As the weather takes a nasty cold turn, our thoughts go to those who are sleeping rough in the city. Brighton and Hove’s frontline services, homeless organisations and charities united together last month at the Rough Sleeping summit and look at how best to work together on this alarmingly visible issue. And there’s a way you can help projects, which directly support Brighton and Hove rough sleepers.
Earlier this month it was reported that three people sleeping on the streets of this city died. As I read the article I felt overwhelmingly sad, as I knew one of the victims. Last year, the kids and I were catching the bus from Waitrose after a play-date on the beach. Shattered from our walk, I sat on the bench and a friendly Big Issue vendor came and chatted to us, asking the kids questions and making them giggle. I was shocked to see that this jolly man, Lesley ‘Gareth’ Raymond, had passed away, despite having a roof over his head, finally falling victim to his prior years of street sleeping. He openly shared stories and life experiences and we bonded over his and my kids’ Welsh heritage. As the bus approached and we said our goodbyes he gave my youngest a £1 coin for her birthday. I was deeply touched at this generosity and a little embarrassed too, trying to give it back but he wanted her to have this gift. It does not seem fair that he lost his life but his situation does bring home the harsh reality of homelessness and the need to prevent younger people from falling into these circumstances.
The summit in December was organised by Brighton & Hove City Council and brought together representatives from across the statutory and third sector. A wide range of organisations and individuals were present, including people with experience of sleeping on the streets, St. Mungo’s Broadway, Brighton Housing Trust and One Church Brighton. The participants broke out into work groups to examine key issues and pull together viable ideas in the face of a challenging economic environment for this issue. Not only does the city face an affordable housing crisis, funding cuts from central government compound the strain on resources.
More than 1,000 people sleep rough annually in Brighton & Hove with new people seeking support each week. It’s human nature to want to help immediately when you see someone in need. Especially when our young children ask why a person is sleeping outdoors in the middle of winter and you have no satisfactory answer. And while there have been calls by groups such as The Love Activists to open Brighton’s empty buildings, as Andy Winter from the Brighton Housing Trust explains on his blog, this isn’t a viable option for rough sleepers’ safety.
There are two key ways you can help. Firstly, use the government funded Streetlink app to share information about a rough sleeper so details may be passed on to outreach workers to properly triage.
Secondly, you can donate to projects working directly with Brighton and Hove rough sleepers, on-line to St. Mungo’s Broadway who provide outreach care in Brighton & Hove. 2017 UPDATE, this is now make change count, the other fundraising page is closed: https://localgiving.org/appeal/makechangecount/
Cllr Clare Moonan explains this approach: “We know residents want to help and, particularly at this time of year as the temperatures drop, it’s a real worry to see people rough sleeping. The winter campaign is a way to make a difference right away as we work together on providing a long-term solution. I encourage everyone to help rough sleepers by using the Streetlink website or app. The fundraising aspect of the campaign is designed to provide appropriate care for the most vulnerable living rough by channelling donations where they can make a real difference. Small amounts of donations add up and are more effective than giving hand outs on the street.”
For more information about how you can take action about this issue visit: www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/how-to-help-people-living-rough
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