Thursday, 21 July 2011

Olympic Homeless Coming to Brighton

Is there anything more absurd than the Olympics?
The Argus carried an interesting story yesterday concerning Brighton's increasing homeless community being caused by the grotesquely expensive efforts being put into putting on an exhibition of fast runners, high jumpers and good swimmers. The new homeless have been described by the local press as the 'Olympic homeless'...

'Homeless people are heading to Brighton and Hove to escape a purge of London’s streets ahead of the Olympics.

Charities have reported “harassment” of rough sleepers in the capital as London mayor Boris Johnson looks to eradicate homelessness before the 2012 Games.

As people look to escape the operation, Sussex Police has been forced to include the impact into its plans to deal with homeless people. It comes as city bosses reported dramatic increases in both rough sleeping and homelessness with hundreds more possibly affected due to changes in Governm├│ent benefits.

Hove MP Mike Weatherley said: “If there has been some sort of drive to reduce homelessness in London, I can only hope that it has been carried out in a responsible manner. Moving on a problem, rather than tackling it, is hardly fair. I look forward to looking into this further as soon as I receive full confirmation of the facts.”

The campaign to end rough sleeping in London for good began in 2005 after the capital was awarded the 2012 Olympic Games. Within this is Operation Poncho, a joint council and police initiative which has been criticised by charities for “harassment” tactics.

It included reports of people being woken in the night and forced to move on. Previous Olympics in Sydney in 2000 and Atlanta in 1996 saw reports of forcible removal of the homeless during the games for image purposes. Brighton and Hove City Council leader Bill Randall said the latest rough sleeping figures were “indicative of the housing issues we face”.

Council officials have counted 42 rough sleepers in the city – three times the 14 reported by the Government in December. The latest figure is comparable to 1998 when there were 48 rough sleepers recorded on the city’s streets. However, council counts are generally recognised as including only a fraction of the true level of rough sleeping in Brighton and Hove.

Chief Inspector Bruce Mathews, of Sussex Police, said it was hard to gauge the reasons why homeless people move from one place to another. However, he said: “There is always a possibility that if somewhere else is focusing on homeless people, they may displace any problem or issue. It is one of those issues we are aware of but I can’t say whether it is having an effect on either London's volumes or the type of person that is homeless in the city.”

Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas recently claimed 840 people in the city could be affected by Government changes to housing benefit. She said: “My surgeries are full of people who are struggling to pay rent and find alternatives to overcrowded and overpriced accommodation “Ministers must now heed the warnings and reverse this measure to avert an epidemic of homelessness amongst the most vulnerable in our community.”

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Scandal of 17-19 Grand Parade, Baron Homes and Brighton and Hove City Council

Princes House, Brighton
Residents of 17/19 Grand Parade agreed to be interviewed about the living conditions of the “emergency temporary accommodation” of inner Brighton.

Each resident interviewed has a different story of the shameful squalour and scandalous neglect of the accommodation into which Brighton and Hove City Council’s housing and ‘rough sleepers’ teams place homeless and vulnerable persons.

Their stories speak well for themselves.  You will see from our website’s video footage that 17/19 Grand Parade is a sorry excuse for “emergency temporary accommodation”.  Some residents have been left there for over two years.  You will also see the appalling manner in which the premises are run.

However, the story does not end there. There is more to this story than at first meets the eye. Video evidence on our blog provides proof that the “emergency temporary accommodation” is ran by Brighton-based company, The Baron Homes Corporation Ltd.

Baron Homes: making money out of poverty 

The Baron Homes Corporation Ltd is, in fact, a sister company of Baron Estates, a fact conveniently overlooked on their website.  Their address is 22A East Street Arcade.  At 12 East Street Arcade reside the plush offices of Baron Estates. The same premises of Princes House, with luxury flats for sale for £700,000, appears on both websites.

