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!

[emailpetition id=”2″]

A Open Letter to Jeremy Corbyn, More Scandal, Cuts and Lack of Action by Brighton and Hove City Council and my eviction.

Scandal No 1

No fresh water will be provided in Bartholomew House the Brighton and Hove City Council housing offices due to cuts

An Image of a bin with no water machine
This is where the water machine was at Bartholomew House, Brighton and Hove City Council Housing Offices

So I had to drag myself down to the housing office today, I went to get a glass of water from the machine and hey presto its gone, I asked the staff and they said they were taken away due to cost. How much does it cost to give a glass of water?

I’ve already shown you all the wastage in housing, maybe they should get rid of the incompetent staff members like Andy who was rude to me today and made negative remark after negative remark like “I cant to this” “I cant to that” So I tuned around and said rather than tell me what you cant do.

When will they realise that they are the worst council for housing in the country the negativity feeds into my illness, why cant they simple be positive and tell me what you can do. Andy said all he could do was contact my housing options advisor remember this is the same person who failed to prevent my homelessness back in December she said I wasn’t eligible for emergency housing back in Jan, a senior officer overturned this decision.

If Andy calls that customer service then I am sorry but that was possibly one of the worst experiences i’ve had at the council. I’ve managed customer service teams myself in the past, if one of my staff spoke to a customer  like the way Andy spoke to me then I would be giving that member of staff a verbal warning and personal development plan to improve his customer service skills, no improvement then its P45.


Scandal No 2

Service Charges are crippling many in emergency housing, I am currently on Employment Support Allowance, I get £75 a week to live on, out of this I am expected to pay the private limited company Helgor Trading Limited (who make millions from housing benefit) £50 a month, if you don’t pay you are out.

Here is a letter I got yesterday from Helgor Trading Limited.

A image of a letter about service charge arrears
This is where the water machine was at Bartholomew House, Brighton and Hove City Council Housing Offices

Here is a video of the state of the windows here at Percival Terrace

This water is dripping right down the main supporting wall – we have no laundry facilities and am not allowed any visitors. I know why so people don’t see the state of disrepair this building is in.

As Stated in the Letter this £55 MUST BE CLEARED IN FULL or I am on the streets again homeless, like the other 31% of applicants.

So its pay this starve and lose my personal belongings, or pay my storage fees for my personal belongings and have nowhere to keep them.

Basically I am in a catch22 situation and they know it, I am being discriminated against but I am not going down without a fight.

A Building Control Surveyor today sent this email to the owners of the building I am in.

A Letter About Poor State of Repair
So the Council acknowledge disrepair but do nothing about it, the ownership is on the company. Why am I facing eviction but they get away with it?

The Solution to all this is simple

Get me out of this stupid welfare trap designed to line the pockets of the slum landlords and leave us the vulnerable and homeless with nothing and no reason to live. In this building Four people have sadly committed suicide since last November , do you understand why now?


An Open Letter to the Rt. Honourable Jeremy Corbyn

Dear Jeremy Corbyn,

As the leader of the opposition, A man of ethics, principles and someone who is vocal about housing, I would like to know why I am being evicted from accommodation which I have said is unsuitable from the word go.

Why am I the one facing street homelessness again when I was the person brave enough to stand up against these unethical money grabbing companies who are raking in 10 billion a year from housing benefit money?

I would like to also know what the PM David Cameron has to say about this because as detailed above, four people have died in this one building alone since last November.

Not one to just plea, I also have a policy suggestion for the future, one that stops this legal fraud against the state and provides a secure future for the vulnerable and homeless.

I’ve worked out that by moving me from emergency housing to social housing there would be a saving of £600 a month from housing benefit. Thats £7200 a year for just one person.

There are 374 places I think ,probably more in the city of Brighton and Hove, thats £2.7 million saved in a year, So if we calculated this across the country I think labour have a new policy.

By firstly exposing the wastage and secondly building social housing and increasing the health and wellbeing of the vulnerable and homeless.

Its an investment policy not reactive like many current conservative government fiascos, Jeremy these are the sort of polices we need do be adopting as a nation, its the right time to seize on this with the Panama Papers.

Most importantly It would also save lives!!

If this extended to temporary housing then the savings in 10 years could go for example toward providing a non-privatised NHS, which is wastage in itself.

Many thanks

Daniel Harris


Soon to be evicted for providing a public service to the city of Brighton and Hove and the country as a whole.

Keep signing my petition and help me change this system forever, as always comment below and share with friends to highlight this scandal which is a national scandal. I will be emailing this to the local and national press and to Jeremy Corbyns office tonight.

Scandal No 3

I will lose my personal belongings which are in storage with Bishops Move Brighton.

When I was finally given a roof over my head on the 28th January 2016, I signed the licence agreement which essentially means I have an element of protection from future eviction and homelessness.

As many of you may have seen I posted Images from the room they provided me at percival terrace, when I arrived it was after 4pm and the worker at the hostel took me to the room, here are the images I took.

 

After being told my stuff is not safe and seeing for myself a door kicked in at the hostel I went into a manic state, I lost control and didn’t know what to do. The council offices were closed, I was alone, a friend reacted and hired a van (which I payed for) and found the first place that would have storage space available, called Ease the Squeeze. At a cost of £81 per month I took it at any cost to keep my stuff safe.

