The Housing Crisis in Brighton & Hove has hit the point of no return and this Saturday the people affected and left behind finally have a voice with a radical new housing conference set to launch a movement to push for more accountability and transparency from Brighton and Hove City Council.
This is a new vibrant campaign launched based on action not words
Caroline Lucas MP and Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP will lead off at the launch of the Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition this Saturday by answering questions from more than 200 housing activists in Brighton.
Around 20 organisations are coming together to establish a Housing Coalition that will challenge the moribund policies of our City Council and national Government.
Steve Parry, acting Chair of the Coalition, said “With co-operation on this scale we intend to challenge in a real way homelessness, housing squalor, housing for profit rather than for people, and the payment of £millions to overseas tax havens for so-called emergency and temporary accommodation”
He emphasised that “the Coalition is bringing together those that build homes with those that occupy empty properties, those that help feed the homeless and those that will be opening up community night shelters, those that have a vision for all to have a right to shelter and those who are advocating for those discriminated against by our local authority due to vulnerability or disability.”
It is a welcome sign of possible change that Larissa Reed, the newly appointed Executive Director for Neighbourhoods, Communities and Housing at the City Council will be spending an hour discussing the policy and practice of the council.
Local housing campaigner Daniel Harris said ” The time has come for change, for too long vulnerable people have been exploited and neglected, all whilst greedy landlords line their pockets at the expense of people’s lives.
Standards in some places have improved recently but we have a huge crisis with government funding cuts which are hitting the most vulnerable, recent government figures show Brighton and Hove already underperform against national average standards, this is a great concern”.
Council residents, leaseholders, private renters, the homeless, and those in temporary accommodation will be working together and participating in workshops ranging from Community led housing to ‘Alternative housing choices and well-being in later life’, from Living Rents to the horrors of some privately rented housing, from accessibility to the need for respect to be shown to those who are disabled or vulnerable.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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 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.
” 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.