Worthing to Brighton Wellbeing Walk 26th May 2018

The BHT HR Team: Ben Cox, Tess Hill and Gemma Baldwin

In order to promote health, fitness and personal wellbeing the Human Resources Team at BHT will be doing a Wellbeing Fundraising Walk. The walk will be from Worthing Pier to Brighton Pier on Saturday 26th May 2018. They say that the route takes “roughly” 3 hours and 33 minutes. Shame they can’t be more specific!

They are fundraising for First Base Day Centre which offers a range of services to support people who are sleeping rough or insecurely housed in the city, to get off the streets, start realising their aspirations through work, learning and leisure and find a place they can call home.

If you are unsure whether to sponsor my colleagues, remember the following:

The average life expectancy of a homeless man is 47, for a homeless woman just 43. Homeless people are

  • 35 times more likely to commit suicide than the rest of the population
  • 4 times more likely to die from an unnatural cause
  • 13 times more likely to be the victim of crime
  • 77% of rough sleepers in London reported one or more support needs (i.e. alcohol, drugs and/or mental health).
  • Just under 50% were assessed as having mental health support needs
  • 51% report experiences of the armed forces, care or prison

Please do support them by sponsoring the walkers at their JustGiving page.

If you would like to take part in the Wellbeing Fundraising Walk, please email my colleague Tess Hill.

 

 

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Welcoming the government’s U-turn on denying housing benefit to 18 to 21 year olds. How about reviewing other measures that contribute to homelessness?

In March 2017, I wrote that “Denying 18-21 year olds the right to claim housing benefit is bad, bad news, and bad, bad policy”.

I wrote: “If there is one measure that will lead to an increase in rough sleeping amongst young people, it is denying them the automatic right to claim support for their housing costs.”

I returned to this theme in April last year: “11,000 18 to 21 year olds lose the right to claim housing benefit”, concluding that “this policy makes no sense in economic on humanitarian grounds.”

I had been quoted in the Brighton Argus (5th April 2017): “For most 18 to 21-year-olds life is a big adventure but for those on the streets it can turn into the worst of all nightmares. They have hopes and aspirations but if you are on the streets it is a day to day struggle for survival.”

“Denying 18-21 year olds the right to claim housing benefit is bad, bad news, and bad, bad policy”

Work and Pensions Secretary, Esther McVey

Last week, the Work and Pensions Secretary, Esther McVey, released a written statement to parliament announced the government would be reversing this cruel measure, by changing the  regulations so that it allowed all 18 to 21-year-olds to claim support for housing costs in Universal Credit”.

She said: “Currently, 18 to 21-year-olds who make a new claim to UC (universal credit) in UC full-service areas need to meet certain requirements to receive housing support. The change I am announcing today means that young people on benefits will be assured that if they secure a tenancy, they will have support towards their housing costs in the normal way.”

She said the decision was “in line with the government’s launch of the Homelessness Reduction Act and our commitment to eradicating rough sleeping by 2027.”

I am delighted that the government has seen sense on this one.  In line with its launch of the Homelessness Reduction Act and its commitment to eradicating rough sleeping by 2027, there are plenty of other measures that are contributing to the increase in homelessness.  Perhaps the government would care to look at them, too?

Keeping rough sleepers alive over the winter, and throughout the year

(This item first appeared in the Brighton and Hove Independent on Friday 23rd March 2018)

The worst of the winter weather is over, I hope. Rough sleeping is dangerous at any time of the year, but more so in severe weather.

The average life expectancy for a homeless man is 47 years, for a homeless woman it is just 43. Homeless people are 35 times more likely to take their own lives than the rest of the population, and 4 times more likely to die from unnatural causes.

In this day and age, in one of the richest cities in one of the richest countries in the world, it is wrong that anyone is living on the streets. It is unforgivable that anyone should die there.

Yet people have and do die, but these deaths are, fortunately, not common. But one death is one death too many. There would have been many more tragedies if it was not for the efforts of many individuals and many organisations.

