BHT at 50: My speech at our anniversary event

It is BHT’s 50 anniversary this October.  This is the text of the (short) speech I gave at the anniversary event at the Brighton i360 on Tuesday 6th October 2018).

“Lord Lieutenant, Madam Mayor, Colleagues and Friends.  Thank you all so much for coming this evening.  I am delighted to welcome some special guests.  First and foremost, our Life President, Patricia Norman.  Also here is Alice Renton, one of the first chairs of the BHT Board.

Over the years we have had three strong women leading the organisation: Alice, Pat Norman and now Joan Mortimer.  You would not believe what a hard time Joan can give me, but only behind closed doors!

Rob Stephenson was a member of staff in the very early seventies.  He has provided us with some photos, the earliest showing BHT’s first house, in Islingword Road.  Outside are parked an ambulance and two police cars!  We have come a long way since then.

I am delighted that my predecessor, Jenny Backwell, and my former colleague, John Holmstrom, are here, both of whom were central in developing BHT over many years.

With Patricia Norman (BHT’s Life President) and the Lord Lieutenant of Sussex, Peter Field. Peter helped set up BHT in 1968 and Pat has been involved in our work since 1969. I have been employed by BHT for a mere 33 years!

Pat Norman once told me that she went to the founding meeting of the West Pier Society in 1969.  She said that she felt it was a very worthy cause, but she was more concerned about those sleeping under the Pier.  The next day she joined BHT.

At our fortieth anniversary event, Pat said: “That we are still needed is no cause for celebration”.  That is equally true today.  It is a scandal that in one of the richest countries in the world we still have people sleeping on our streets.

In my 33 years at BHT we have witnessed inequality, where some don’t have enough and struggle to get by.  We saw the emergence of poverty where some lack the basics to participate fully in society.  We are now witnessing destitution where some struggle for the basics for survival – food, shelter, warmth.

The truth is that BHT’s services are needed more than ever.  Last year BHT worked with 7,946 clients and tenants. We housed 514 tenants and their households.  We accommodated 126 people in our specialist mental health services, 115 in our addiction rehabilitation services, 53 people under the age of 25 in our young people’s service in Hastings, 136 in our homelessness services such as the Phase One Project and the Accommodation for Work Project.

4,430 people received a service from our three advice centres in Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings, and from our Immigration Legal Service.

1,130 people used the rough sleepers service at First Base Day Centre.  432 took part in activities at the Whitehawk Inn, and 431 people received support and help from the Mental Health and Wellbeing service, including 151 women from Threshold Women’s Counselling Service.

BHT changes lives, and BHT saves lives, through our amazing range of services, and in partnership with so many other fantastic organisations in Brighton and Hove, Eastbourne, and Hastings.  Many of our partners are here tonight.

Through First Base we helped 222 people move off the streets and into accommodation, and through the advice centres, we prevented 817 households from becoming homeless.

Imagine what it would be like without BHT and our services?

I cannot imagine BHT being able to do what it does without our supporters, our funders, our staff (past and present), our Board, volunteers, interns and peer mentors.

And in particular I would like to pay tribute to our clients, who on a daily basis show courage and determination to bring about change in their lives, by taking advantage of the opportunities BHT provides, so that they can combat their own homelessness, mental ill health, addictions, poverty.

One such person is Donna.  At our 40th anniversary Donna spoke with courage and eloquence about her journey through addiction and into recovery.  She spoke about her aspiration that, one day, she might work for BHT.

10 years on it is an absolute honour to introduce our next speaker, my colleague, Donna.


(To read the speech by the Lord Lieutenant, Peter Field, follow this link).


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