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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!

 

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