For the first time in many years, the City Council operated a winter shelter for 30 rough sleepers. Sussex Homeless Support converted a bus that can accommodate 16 individuals. The churches continue to provide a rolling night shelter for fifteen others.

In severe weather, Brighton Housing Trust’s First Base Day Centre co-ordinates the severe weather shelter. This winter, to Friday 16th March, this shelter had been open for 35 days, accommodating 203 different people.  We have been open for most nights over this last week as well.

Those with dogs are welcome, as are their pets.

All this is in addition to the year-round provision by several homelessness organisation, including Brighton YMCA and YMCA Downslink Group which specialises in work with younger people, as does Sussex Nightstop that provides a safety net for young people age 16 to 25 providing emergency accommodation in the homes of volunteers.

My own organisation, Brighton Housing Trust, provides:

  • year round hostel accommodation for 52 rough sleepers
  • residential addiction treatment and safe, alcohol and drug free accommodation for 62 former rough sleepers
  • accommodation for 18 ex-rough sleepers who have jobs
  • self contained accommodation for up to 100 former rough sleepers, including 36 in our shipping container homes project.

That’s accommodation for over 200 rough sleepers every night of the year.

BHT and other homelessness charities are there, making a huge difference throughout the year. Can you imagine how much worse the rough sleeping crisis would be without us?

Locally, in partnership with the City Council, we can try to do more, but it will take action by central government to see an end to rough sleeping.

At the time of the November budget, the government announced the creation of a task force with the aim of halving rough sleeping by 2022 and ending it by 2027.  That, simply, is not good enough.

A civilised country is judged on how it looks after its most vulnerable. By that standard, the UK is not doing very well at all.

The work of First Base Day Centre in severe weather, on Christmas Day and throughout the year, and why we need more from government

(The Brighton Argus ran an Opinion piece by the Member of Parliament for Hove, Peter Kyle, regarding the need to look out for homeless an vulnerable people in bad weather.  In order to clarify a couple of matters in his article, I wrote this letter to the Argus which was published as an Opinion piece on Wednesday 14th March 2018).

I am grateful to Peter Kyle MP for highlighting the need to look out for homeless and vulnerable people in bad weather (Opinion, 9th March 2018).

In case there is any confusion regarding First Base Day Centre, when Peter says: “This is the kind of service our country should be providing year-round”, he is referring to the severe weather shelter we provide ay First Base when the elements pose an immediate threat to life.

The day centre service is, of course, open throughout the year. In fact, we were the only day service for homeless people open on Christmas Day.

I do disagree with Peter if he is suggesting that we need severe weather shelters year-round. Such shelters should only open in the most severe weather.  A winter shelter, such as that run by the City Council, is a very different provision, as are hostels where accommodation is provided in individual bedrooms.

We need proper accommodation for all homeless people, including rough sleepers.  Severe weather shelters and even winter shelters are not the answer.

The number of people sleeping rough has doubled since 2010.  Ending rough sleeping requires government intervention. The current government has pledged to end rough sleeping, but only by 2027.  That is not good enough.

The fact that the rough sleeping task force, announced by the government last year, has only just met for the first time (last Wednesday) is another indication that rough sleeping is a low priority for the government.

On the closing of Brighton’s winter shelter

(Extracts from this post appeared in an article in the Brighton Argus on 10th March in a feature on the winter shelter)

The City Council’s winter shelter closes this weekend. Compared to the lack of action, and an apparent lack of concern, in neighbouring areas like Eastbourne and Rother, Brighton and Hove City Council should be applauded for this and other initiatives.

Rough sleeping numbers have quadrupled in Eastbourne in the last two years, yet nothing is being done there to accommodate rough sleepers.

Nationally, the number of rough sleepers has doubled since 2010.  The government has promised to end rough sleeping by 2027.  A task force was announced last year to take this work forward.  But such is the apparent importance of this work, this task force has just met for the first time – last Wednesday!

