Motion Was Passed!!

A motion for making vacant council buildings available for use as homeless shelters was put forward by Tom Druitt and seconded by David Gibson. It was unanimously voted on and passed on Thursday 26th January 2017. An urgent report will now be put together and heard at the next policy, resources & growth committee meeting.

passed

We have been told by councillors that this is unlikely to be ready in practical terms until next winter. In the meantime we plan to keep the pressure up on the council with regard to (SWEP ) Severe Weather Emergency Protocol.

To support in keeping the pressure up you could consider emailing jenny.knight@brighton-hove.gov.uk and clare.moonan@brighton-hove.gov.uk to express (or demand) that the council must change their arbitrary decision making process when deciding whether to activate SWEP or not. They should be applying the charity ‘Homeless Link’s guidance of ‘Extended Winter Provision’ from November through to February for folk living on the streets. Instead of waiting for it to be below zero for three consecutive nights. They need to consider the rain, wind and other conditions which also have a severe impact.

F.Y.I. Homeless Link guidance

 

Fairness Commission (script)

This is the script we wrote for Brighton & Hove’s Fairness Commission, which we attended on the 18th February 2016.

This document was written collaboratively using titanpad, here: titanpad.com/U4lBQ8hbmr


Through Love Activist Brighton’s autonomous actions we have got to know a lot of people living on the street. we have heard about their experiences and difficulties with getting the help and support they need. The most basic support which every human being deserves – access to shelter.
We hope that this fairness commission will hold some sway over the council with its future recommendations and so we will be frank about our proposals.
1. We don’t think it’s fair that…that people living on the streets are coerced to develop complex needs before they are able to receive help.
In May 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that when local authorities carry out vulnerability assessments, a ‘homeless person’ should be compared with an ‘ordinary person who is at risk of becoming homeless’. There is no doubt that any homeless person is ‘significantly more vulnerable’ than an ordinary person, therefore everybody living on the street should be assessed as being in priority need.
The judgement also made it clear that while councils are often under huge financial strain, this must not be used as an excuse for avoiding their legal duties. To guarantee duty of care and legal obligations are met, all local authorities must provide permanent housing for anybody living on the streets.
We hope to see this change in law properly adhered to by the council. We hope their interpretation will include those in temporary accommodation, sofa surfers, squatters, The so-called “Hidden homeless”.
2. It’s not fair that…The Housing First model is only provided for only ten people in Brighton. It should be a priority to expand it:
Some of you will know that Housing First, is a relatively recent model,  an alternative to the system of emergency and temporary accommodation.
The original housing first scheme was introduced in America and has been remarkably successful in ending chronic homelessness there and in other parts of the world. Housing first pilot project had a 70% success rate in Brighton & Hove
Rather than moving homeless individuals through different “levels” of housing which can take years to get a permanent place to call home, Housing First moves the homeless individual, or household immediately from the streets into their own permanent home. They are also offered adequate support to help with any other issues. This has proven to better meet individual needs and be economically cheaper.
We want to see Housing First made available for all homeless people, with all levels of support needs, from those who only need a home to those with extremely complex emotional and physical needs.
3. We don’t consider it fair that…the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) isn’t activated immediately, in any weather which threatens rough sleepers’ health, particularly the wet. 
The Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) was not activated recently, leaving vulnerable people to sleep out during a severe weather warning on our streets. We are waiting to hear of the changes that have been made to make this avoidable in the future. 
Last year the budget wasn’t used up for the SWEP protocol. This must mean that the emergency centres could infact be opened more often if the budget were made available. The surplus budget last year did not get carried over. We would be interested to know what happened to that surplus (and how much it was?)
If the material resources exist to provide shelter from a severe weather emergency, economic arguments against keeping the shelters open all year round are not as powerful as the humanitarian ones for opening them.
We don’t think it’s fair that…affordable social rents are not imposed on private landlords and property investors. 
It’s not fair that the provision of truly affordable permanent homes is not a priority.
We want to see present and future housing projects prioritising housing for those without a home including those in emergency and temporary accommodation. Allocating enough of these properties towards the housing first project until everyone is housed.
It’s not fair that…  so many buildings sit empty. It would make sense to make squatting empty properties safe and equitable for property owners and otherwise homeless people. 
This would make use of empty properties, keep people safe and avoid wasting tax payers money, private money and time spent on security, policing and court costs.
We hope that you will include the solution based proposals in your final report to the council.
We hope that you will use what power you have to take this discussion to central Government. We want the council to stand up to the westminster elite on behalf of all the people who have suffered and died because of their crude, ideological war on the poor.
We want Brighton to lead the charge of rebel cities in the UK, to secede from the square mile in order to prevent this crisis worsening and more people dying.

