Thursday, 22 April 2010
Across the UK, Shelter is Highly Precarious
Evicted after an argument and fight with an overbearing and violent landlord, his slide into homelessness was quick and sudden, demonstrating just how precarious having a roof over your head can be, in Brighton and across the United Kingdom.
"My girlfiend," he says, "is still at the flat in Hove. We've been living there for 6 months, together. She is studying to do childcare, which is very brave, I think, after all we've just been through. She recently suffered a miscarriage."
It was over a nasty comment by his landlord that an argument and fight broke out between Jamie and him.
"The landlord has a key to the house and he lives next door. He has a habit of just walking in without knocking and he came in at 5pm yesterday, very drunk. He walked over to the fridge and just took out a couple of beers and sat down. He started talking to me and my girlfriend and when he heard about the miscarriage, he arrogantly said, 'Well, at least that is one less person to pay rent.' It took me a while to work out what he had said and I couldn't believe it! I saw red and hit him. He then threw me against a wardrobe and kicked me around a bit. He was stronger than me and I've got a lot of bruises and grazes. The police were called by the neighbours and he threw me out. Now I'm on the streets and I've never been in this situation before. My girlfriend has been walking around with me a bit trying to help sort stuff out."
He is also getting help from the local St Vincent de Paul group (SVP). "The local soup run people told me about the SVP. I now have a job already, amazingly through Connexions, with a local firm doing sales and the SVP shop are going to help me get some smart clothes for the job. The Clocktower Sanctuary also have a fund for emergency clothing so I am really grateful to them and all the people and charities who have helped.
At 21, his story was tragic, but he remains upbeat and optimistic. He is, in a way, a success story of the care system, something which we don't hear so much.
"I was taken into care at the age of three by social services. My mother is serving life imprisonment for the murder of my father. I'm not in touch with her currently. We've been writing to each other but three months ago she tried to blame me for her crime. My experience of the care system was okay. It was hard going from care home to care home, and then into foster care. You're never sure whether they are fostering you because they care for you, or just for the money. I know others who have had big problems in the care system in terms of abuse, but I managed to escape that."
Now that Jamie is 21, his care order, under which he was cared for by social services, has expired and so going it alone in the World and having to look after himself totally is a new experience. The last few days have certainly been a brutal and violent entrance into this period of his life. His story reflects just how tenuous having a home can be, but also how effectively agencies combatting homelessness can be when all of the procedures are in place and when people fit the criteria to access help. Sadly, Jamie says, it isn't the experience of all homeless people in Brighton.
"I talked to one homeless man," Jamie said, "who is being deported back to Crewe. He doesn't want to go back and, for all we know, he could be fleeing from a violent family life or something else nasty. I don't think its fair that the Council just want to ship homeless men and women out of Brighton back to lives and cities with which they have no personal connection any longer. People should be allowed to settle here."
At 21, Jamie can get support from the Clocktower Sanctuary. As a resident in Brighton, he has a 'local connection' and can prove it. But for many rough sleepers in Brighton and Hove, not meeting such criteria can be a severe impediment to accessing much needed help and support.