Wednesday, 3 February 2010
"The Council Say That We Don't Exist"
From left to right: Russell, Neil and Michael are all street homeless. They have all been refused housing or accommodation by Brighton and Hove City Council since they do not have a 'local connection'. A 'local connection' means that homeless people must have family in Brighton in order to be considered for social housing. Even though temperatures have dropped to below freezing this winter, these men were refused Council help. When temperatures drop to -1 degrees celcius the First Base Day Centre in Montpelier Place opens its doors for the night.
Michael, reflecting on what help is available to the homeless said, "Sleeping in 0 degrees or even 1 or 2 degrees celcius is pretty terrible as well, you know. All we have is a sleeping bag. The council do nothing for us. The Soup Run does more for us than anyone else. It is a Godsend, literally. We'd be lost without it."
Neil continued to speak on behalf of himself and his friends. "At Christmas, the Soup Run was still there, with hot food because of the time of year and we were even given an envelope with £10 each in it as a Christmas present."
Every night at 7 pm, 52 weeks a year, the homeless of Brighton and Hove are fed with sandwiches and given coffee and soup near the peace statue by the seafront. This is done by volunteers from St Mary Magdalen Church and volunteers from outside the Church who wish to join in and help to feed the hungry of Brighton. Tonight it is 7 degrees outside, but it will rain.
Russell went further; "The Council say that we don't exist, if we have no local connection. Much of the YMCA is empty, meanwhile. I walk around Brighton and there are so many empty buildings which could be used as a hostel for us."
Neil continued, "The council claim that there are seven street homeless people in Brighton. This simply is not true. Last night there were ten or eleven of us where I was sleeping and that is just me." Another street homeless man, Jez, said, "I was with two others." Michael said, "There were seven of us last night where we were." Russell said with frustration, "We are just a blot on the landscape!" Jez, as he turns to leave after the Soup Run shouts to me, "I was born and bred in this area and I can't get anywhere to live!"