On Monday 1st of May I was walking home in Hove when I noticed a young lad sleeping in a doorway outside a closed commercial restaurant, If you live in Brighton and Hove you will be used to seeing people sleeping rough, but its rare to see someone so young so I approached him.
It was a wet, cold and windy night, normally when I approach rough sleepers I give my name first to break the ice as I know it can be intimidating when approaching people in the evening, I gave him a few quid and explained I was homeless last year.
I asked his name and he reluctantly muttered his name Joey back, I asked his age and he said he was 18 and a care leaver, I explained I was also a previously looked after child, which I think made he relax a little more, I was quite taken aback myself and told him to wrap up warm.
I explained to Joey I was a housing campaigner and asked how long he was rough sleeping he said “4 weeks this time”, and I could tell he was streetwise, I then went home. I couldn’t get the thought that a care leaver so young was living on the streets, and in particular Joey’s story evoked some emotion me as I had a little cry for the lad. I had to go back to help him, so I returned 30 minutes later.
After hearing Joey’s story I simply had to help, he was in foster care from 2 years old, due to a difficult start to his life, essentially neglected! – Having spent his whole childhood in foster care, Joey as teenager was left to fend for himself, in and out of leaving care placements Joey, like many other previously looked after children got into crime and difficulty, some of which he describes as bad treatment from staff.
I instantly wanted to help him and agreed to meet Joey the next day to help advocate and provide support and advice, which I do on a voluntary basis which recovering from my own homelessness experience.
Step One: Register Joey At Arch Homeless Healthcare Centre in Brighton
Joey mentioned he had no registered Doctor so I took him to Arch Healthcare, a new Healthcare trust co partnered by Dr Tim Worthley, as well respected homelessness medical Dr and GP.
The process was simple, there were a few forms which needed to be completed in order for the surgery to be to able to find Joey, This took around 10 – 15 minutes to complete, later on that afternoon, the receptionist contacted Joey to confirm she had found his records and his registration was complete.
If you are a rough sleeper and want more information on Arch Healthcare you can you can call them on 01273 003930, alternatively why not visit the Arch website.
Step Two: Register With YAC (Youth Advice Centre) For Under 26 Year Old’s
We initially we to Brighton and Hove City Council to complete a homelessness application, however I was informed because Joey is under 26 years old that he would be required to attend YAC in Brighton.
This is a sub-contracted service run by the YMCA.
The process was simple we needed to attend a review meeting, so we dropped in, the staff were extreamly helpful and within 15 minutes after I explained his circumstances, Joey was seen by a student social worker.
The interview took around an 1 hour, Joey was nervous due to the bureaucratic questioning, however having a non authoritarian advocate like me by his side enabled Joey to relax and open up.
At the end of the interview, the staff member left the room to consult with colleagues, this basically took into account what Joey had said and accessed his priory need around homelessness and housing. Joey fulfilled the requirement for housing being a care leaver and the social worker provided a letter to hand into the council when presenting as homeless.
Although the process went around the houses and took longer, the staff were much more friendly than many I have encountered at Brighton and Hove City Council, of late!
If you are under 26 years old and want housing advice in Brighton and Hove, you can contact YAC, here’s how:
Step Three: Present At Brighton and Hove City Council Housing Options.
Normally the most difficult stage for people, however Joey had me to advocate and fight his corner, the first staff member Elizabeth was professional, caring and polite, we then presented the letter from YAC, and was then passed to a senior advisor, called Parminder.
I wish I could praise Parminder, but she was quite rude, and at one point walked off in a strop, this is not my first encounter with Parminder and on form she failed to provide advice and forced her negative and uncooperative attitude on Joey a vulnerable 18 year old.
I wont get into the in and out’s for safeguarding and confidentiality reasons, but she was perfectly willing had I have not stepped in to allow him back on the streets.
Thankfully Housing Options Manager Jerry Aldous was more helpful in conjunction with Bob Proctor Senior Manager in helping to get Joey placed that evening, although an emergency placement, it was in a local emergency accommodation property.
Step Four: Escort To Emergency Placement Property
I cant reveal the location, but it was a property run by Helgor Trading.
I asked Joey for feedback, he advised the Manager was welcoming, the room was good and I understand he felt comfortable, which is nice to hear.
Obviously being a rough sleeper, Joey had nothing but the clothes he had on, whilst not showering for 4 weeks, I sent out a plea to community activists and they answered in there droves.
A colleague and DBS Checked Activist called Jim Deans provided Joey with toiletries, and fresh clothing, I understand Helgor gave Joey fresh towels, and through ETHRAG, I was able to get Joey a small food package.
I hope this blog post gives those of you reading a greater understanding of the process and challenges as well as providing insight into peoples generosity locally, it just goes to show that with co-operation we can indeed change peoples lives.
I saw Joey’s face when he was placed into secure accommodation and I can tell you that it was well worth all the stress and complication.
Brighton and Hove City Council have promised to bring a Temporary Accommodation Board into the City and I hope this process demonstrates that collaboration and feedback between service providers, landlords, council staff and residents shows that we can make a difference to peoples lives and take people off the street and house them securely.
Thank you for reading and if you want to get involved you can always email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or add me on Facebook.
If you enjoy my blog feel free to donate, I often fund things out of my own pocket.
£5 can part fund a residents meeting for those in emergency and temporary accommodation, vital for uniting people to stop conditions like these!