For as long as the nation fails to provide the housing needed, we will need a range of provision for rough sleepers, from emergency shelters when there is an immediate risk to life in severe weather, to winter shelters and hostel accommodation.

I don’t go with the idea that services for homeless people act as a ‘pull’ for others to come to the city.  People come because of the reputation of the city for the drug and party scene, because it is the LGBT capital of the UK, because of the universities, and because other places are a dump!  I have never heard anyone say they came to Brighton because of the excellent services.

I would be concerned if an open-ended commitment was made that anyone arriving in Brighton will be accommodated.  That would provide licence for local authorities across the south east, Eastbourne and Rother included, to abrogate their responsibilities by providing all rough sleepers in their area with travel warrants to Brighton.

Brighton and Hove is full and the housing is increasingly unaffordable.  We need to discourage people coming to the city seeking accommodation.  Their hopes and aspirations will not be achieved here.

Look At Me Now: how the lives of three women were turned around thanks to BHT

Brighton Housing Trust has launched a new video, Look at Me Now, a film that showcases how three women who were homeless, or with mental health problems or addictions, have turned their lives around.

The campaign will help BHT to raise awareness of the issues vulnerable women face and raise much needed fund for BHT’s women-specific services and activities, such as Threshold’s Counselling Service and First Base Day Centre’s women-only sessions.

Our recent impact report Women and Homelessness, written by Cathy Bunker, reveals the shocking truth about homelessness amongst women and what they do to survive.

Women manage their homelessness in ways that are different to men. Many homeless women engage in informal strategies that keep them invisible. For example, they sofa surf, hide, engage in survival sex, form relationships to keep a roof over their head or work in the sex industry.

As a result of this report and further consultation carried out with our female clients, BHT is looking at how women access its services, the range of services we provide, where the gaps are and how we can better meet their needs.

My colleague, Nikki Homewood, who is BHT’s director of advice and support services, said: “Women make up 16% of the Brighton and Hove’s high support accommodation residents, meaning there are a total of around 45 women in high support accommodation at any one time.  We know that there are significant numbers of hidden homeless women in the city who are not accessing supported accommodation.

“Nationally homelessness is on the increase with rough sleeping having risen each year since 2010. According to Homeless Link in 2015 23% of those sleeping rough were situated in the South East of England.

“Recent statistics identify that single homeless people and rough sleepers have increasingly multiple and complex needs.  The Homeless Link Health Needs Audit identified that 86% of homeless people surveyed reported some form of mental health issue, 78% reported a physical health issue, 27% reported an alcohol issue and 41% reported an issue with drugs.

“Because of the support of BHT services, women who find themselves with nowhere else to turn, who are overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness, have turned their lives around.  They are now living full and fulfilling lives. Just look at them now!”.

You can view the Look at Me Now video here.

Support can be provided online or by text to LAMN18 £10 to 70070.

Rough sleeping is fast becoming the shame of Eastbourne

The worsening situation for rough sleepers in Eastbourne has become far more obvious in recent times.

In February, the Eastbourne Herald reported that the number of rough sleepers has quadrupled in the past two years.  It is not due to the proximity to Brighton, as claimed by a spokesperson from Eastbourne Borough Council.  Rather it is due to the absence of emergency accommodation in the town.

In the freezing weather an emergency shelter was opened to preserve life.  While this is to be welcomed, it is the bare minimum.  An affluent town like Eastbourne should make sure that there is no reason for anyone to sleep on the streets.  It is not good for the reputation of the town and it is certainly not good for those sleeping on the streets.

 

 

A national spotlight was shone on Eastbourne recently when BBC News ran an item about the fear that homeless people have about sleeping rough.

Government figures show that Eastbourne now has the ninth highest rate of rough sleeping in the country.

Rough sleeping is fast becoming the shame of Eastbourne.