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!

 

Labour Brighton and Hove: Delegates in 1 member 1 vote out!

After attending tonights Steering Committee meeting as an elected lay member around a table of non brightonians I can confirm that the new system agreed by a majority consisting of mostly unelected people around the table was for a delegate based structure system, as promoted across the country by progress.

Now as a new member who was inspired by the all members meetings, I was saddened that we now rely on branch networks many of which are still not up and running to decide who goes to CLP meetings and votes.

The agreed ratio was 1-20 members are a delegate.

So basically still all members meetings. The point….. none!

Claire Wadey who has a registered visual impairment left the room after 28 minutes due to the lighting affecting her visually. Peter Kyle was on parliamentary business so sent along someone else to vote on his behalf.

The meeting was cordial, many points weren’t discussed and everything felt all too rushed.

What was ‘agreed’?

  • CLP IGMs (Initial General Meetings) shall be held on the 4th February electing their CLP ECs, and full AGMs to be held in June.
  • All branches, forums and affiliates will have to meet before 4th February to appoint delegates
  • All branches will conduct a discussion and vote on if they prefer delegate structure or a All Members Structure with delegates attending the initial general meeting (IGM) with that behind them.
  • Initially the CLP structure will be “delegates” who shall be: Chair or Secretary of each branch may attend and vote, 1 under 27 year old per branch, 1 lay delegate per branch and then 1 delegate per each additional 20 members (with regard to gender balance), 1 delegate per affiliated trade union, socialist society, cooperative party or cooperative party and then 1 delegate per each additional 20 members with a maximum of 5 delegates (with regard to gender balance, and affiliated bodies must have paid their affiliation by 31 December of 6p per member living in each constituency), 1 Delegate per city wide forum (Womens’ Forum, LGBT Forum, Young Labour, BAME Forum, [Disabled members forum when set up].
  • We will have an independent auditor of our finances and assets
  • We will meet again in two week and talk about the Local Campaigns Forum (city wide coordination/party), how Labour Council Group observers are appointed, funding and the split of funding, arrangements for employing new staff (the current staff contract will all be honoured) and property.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle tabled and pushed for the delegate structure, I ask the question to new members does this new process make you feel included? do you understand the structure?

How Did I Vote

I voted for an all members CLP AGM -We lost, Lloyd abstained.

I abstained from the vote on the delegates, even with Phil’s Amendment, which gave branches the choice.

Why Did I vote this way

As a born and bred brightonian, I have been encouraged by the new members joining Labour, in my observations most of the arguments from the last year have been from the same voices making the same points, new members bring new ideas and energy, we don’t live in the labour bubble like most around the table tonight.

If you are a new member, what advice can I give you?

Join the Brighton and Hove Labour Party Members Forum – Its an independently run Facebook group which will keep you up to date where the unelected people running the local labour administration fail.

Let the group know your branch and we will put you in touch with the relevant people to ensure you are fully informed and educated.

You absolutely must attend your next branch meeting and nominate yourself as a delegate, if you are from the area make it known, if you are worried about speaking make it known before.

I ask that all new members engage connect and actively meet other likeminded members to help understand what is happening, get into elected positions and use your skills to change things.

The Future

Its in your hands! rise up.