Four days later after I set up the Homeless Hotels From Hell Petition, I was moved from room 24 to Room 50 – If that is not a sign of wrongdoing I don’t know what is.

Yesterday I got this letter giving notice from Ease the Squeeze

The Shelter Charity and Legal Advice States that:

Storage for personal belongings

If you are homeless and apply to the council for help, the council has to protect your personal belongings and furniture if it has a duty to provide you with accommodation.

Your belongings when you are made homeless

If you have asked the council for help because you are homeless, you may not be able to take your furniture and belongings with you to any temporary housing the council provides.

This is because the accommodation provided might already be furnished or too small to store all your belongings.


When your personal property has to be protected

The council has duties to protect the personal property of homeless applicants when it is at risk of damage or loss and you can’t protect or deal with it yourself. For example, you may not be able to afford to arrange removals or storage.

This duty applies from the point you make an application as homeless and the council believes you may be eligible for help.

The duty applies to your property and the property of anyone else included in your application. Property includes personal belongings and furniture. It does not include equipment used for business purposes.


How the council must protect your belongings

The council has to do what is reasonable to prevent loss or damage to your propertyThe council can:

  • gain entry to a property to recover your belongings
  • arrange removals
  • arrange storage

Charges for the protection of your personal property

Most councils charge for the protection of property. Charges may be waived by some councils for people who claim benefits or have a low income.


Why are Brighton and Hove City Council Refusing – They say because I arranged for the storage on my own back. They failed to give me advice that what the housing options were set up to do, I have complained and Sylvia.peckham@brighton-hove.gov.uk – refused to help me, hiding behind legislation. I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Bipolar Disorder, surely they should have supported me.

Great News Though I have got an Adult Social Worker to help support me going forward, nevertheless, why are these Council Officers allowed to get away with this, they aren’t elected and clearly do not answer to our cities councillors

 

Its a Mad World out there for Children in Care. Voices Matter Cover the Gary Jules version

Last year when I had a mental breakdown following 6 days of mania, confusion, paranoia, Euphoric highs, I was literally on high alert, I had an over active mind and I crashed into a depressive state.  Then I found the Rees Foundation, a charity for previously looked after children, care leavers.

Who are Rees Foundation?     download

Only a few years young this national charity goes further than many across the country, they help to empower care leavers of any age, I am 32 and Nattylyn another service user is 36 they have supported us, linked us to each other and provided us with respite from our difficult and stressful lives right now.

If you have left care and feel ready to truly move forward in life and dream again then the Rees Foundation is for you,  Afshan the Project Development Manager, initially contacted me, she LISTENED. A few months back I got invited to a Revolution event organised by Rees Foundation, and met other care leavers like myself, we looked at personal development, education and employment.

It was such a great day and an experience I will remember forever, I met some lovely people who finally understood me and I understood them.

On the train journey home, I started singing and someone said you have a good voice, I rebutted the compliment as I struggle to accept them, we all started singing and I was like we should do a Rees Foundation Choir. Little did I know Voices Matter were born.

Voices Matter Perform Mad World at the Big Sing Off 2016.

Performance Image Four People on Stage
Voices Matter Performing Mad World (Left to Right: Nattylyn, Zion, Daniel & Carlena)

The audience was 700 strong, the atmosphere was fun, emotional and energetic, full of happy children currently living in care and full of foster mums and dads.

Remember from my own experiences what you see in front of you with one of these kids is not what they have experienced, all of these kids have suffered trauma of some sort, some were sexually abused like me, some were simply not wanted or taken away from voilent homes or abusive parents.

One child said “this is the best day of my life’

He wasn’t wrong I had an absolutely amazing time and some very much needed fun and relaxation. There was Greg a care leaver on the KeyBoard (out of sight) Zion, Son or Nattylyn (a care leaver) Carlena (Care Leaver) and Myself and a special appearance from another care leaver Ian.  Below is the performance, this was arranged only a few weeks ago and we had our first rehearsal the day before, we had no sound check on the day, but we had so much fun!!!

Just like at the Full Council Meeting, this performance took me outside my comfort zone, I was bricking it, the last time I was on stage was 14 years ago.

How Did I Feel After The Performance……AMAZING!!!

It was hard to leave that special day behind and come back to the emergency accommodation I am in, after becoming diagnosed last week with Bipolar whilst I am happy to have a reason for being the way I am, I have a fresh determination to push forward and expose the conditions in these places and the scandal of what it is doing to care leavers like me.

We need to push for better services for children in care and care leavers because we have a voice and our Voices Matter.

As always you can find out more about the voices matter project by clicking here. Contact me by clicking me here I also welcome to comment below.

Finally I never ask for personal support, however the Rees Foundation rely on Grants and Donations, if you were touched by this then head over to the Rees Foundation Website and donate and help us care leavers to continue doing this every year.

Picture gallery of the Day will be uploaded soon.

Blessings

Daniel

Voices-Matter
Left to Right: Nattylyn, Daniel, Carlena & Jim. Big Sing Off 2016 Singing Waltzing Jan to celebrate Jan Rees’s OBE Award in this years New Years Honours Lust for Services to Children.