How BHT and our partners saved the lives of rough sleepers over the winter months

What wonderful weather we are enjoying at the moment.  Even my white legs have made an appearance.  The forecast is for another hot, sunny Bank Holiday weekend which means, inevitably, that it will rain!

It is hard to think back to the freezing cold of the winter months but here are a few statistics I would like to share with you regarding the Severe Weather Shelter which BHT operates when there is a risk to life from the weather.

The Severe Weather Shelter opened on 43 occasions over the winter, provided shelter for 244 different men and women who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets that night.  A total of 1,401 nights accommodation were provided.  33 members of staff volunteered to work on these nights, in addition to their normal day jobs.

BHT is able to run this shelter on behalf of Brighton and Hove City Council because we have First Base Day Centre that we can use for the shelter, and because BHT and several other partner organisations have the skilled, trained and dedicated staff who are willing to drop everything to run the shelter.  I am extremely grateful to all these colleagues for their selfless dedication.

So while we enjoy the wonderful weather, please spare a moment to think about how BHT is able to run First Base.  It takes fundraising activities throughout the year, our biggest being the Greater Brighton Cycle Challenge which is now less than six weeks away.

Please sign up to cycle or to help on the day.  You can find out more information here.

And if you want to support First Base and make me very happy, you can sponsor me as I am planning to cycle 100 km as part of the challenge.  Last year I raised just over £1,000, it would be wonderful to top that.  Many thanks.


At least 78 homeless people died on the streets or temporary accommodation in 2017

Nationally, at least 78 homeless people died on the streets or in temporary accommodation last year, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

There have been over 300 deaths since 2013.  40 deaths have already been recorded in the first part of 2018.

Rough sleeping has more than doubled over the last five years.

A colleague at BHT asked me: “Just how is this allowed to happen? Just why isn’t there a massive outcry over this? Just when is there ever going to be an end to people dying on the streets?”

I couldn’t answer her.

Sun Cream and Sun Hat Appeal for Rough Sleepers

We are making our annual appeal for sun cream and sun hats to protect homeless people who are often exposed to extreme heats in spring and summer.

First Base Day Centre helps homeless men and women in Brighton and Hove by providing food, showers, clean and dry clothes, and support to get off the streets.

My colleague, Deirdre O’ Halloran, Deputy Manager of First Base, said:  “Your support in donating sun cream and sun hats will help us to encourage rough sleepers to protect themselves from sunburn and associated illnesses during warm spells.”

Rough sleepers are far more likely to get skin cancer than the rest of the population because of their extended exposure to harmful rays.

You can either purchase sun cream or sun hats from our Amazon Wish List on the link below, or drop items off to First Base itself at St. Stephen’s Hall, Montpelier Place, Brighton, BN1 3BF or our head office at 144 London Road, Brighton, BN1 4PH.

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.

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.