Coronavirus (Covid-19) Staring At Four Walls: Why We Need To Remember Those In Emergency Accommodation

Coronavirus (Covid-19) is now well and truly the hottest topic of the moment, social media feeds and timelines are littered with stories and accounts from those in the community either infected or worried about infection of the Coronavirus.

The government have announced measures for ‘at risk’ groups to self isolate for the next three weeks, so this has gotten me thinking about the homeless people across the city and country who will be in lockdown and staring at four walls. This is mostly for those in Emergency or Homeless Hostels but also those living in Temporary Accommodation and Vulnerable.

Back in 2016 I lived in Percival Terrace, which is an Emergency Accommodation self contained hostel in Brighton. We had very little in our rooms, their was no access to the internet and the property was quite unhygienic. Thankfully I’ve since moved on, but those still in emergency accommodation still need a voice; sadly I am getting contacted by people living in homelessness accommodation across the city worrying about the Coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis and how this could and in some cases, already is affecting them. So I thought I would blog again and I hope this helps.

We already know that hardly anyone nowadays qualifies for homelessness accommodation unless they have some vulnerability, in my time I have seen people suffering with cancer, those with addictions, people with mental and physical disabilities and loads of smokers with pre existing respiratory issues. This means they are currently high risk. 

Along with this demographic we also have parents with young children some with newborns. So this is a concern.

The mental health side to homelessness is complicated, many are at risk now of contracting the Coronavirus. But many will suffer more from the poverty and stress related to the coronavirus crisis and this is what worries me. 

Coronavirus (Covid-19) – Is Bleeding The Homeless Dry

With many in homelessness accommodation living on low incomes or disability benefits, but also lots likely now off work, they will be using more utilities such as electricity, which in some accommodations such as Baron Homes, will hit already cash poor people even harder. I call on all private landlords to suspend Service Charges with immediate effect. This will put more money in the hands of those people living in Emergency Accommodation and Hostels in and outside of the city.

Landlords should not evict any tenants at this time, they should work with the council and community groups to better inform residents on the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Crisis. We need to be able to provide support as and where residents need it. It would be good for the council to adopt to Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition Demands for the Homeless

The Discretionary Social Fund needs to be utilised to help those in need. Our local charity groups could make up survival packs and stock vital items such as nappies, baby food and cleaning products for those in most need

Coronavirus (Covid-19) – A Lockdown will Leave Residents Bored to Death

We want people to listen to the best advice, we all want to see this nightmare end but lets remember another one starts for those living in Emergency Accommodation, our cities accommodations can already be a dreary place to live and spend your time at the best of times. Most people if they are lucky enough to have friends and family living nearby will leave during the day and often only sleep or spend time in the accommodation at night. 

Some refuse to shower there and opt for friends and families help due the the conditions in shared bathrooms or lack of facilities and hygiene. If and when a lockdown comes though I am extremely worried about the residents’s general mental health and mood, we are hearing day centres are closing and food banks have run out of food, leaving residents in panic already. What are they do also do with boredom? 

Homeless people don’t have much, especially to leave in insecure emergency accommodation rooms. Many will go mad, no Television, nothing to keep them occupied, Some will be lucky enough to have a laptop or smart phone, but may not have access to internet. 

With an already high risk of self harm, suicide and issues around addictions, it begs belief what a lock down will do? who will be supporting people during this crisis? what do the parents do? The council have been very quiet as have the cities councillors but these issues need to be acknowledged. 

Coronavirus (Covid-19) – Residents Are Starving Hungry

Its already a challenge to eat properly in emergency accommodation, most rooms only have a Microwave, Fridge ( No Freezer) and Sink. The everyday person right now is in the position to buy frozen food for back up supplies, but those in emergency cant do this. They often have to shop each day and are struggling right now, maybe much more so than the average Brighton and Hove resident. 

The Council Must ensure landlords supply residents with freezers in their rooms in addition to a fridge. 

The Council Must get financial resources to the vulnerable.

