Street Stories Exhibition

People who are experiencing homelessness are contributing a ‘Street Stories’ Corner as an inclusive part of the Brighton Art Market (BAM) event.

Exhibiting photos taken by people who are experiencing different types of homelessness. Living on the street, in emergency & temporary accommodation, b&bs, hostels, squatting, sofa surfing, living on the road, the hidden homeless.

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There is also a ‘Street Story’ book which everyone is invited to write in. To share their homeless related stories for others to read.

The Street Stories exhibition is facilitated by Love Activists BrightonOpSafe Winter -Brighton. Two of Brighton’s grassroots outreach groups, who stand in solidarity with folk who are homeless in our city, helping to provide survival aid & campaign for an end to homelessness.

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The ‘Street Stories’ corner will be set up again this Saturday 28th May 11-4pm in Brighthelm Gardens (Just off Queens Road).

We welcome volunteers & collaboration. Please email loveactivists(at)riseup.net if you would like to get involved!

Street Stories Event Page

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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

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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. 

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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.