Solution Based Proposals to End Homelessness

We launched a petition to support the Solution Based Proposals to End Homelessness on 38 Degrees. The e-petition has gathered 878 signatures and street crews gathered over 1000 handwritten signatures.

The solution based proposals were developed in consultation with the local community, prioritising feedback from rough sleepers.

We delivered the petition to the council and spoke at the full council meeting on the 28th January, where the proposals were received with warm words by members of all political parties.

The Council referred the proposals to the fairness commission, which we attended on the 18th February and to the Housing Committee which we will attend tomorrow, March 2nd.

You can read the proposals and sign the petition here:.

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SWEP Update: Meeting, 26/2/15

By REE MELODY

I attended a meeting at King’s House yesterday (26th February 2016) to discuss the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP).

I was invited because Love Activists had flagged this failure up to the council.

Attendees at the meeting were; Tracy John (Head of Housing), Jenny Knight (Commissioner for Homelessness), Sue Forrest (Commissioning Team) and Brian Doughty (Head of Adult Social Care). Claire Moonan (Deputy Chair Neighbourhoods, Communities and Equalities Committee) was unable to attend due to personal issues.

I clarified that we had received a written apology from Claire Moonan. We have mentioned this to people living on the street. Sadly there is much apathy and the apology understandably doesn’t really cut it when you’re living on the street day in day out.

I asked why the error had occured. The answer was a bit vague. “Breakdown in communications” was the answer pretty much. They also went on to say that if the warning is online later in the day, they find it ‘more difficult’ to get people to staff the center at short notice.

They went on to explain that to avoid this happening again, they have set up a 24/7 ‘Carelink’, whereby someone will be allocated to check the weather report 24/7. When an ‘Amber’ severe weather warning occurs, they will then get in touch with Jenny Knight or the Duty Manager to activate the protocol. They will then get in touch with Brighton Housing Trust (BHT) and St.Mungos outreach team to arrange staffing the centre as they usually do.

The council have to follow guidelines as set by Homeless Link. I mentioned that an ‘Amber’ warning is not stated in the guidance and asked who had set what seems to be an arbitary trigger? Jenny Knight said the local council set that measure. 

I asked whether this was decided because of the budget available? Jenny said that IF it was set for the protocol to be activated for every ‘Yellow’ warning, the budget would get used up leaving none for random severe weather at other times of the year, if we had snow for example. 

So, it seems to be the case that this protocol was set in consideration of the budget rather than the need.

When asked why our council won’t follow the guidelines of the Extended Winter Provision, whereby they could (or should) open the centers from Nov-March, I got the same answer. There wouldn’t be enough budget.
I then asked if they would consider opening the centers on all of the rainy days. Same answer. Would they consider the ‘feels like’ temperature and consider the fact that the temperature may start at above zero some nights, but more often than not falls below zero during the night. Same answer. 

weather
So despite also highlighting that only quarter of the budget was used last year they are not willing to reassess the triggers of below zero and amber warnings. They wouldn’t tell me the amount of the budget as this information is ‘commercially sensitive’…(!?)

