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

 

Call for emergency homeless shelters to remain open throughout winter

Pressure is growing on Brighton and Hove City Council to extend the opening times of emergency homeless shelters in the cold winter months.

Activists said ‘Severe Weather Emergency Protocol’ (SWEP) was activated in Brighton and Hove as temperatures dropped over the weekend and on Monday night, but halted again on Tuesday as the weather was no longer deemed to be extreme.

 

image

The First Base centre in St Stephens Hall on Montpelier Place was used as emergency shelter for rough sleepers during SWEP. Entry was permitted from 8pm onwards, with no referral or local connection needed.

Campaigners are now heaping pressure on councillors to protect rough sleepers by extending the scope of SWEP to last throughout the winter, rather than for isolated periods of extreme weather.

Ree Melody, of campaign group Love Activists Brighton, said: “The council needs to change their arbitrary decision making process and consider the severe impact which the rain, wind and other conditions have on those living on our streets, instead of waiting for it to become below zero temperatures for three consecutive nights running.”

Currently the requirements state that three consecutive nights at zero or below is the minimum requirement to activate SWEP responses.

The Love Activists group has been lobbying the council to apply ‘Extended Winter Provision’ as advised by the guidance from the charity Homeless Link, which would make it possible for councils to open emergency centres from November through to March.

A Homeless Link report which aims to advise local authorities on providing appropriate responses for people sleeping rough says the authority in question should consider factors ‘such as wind chill, snow coverage and duration of extreme weather’ when considering adequate provision.

It adds the aim of the protocol is to prevent deaths on the streets and local authorities should do everything they can to prevent harm.

Ms Melody said: “Love Activists have been lobbying the council for the past couple of years for SWEP to be open throughout winter with our other Solution Based Proposals To End Homelessness.”

These proposals include the activation of SWEP not only throughout the winter months but also in any weather which threatens rough sleepers’ health, as well as imposing affordable social rents on private landlords to ensure everyone can afford a home.

Cllr Clare Moonan, the council’s lead member for rough sleeping, said: “We do appreciate that people are concerned about rough sleepers, and especially in cold weather, and that is why we have asked everyone to support the Make Change Count campaign organised with local homeless charities this winter. With our partners, and under the Rough Sleeping Strategy, we work hard to make sure vulnerable people on our streets are cared for, not just in extreme weather, but throughout the year, and welcome the regular discussion about this at committee meetings and full council. The services we provide in extreme weather are to provide additional emergency support on top of the other services already being provided, and we do take into account weather conditions other than zero temperatures.”

A 38Degrees petition addressed to Brighton and Hove councillor for the homeless Clare Moonan demanding open night shelters for rough sleepers has now been signed by almost 4,000 people.

At tonight’s (January 26) Full Council meeting Green councillor Tom Druitt is set to put forward a motion requesting urgent action on the homelessness crisis.

Original article here

STREET STORY: The Cost of Punishment

The word is that if a person gets exploited by the criminal justice system and put inside for less than 12 months for say repeatedly begging (asking for help!) or somesuch, it costs an average of 68k per year.

The state has no obligation to house you and you’re slung onto the street with a £49 discharge grant. Put on an ‘at risk’ licence but receive no supervision or support!:/

That helps with the perpetual cycle of homelessness and coercion into possibly criminal activities doesn’t it?

Join the Love Activists Bloc, #GeneralStrike #J4 July 4th

The Lobbying and Direct Action crew have set up a facebook event page to rally for a Love Activists Bloc at the #ToriesOut #GeneralStrike on July 4th, #J4.

Join us at the general strike to protest against empty homes, homelessness and the absence of compassion on our streets!

MAKE SOME NOISE AND SPREAD THE LOVE!

Bring:

– Drums
– Other things to make noise
– A smile

Main event page for Brighton:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1071319602906938/

Love Activists Bloc:

facebook.com/events/1678381002379639/

STREET STORY: Have 2 More People Died On Our Streets?

6-3-16

Heard news last night that 2 more homeless people have died last weekend. Unsure of who yet. Will be calling the police station for any info.

When we rang the past couple of times over the past few months after hearing of the deaths of other people, the senior street community police officer ‘Sergeant Siggs’ failed to call us with any info or to even just say he wouldn’t be able to share any info due to data protection, nothing. Despite expressing that we were trying to find out whether the guy who had been found was someone we knew or not, for ourselves and others living on the street. We still have no answer to whether one of the guys we knew is dead or alive 😦

We rang back after another person died 3 weeks afterwards and voiced the upset from hearing no response when we previously called and needing to make another request for info about someone else. The officer i spoke to was most apologetic and reassured me that she would ask Siggs to call back … we never had any response.

We have also heard a report that when Officer Siggs was on duty recently, in plain clothes kicked at someone asleep on the street to wake them up (the police routinely do this at around 6/7am apparently). We have heard that the officers do this instead of shaking them by their body as less intrusive!? Siggs told us they do it to encourage people to go to First Base. The police tell them that if they refuse or don’t use the services for various reasons, whatever they are, they are not considered or respected. Instead they get arrested.

