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!

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When Will The Homelessness Establishment Wake Up

Andy Winter Needs A Reality Check

Following the recent report that a 21 year old rough sleeper in Brighton and Hove has sadly been found dead, the housing and homelessness establishment have responded. Andy Winter the Chief Exec at the Brighton Housing Trust wrote today:

We don’t need new initiatives, or new groups, or ways to make life a bit more bearable for those on the streets. We need to help them off the streets. Some worthy and well-motivated initiatives can hinder that process.

With 5 million a year being spend on homelessness services in the city and each year the number is rising, with now over 150 people sleeping rough in Brighton and Hove, I note this quote from Andy:

In reality, a lot is happening. We provide, for example, through First Base Day Centre, the basics for survival and basic dignity – hot drinks and meals, showers, toilet facilities, clean and dry clothes and critically, with our partner organisations, we help several hundred people off the streets and into housing.

I have to say why is Andy defending BHT? why is he not talking about the huge misuse of funds which are not delivering a service which saves lives? Why is Andy essentially using this horrid death to promote the activities of BHT?

The Young Rough Sleepers Mate Who Found Him

I have been informed by grassroots homelessness activists and front line volunteers that the young lads friend who found him dead at the weekend, actually spent the evening sleeping rough himself.

Imagine finding your friend dead, what affect would that have on you? I would be messed up, but then to have to sleep rough that night, this is not how we should be treating anyone in our society, especially young people.

What Can Be Done

Those groups Andy Winter is putting down are actually changing things, the Brighton and Hove Housing Coalition, which now has 30 organisations signed up is the largest in the city and Andy is starting to see that things are changing.

For example The Community Night shelter team are crowdfunding for a huge marque which will be erected this winter and set to put a roof over the heads of 60 rough sleepers. This can be achieved for a fraction of the money the establishment get, for just £20,000 we can provide sanctuary and warmth for up to 60 people at risk of death.

If you want to find out more information on the crowd funder check out the just giving page here.

Candlelit Vigil In Solidarity With The Fallen This Thursday

Come and pay your respects for those we have already this on the streets of Brighton and Hove this Thursday. The community will be meeting at Brighton Town Hall from 4pm, just before the Full Council Meeting, where elected councillors will be debating rough sleeping.

RSPV on the Facebook Event page here.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Pledges to Suspend The Right To Buy

As a housing campaigner and formally homeless resident living in emergency accomodation and now living in temporary accomodation I can confirm Jeremy Corbyn’s Housing Manifesto plan will transform Britain and provide a Secure and Affordable Home for All.

Suspending the Right to Buy

First introduced by the tories in the 1980’s the Right to Buy Policy which has now been scrapped in Scotland and Wales, although provided the opportunity for the working class to own there own council homes, has been a grossly unfair policy which has also been raided by tory bad landlords.

The manifesto states: 

More council homes have been sold off under the Conservatives and only one in five have been replaced, despite long housing waiting lists. Labour will suspend the right-to-buy policy to protect affordable homes for local people, with councils only able to resume sales if they can prove they have a plan to replace homes sold like-for-like.

Taking the lead where Brighton and Hove City Council seem to have failed in recent years, Labour are promising to reverse the rip off privatisation which is costing all tax payers and bringing back in-house council housing only rewarding local authorities who build like for like.

Council House Building is BACK

It’s no secret I am a fan of council housing, having been raised in a council house which was then subsequently taken away from my family in 1994, I am fully aware how a secure home can help families prosper.

The Tories have demolished estates and built luxory accomodation, forcing locals to move sometimes over 100 miles away from friends and family.

Broken Dreams Brighton and Hove City Council Housing Waiting List
Brighton and Hove City Council send in the bulldozers to demolish 10,000 locals from the council’s housing waiting list

Just last week a local from Whitehawk in Brighton and Hove wrote to me telling me that when her mother died of cancer last year, the day before the funeral Brighton and Hove City Council hand delivered a notice of eviction from the family home they had lived in for 25 years.

I was disgusted to hear that this council had lost all compassion, and I see this on a regular basis when they reward tax evading limited companies over real locals who were born and raised in the area.

The manifesto states: 

Under the Conservatives, affordable housebuilding has fallen to a 24-year low. Labour will build the genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy that the country needs.

We will remove government restrictions that stop councils building homes and begin the biggest council building programme for at least 30 years.

We will ditch the Conservatives’ ban on long-term council tenancies to give council tenants security in their homes. We want more people to have a secure tenancy in a home built to high standards.

Thats 500,000 new council homes, build by locals for locals and a further 500,000 truly affordable homes for those who are in work and being bit by high rents from bad landlords.

Homelessness

 

With 2000 children living in Temporary Accommodation in Brighton and Hove last Christmas, and over 120,000 families nationally labour have pledged to tackle this countries homelessness and housing crisis once and for all.

20160528_131927_resizedThe manifesto states:

Homelessness is not inevitable in a country as decent and well off as ours. However, since 2010 the number of people sleeping rough in shop doorways and on park benches has more than doubled. This shames us all. There can be no excuses – it must end. Full stop.

Labour will set out a new national plan to end rough sleeping within the next Parliament, starting by making available 4,000 additional homes reserved for people with a history of rough sleeping. We will also take action to tackle the root causes of homelessness, including safeguarding homeless hostels and other supported housing from crude Conservative cuts to housing benefit.

With a council locally who enforces Tory policies of hate and targeted at the most vulnerable minority groups, a Jeremy Corbyn Labour Party will take the lead nationally and help the homeless not criminalise them.

Private Renters

Labour will end insecurity for private renters by introducing controls on rent rises, more secure tenancies, landlord licensing and new consumer rights for renters.

Labour say:

Soaring rents are a real problem and leading to more families living in temporary accommodation, more people sleeping rough, and many not having enough money to save up for a deposit or for a rainy day.

Labour will make new three-year tenancies the norm, with an inflation cap on rent rises. Given the particular pressures in London we will look at giving the Mayor the power to give renters in London additional security. We will legislate to ban letting agency fees for tenants.

Labour will also empower tenants to call time on bad landlords by giving renters new consumer rights. Renters are spending £9.6 billion a year on homes that the government classes as ‘non-decent’. Around a Quarter of this is paid by housing benefit. A Labour government would introduce new legal minimum standards to ensure properties are ‘fit for human habitation’ and empower tenants to take action if their rented homes are sub-standard.

Finally reversing Tory Policies that hit the vulnerable and young

Labour have promised to scrap the Bedroom Tax and Reverse the cruel decision to abolish housing benefit for 18 to 21- year-olds, which risks putting even more vulnerable young people on our streets.

Let me know what you think about these housing polices, will these policies make a difference to your lives?

Are you one of the 10,000 people who have recently been taken off the council housing waiting list?

If so let me know your thoughts and as always please share.