I proposed that they ‘find the money’ within the council and alter their budget. They said they can’t because of central government policy. I would need to lobby my local MP to see if they could change things. As councillors they don’t have that power.

They also expressed that they wouldnt be able to open the available centers every night through the winter and can only use them on an ad-hoc basis. If they were able to fund opening one November – March, they would have to have their own building. I suggested they make use of one of the empty ones. They all went quiet! Then said the start up costs would be too much and that it wasn’t an option. 

I criticised Streetlink, expressing that examining the figures provided by the service, when contracted with CRI, it appears to be more of a data gathering exercise. Out of 272 referrals only 3 had an ‘accomodation outcome’ for example. They are waiting to get reports from St. Mungo’s since they started to run it here in Brighton. Until then, they said they couldn’t really comment but will be ‘looking at how it is doing’. 

I asked what the donations on the streetlink website would be used for. They were considering my suggestion of a deposit scheme to help people get a home. Although the donations are not that big, so they are considering using it for assessing homeless people off the street – paying for staff, resources, food to assess someone indoors whilst working out where to signpost them to. 

I expressed concern that Streetlink’s ‘service’ is being presented to the public as an emergency service that can help people off the street. That this was dangerous and wrong. There should be such a service, but Streetlink is definitely not it! The general public should be informed that this service is actually about gathering data, rather than helping people off the streets. We will be interested to see the figures when they come through, as when looking at the ones from December 2012 to January 2016 very few are housed. Out of 2800 in South East England, only 85 were accommodated. Some of these are likely to have been just a B and B for the night or 28 days in an emergency hostel. 

Tracy John insisted that resources and money were being prioritised for preventative measures, to stop people becoming homeless. I agreed that this was good, but what about the emergency situation of people struggling to survive on our streets now!? Something has to change before any more people die on our streets. 

The fact is that the number of homeless people is increasing every day. 

They agreed but I walked out after the meeting disheartened. I even said to Brian Doughty that I find all of this bureaucracy disheartening and he just said “yeah” and chuckled nervously. 

SWEP Campaign Update

We recently flagged up how the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) was not activated during a ‘red’ severe weather warning on Sunday 7th February. This meant that emergency shelters were not opened for people living on the street.

Streetlink also failed to respond to our reported concern for those on the street and the fact that the centres were not opened. One love activist managed to call through to someone linked with Streetlink (at St Mungo’s in Brighton) on the Sunday but was told that she was wasting her time if she couldn’t be specific about where individuals were. Completely missing the point that the concern was for everyone left out in the severe weather :/

We have received the following reply regarding the SWEP protocol from Cllr Clare Moonan below:

“It was good to meet you last week at the Fairness Commission and talk about the operation of the SWEP during the recent storms.

I’d like to apologise again, on behalf of the city council for the fact that the shelters weren’t opened on Sunday 7 February evening when they should have been. Something went wrong and we undertook an urgent investigation at the most senior level to find out why. We have as a result put in place measures to improve this process to make it as robust and reliable as it possibly can be so that the shelters are opened when needed in bad weather.

We are reviewing the criteria that triggers the opening of the shelters. This winter, it’s been the strong winds that have been more severe than usual. We are investigating if we can relax the opening criteria to include more periods of strong winds and when the temperature reaches a level higher than the current trigger. These would be temporary measures for this winter only.

The council’s Rough Sleepers strategy, due to go to committee in July, will outline how we plan to continue and improve the service we offer. I do hope you will contribute to the consultation with your thoughts and ideas on our proposed city wide approach.

We are currently in the process of arranging a time to meet with you and discuss this further and will confirm shortly. It will also be good to talk through some of the other issues you mentioned regarding the operation of the SWEP.

I look forward to meeting again soon.

Best wishes

Clare Moonan

Cllr Clare Moonan
Labour Councillor for Central Hove Ward
Deputy Chair Neighbourhoods, Communities and Equalities Committee
Chair West Area Housing Panel

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