The person asleep when woken apparently didn’t know him as an officer, and the fact that he was in plain clothes too, the person felt vulnerable and hit out at his leg worried that someone was starting on them. Siggs arrested them. The person was later released as CCTV footage showed that Siggs had kicked him first. No charges were applied.

People on the street are reporting back that officers, including Siggs are on a mission waking people up and telling them to move on or they will be taken into custody 😦

If anyone has any info/news on the two deaths deaths last weekend please let us know. We heard one young guy was found dead near the Brighton Wheel.

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:.

LAB_petitionA4

 

STREET STORY: All Homeless People Are A Priority (It’s The Law)

By REE MELODY

Over the past 6 months I have been working hard to help support one guy living on the street to get housed. Yesterday, 25th February, he moved into supported accommodation 🙂

The process has been long, frustrating and a complete joke in all honesty. Even one worker within the services admitted that this should have been sorted out months ago.

The bureaucratic process took all of 2 and a half months just to recognise him to be in priority need because of his health issues.

I stand strong with the belief that ALL people living on the street are in priority need and needing the basic right of a home. As the judge stated at the Supreme Court last May with regard to the vulnerability assessment process:

“All homeless people should now be compared with an ‘ordinary person who is at risk of becoming homeless”

Being homeless has a significant detrimental impact on everyone’s wellbeing, making all people vulnerable, therefore anyone who is homeless should be deemed a priority!

He was first moved into emergency accomodation last December. A small, smelly, dirty room without any bedding owned by Baron Homes. One of the workers of a homelessness service has since said they would not move a member of their own family in there. There was no support to help him with the transition after living on the street on and off for around 27 years. (he did get encouragement from his friends living on the street telling him to go indoors though!!) He was not allowed any visitors so he felt isolated and began to drink more and soon returned back to the streets.

This happened after he lost his key card and didn’t get the support he needed by his keyworker at the time to support him getting a new one. At the same time he was arrested for begging and had bail conditions which prevented easy access along the main road to his emergency room.

A couple of days later he was beaten up.

A friend took him out of town to be safe and rest up. I truly believe his life was seriously at risk as that week escalated from bad to worse because he didn’t have access to his emergency room, although that wasn’t even suitable for his needs, and he was lacking the support he very much needed at the time.

The process up to this point had taken many texts, phonecalls, visits to doctors, nurses, support centers, and the council. Along with the support to help keep appointments, filling out forms, acting as an advocate at times and putting pressure on his key worker. Their workload was apparently extremely high and they were struggling to offer him the full support which he needed. It was concerning how this team didn’t seem to be flagging up that they were struggling. It is a serious threat to vulnerable people’s wellbeing, even their lives.

He came back to town a few weeks later after much needed rest and found himself with a new keyworker and his emergency room was still available. He went to meet the landlord to get a new key card but the landlord never turned up. So understandably in his situation, he blew it out. He felt let down by the continued lack of support. He expressed that the accommodation wasn’t right for him anyway. His new keyworker with more ‘encouragement’ from myself, had a few meetings and managed to get him on the waiting list for more suitable supported accomodation which he now has. He is feeling positive about it now and it sounds like they will be able to offer him the balance of support and freedom which he needs.

There is no doubt that without my determination, drive and pressure and his willingness to work with that,fuelled by his own genuine concerns for his wellbeing, he would still be living on the street and wouldn’t be where he is now. It has flagged up how the outreach team at St. Mungo’s, although they are good people and work hard and are ‘doing their best’  are overloaded and unable to give the full support which is needed by many individuals. The council’s process of who they will see as in ‘priority’ need is inhumane and unfair and takes too much time whilst leaving vulnerable people with serious issues left vulnerable on the streets.

‪#‎NoMoreDeathsOnOurStreets‬ ‪#‎PeopleB4Profit‬ ‪#‎Right2Shelter‬

peopleb4profit

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. 

PUBLIC DEMO: March 2nd – No More Deaths On Our Streets

Love Activists Brighton & people living on the street gathered almost 2,000 signatures. Some online and most were gathered on the street in support of the Solution Based Proposals To End Homelessness

The proposals were debated at the Full Council Meeting on 28th January. They were referred to be considered at the Housing & New Homes committee meeting on 2nd March.

This Committee has overall responsibility for the Council’s housing functions, including Council housing, homelessness, allocations and standards of housing in the area.

The public meeting is expected to start from 4pm. We have been told the public cannot participate in the discussion, only to sit in to listen.

We are rallying for a demo prior to the meeting from 3pm to express that we won’t tolerate anymore homeless people dying on our streets.

We will then join the meeting, to listen to the proposals being fully discussed.

Please come & join us in solidarity, there is a fedbook event page here.

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

LAB_SolutionBasedProposalsSWEP2