Coronavirus (Covid-19) – Equipping our Most Vulnerable

Looking back if I was living in emergency now, today during this crisis, I would be having anxiety and panic attacks about the hygiene in the buildings and crisis unfolding. I cant imagine how everyone is coping. I would like the council and landlords to equip staff with the protection equipment and step up regular cleaning. Give residents masks, make sure people can open their windows. If we can get them Antibacterial Gels. 

If there are cases of Coronavirus (Covid-19) reported within an emergency accommodation building, then there needs to be a council action plan, reviewed and agreed by community groups and councillors on housing committee. This needs to be briefed out urgently!

Coronavirus (Covid-19) – Local Support and Useful Information For The Cities Homeless

Times will be tough but there is hope and if you are reading this and living in emergency or temporary accommodation and need help here is a list of services you can access right now. There is also a Facebook Group Mutual Aid Covid-19 Facebook Group here.

Emergency & Temporary Accommodation Action Group Facebook page

You can access Sussex Homeless Support Facebook Group here, or donate here

Apply for the Social Discretionary Fund Here

Universal Credit and Benefits Advice Can be Found Here

Latest Coronavirus (Covid-19) WHO (World Health Organisation) Updates Here

Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition

Coronavirus (Covid-19) – Staying Fit During The Lockdown

Staying fit will be essential to keeping you occupied and healthy during the anticipated lockdown, knowing rooms are often small, here is a handy 16 Minute Low Impact coaching video to help you stay in shape.

Coronavirus (Covid-19) – Things To Do For Children in Emergency 

Free YouTube Childrens Play Sessions

Ragdolly Annas For Kids Play at Home

Check our their channel to subscribe to latest videos Great Idea and Free!

100+ Indoor Activities for Kids (and Adults)

Coronavirus (Covid-19) – Help Others

Stay safe all and remember you cant help others unless you help yourself first.

Daniel x

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.

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″]

Dont Moan Take Action

Speaking to my sister today got me thinking and I actually said this to her

Stop moaning about your housing situation and take action, do something about it?

Granted she is a mother of two girls under the age of 2. My sister who was up until 2014 was living in a flat in Brighton and Hove, sadly a knock came to the door one day and it was a council officer, my sister answered and they said this is a council property you are illegally subletting.

For months my sister was getting letters for the landlord and were left unopened as the landlord move away to live with a partner, never did my sister think she was actually sub-letting a council property.

Anyway my sister assisted with the councils investigation to take action against the so called dodgy landlord, who not only has taken advantage of my sister, but also lied to the council and state and profited from council property.

To my sisters amazement she was then told she had to move out by Brighton and Hove city Council, leaving her homeless.

My sister ended up moving into a family members spare room and was on the council waiting list. She then after 10 years and no success found out she was pregnant, up until this point she was working.

The council placed her in private rented accommodation with a long term tenancy agreement, I think 10 years. She was in Band D, she as told me today she is spending £5 per day on electric, as her flat doesn’t have central heating. She told me its full of damp and on top of that her second baby girl arrived this year.

The council then remove her from the council housing waiting list, after evicting her from her previous place, through no thought of her own.

Ive learned that you need to take action

Its hard to know where to start with taking on the council or ensuring your rights are being met, I discovered this first hand. Being homeless myself had its challenges, but from day one I know I had to speak out and take action.

We have choices on where we go or how we go about it, but I soon discovered that I wasn’t alone in my crisis and struggle, I discovered that their were many like me living in a temporary and emergency accommodation nightmare.

The press in the city are kind to those who have been marginalised but they only publish a few stories, to get a real voice I set up this blog and started writing and evidencing the issues people and myself faced.

I believe this continued partnership will eventually lead to better prospects for locals in terms of secure and affordable accommodation. The Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition which launched their website this week, is an organisation bringing thousands in the city together, collaborating for all our futures.

In conclusion I’ve seen many people speak out and help to change the futures of others and themselves, they’ve been brave and often been persecuted for this bravery by the establishment. I’ve come to see that, we need to have a no fear attitude and follow through until we are happy with the outcome.