist by Brighton and Hove City Council.
  • Discrimination – I was never advised there was a specific worker who works with LGBT people, I only found out about this role when I did a subject Access request and saw notes and internal emails on my files in which senior managers refused me access to this service.
  • Relapse – I relapsed in June 2016 after all of the above, I simply had enough of the treatment I had received and lost all hope in humanity after a specific staff member waged a war words against me, even questioning my historic sexual abuse, the nature of the injuries I sustained when I was in a voilent relationship and became and when he ignored a social services report and a report from a registered psychiatrist.

What did I do to deserve this treatment? sadly because I challenged the status quo, tackled the living conditions of the vulnerable, highlighted an unethical housing system designed to benefit the wealthy few and many of whom are evading tax. Simply for being a kind, brave and decent human being. #Madness

So What Really Saved Me?

When I saw the room at percival terrace I instantly spoke out and launched a petition to try and improve the system and other peoples lives, I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar and PTSD after 26 years, and finally spoke out and pursued the historic sexual abuse.

I got Clean, I became an activist and even founded the first residents association in the UK specifically focused on those living in Temporary and Emergency Accommodation.

I’ve just completed 48 weeks of specific therapy for men who were sexually abused, I’ve campaigned to raise awareness around Care Leavers, Mental Health, Social Justice, LGBT Rights, Domestic Violence, Drug Addictions and of course Housing. You can find some of the things i’ve achieved here.

Today I live day by day, I am now living in Temporary Accommodation and fight daily to improve peoples lives, I am not fully recovered and some days its hard to even get out of bed, others I am never in it.

But I am much more educated and I can tell you now that the only solution for a better future is for people like you reading this blog post now, to stand up, speak out and help to chance our society.

I am Daniel Blake, You are Daniel Blake, Our Friends & Family are Daniel Blake. If you haven’t seen it yet, get along to the cinema to catch a glimpse of what is really happening in society today.

And the future?

The Future is the Present, Focus on the Here and Now!

 

Care Leavers Hidden In Emergency Accommodation

Being a care leaver myself, I understand the challenges we face with society, we know that 1 in 2 kids in care today have a mental disorder, many not diagnosed.

We know that 1 in 4 persons in prison today were previously in care, so I have to ask the question, why are care leavers being shoved into emergency accommodation by Brighton and hove city council?

I recently spoke to an 18 year old called Callum who was in care, he has a complex past but wants desperately to move forward with his life.

Callum lives in Pervical Terrace and has issues with alcohol and drugs, however under the mentorship of local residents is responding, I also recently wrote to his ward councillor and lead for youth Tom Bewick, who is also a care leaver for help with Callum.

In the email I explained Callum’s vulnerabilities and made it clear I didn’t want another care leaver to fall through the net.

Care leavers are often isolated from society and people, they feel lonely and to be thrown in emergency accommodation in my view is like locking them up in prison.

As a society we need to see care leavers for who they are, vulnerable people not bad people. We need to get rid of the stigma and ensure we are complying with government leglislation, which states the council have a care of duty to protect and house care leavers up until the age of 25.

Do you currently live in emergency or supported accommodation and were previously in care?

If so I want to hear your story and help you and other care leavers to move on with your lives.

Email me at daniel@survivorblog.co.uk with your details and I will contact you.

Its time the local authority started to act rather than delay.

Why We Should Be Holding Our Parents And Grandparents To Account?

Grandparents

Grandparents todays pensioners we one apart of a social revolution, after ww2 the United Kingdom was open for business, immigration was key to help rebuild our country after the devastating affect of ww2.

People came from all across the Commonwealth to join our society, we built housing, created and expanded the NHS, we started to enact human rights policies and relinquished old anti civil rights laws. Together we worked toward building a greater nation, socialism.

Then came capitalism and the housing market, when the ‘right to buy’ was introduced and local authorities dramatically reduced the number of new council house builds we gave our pensioners the opportunity to own their own home. In principle this is a good idea, however we failed to rebuild like for like and the introduction of Right To Buy also gained the interest of property developers and landlords wanting to buy ex council house stock to refurbish and make a few quid out of it.

Our grandparents were provided secure housing and today they stand by and allow a Tory Government and New Labour off the hook, we introduced and focused on becoming greedy, we didn’t live within our means which has meant your grandchildren are now suffering.

We can afford to go to University, something that was free for you, we cant pay our rents or afford to get on the housing ladder, we are in massive amounts of debt. Why should we suffer for your greediness, its time our grandparents worked with todays youth to put right the wrongs of the past.

Parents

Our Parents were the ones who taught us right from wrong, our parents were bought up in a different society, one where greed and war were all too familiar, they had some great times, but also suffered financial crisis and debt. Many parents are angry, they’re angry because they have seen their lives frozen for over 10 years, wages haven’t really increased and the cost of living has risen dramatically.

Parents have seen the becoming more and more filled with the homeless, they have been to food banks when their credit cards are maxed or they and simply choosing between having a roof over there heads or not eating for a few days.

Our parents have seen their parents grow older, many are property owners and have more than the average salary saved, some have seen their older relatives grow apart, loneliness in older people is rising.

I think we have a split with our parents, those who have benefited from life and those who have not, the latter will probably be more included to vote leave in the eu referendum, many have switched off from the spin politics of the last 30 years.

Our patents need to be reawakened, we need them to fight for their grandchildren, they need to strike and protest for our future and a protest to save a generation.

In Conclusion

We are the future and we deserve to be able to live or lives in a secure and fair society which provides opportunities for all people in society, we should be looking after each other and building new friendship networks, not building walls and walking past people who has suffered from your gains, to walk away now is to give in.

Get more active in politics and volunteer for local charity projects, people who are suffering hardship are still human and with just a little bit of investment, we can start to build a preventative society, rather than a neglected one.

Find out more about Daniel Harris