And as if to demonstrate just how ‘close’ to Brighton and Hove City Council these estate and lettings agents are, the addresses of both offices are just yards away from Brighton and Hove City Council’s Housing and City Support Team, who keep a steady stream of homeless clients flowing into 17/19 Grand Parade and Baron Homes’s other properties. Baron Estates website advertises that their ‘London Office’ resides at 121 Park Lane, Mayfair, which, conveniently, is also the site of the, global, ‘Guild of Professional Estate Agents’, which boasts of its ability to access “the lucrative London and international investor markets”.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, neither the website for Baron Estates or The Baron Homes Corporation Ltd say anything about Baron Homes’s responsibility for 17/19 Grand Parade, their ‘emergency accommodation’ in Brunswick Square or Windsor Court in Windsor Street.

Baron Homes do, however, list the large array of rather more lavish properties for which they also have responsibility. These include Princes House on North Street and other commercial and residential properties. Baron Estates also act as agents for properties around Brighton and the surrounding area, with some advertised for sale for as much as £2.4 million.

And it is no wonder the property companies are able to afford to acquire such property for their portfolios.  On average, Brighton and Hove City Council transfer into the bank account of The Baron Homes Corporation Ltd a staggering £1.2 million a year, presumably in housing benefits.  Not bad for a company that claims to have been established in 1994, is it?

The Eye of the Needle has established that the Baron property empire are not just ‘agents’ for 17/19 Grand Parade, but owners and it is incredible that an agency who are beneficiaries of so much housing benefit and whose sister company are selling properties for six figures, are unable to remind themselves, or indeed be reminded by the Council, to maintain their property even to a barely minimal standard.  With their vast wealth they could even employ staff to care for Brighton’s most vulnerable.

Baron Homes charge the Council in excess of £150 a week in order to accommodate Brighton’s poor.  This is double what would be charged by an ordinary landlord for far better accommodation in Brighton.  Yet, the accommodation is truly abysmal.   How can it be that a company making so much financial return out of the misery of 17/19 Grand Parade can put such a minimal effort into the living conditions of the premises, while at the same time boast of the stunning beauty of its more expensive, luxury accommodation in Brighton and beyond?  We at The Eye of a Needle would suggest that this company may find public knowledge of their responsibility for 17/19 Grand Parade rather embarrassing, and, hopefully, so too will their shareholders.

How can it be that Baron Homes can be beneficiaries of so much public money when as yet it appears nobody from the Council has ordered an inquiry into the “emergency temporary accommodation”?  How can a company be so vastly wealthy and yet give nothing in return to the very poor from whom they profit?  How can Brighton and Hove City Council, who have a duty of care for Brighton’s most vulnerable, preside over this astonishing neglect of the poor?!

How can this wealthy empire demand from their poor tenants the £10 a week “top-up” fees that are compulsory for the residents of the 17-19 Grand Parade, a fee for which they receive scant in return in terms of quality of life?  What grave and scandalous injustice, that this Brighton mafia robs from the poor from their weekly allowance just to get more wealthy than they already are!?  Does their avarice know no bounds!?

A scandal worthy of the attention of the local and national media

The story of Baron Homes and their all too cosy relationship with Brighton and Hove City Council is unclear, rather murky so to speak, but it is surely worthy of local and perhaps national media attention.  For under the responsibility of Baron Homes is also accommodation of a similar nature in Brunswick Square from which more horror stories emerge. We are certain that if all of the poor homeless men and women of these residences knew of the vast wealth of the international company which has responsibility for these premises they would be utterly scandalised, as would many of the good people of Brighton and Hove.

It is a wonder how the local press has never picked up on this story, but then with the amount of money involved in this scandal it is perhaps unsurprising. It may be that a company as big as Baron Homes Corporation Ltd are simply ‘too big to touch’.   They are not, however, too big for this magazine. Nor, for that matter, are Brighton and Hove City Council, the leaders of which should be ashamed of themselves for not investigating and ordering the improvement of 17/19 Grand Parade, oiled, as it is, by public money.  It is a national scandal and our videos of interviews with residents will communicate the depth of this scandal more adequately than we can do in words.

Huge wealth made from the misery of  Brighton’s poor, homeless and destitute

Indeed, someone, somewhere, is getting very wealthy off the backs of these poor tenants trapped in the squalour of 17/19 Grand Parade, Brunswick Square and other rented dumps in Brighton and they are giving nothing back to them in return.  Unlike The Baron Homes Corporation Ltd, Baron Estates is able to boast of its membership of the Guild of Professional Estate agents and its approval by the Government’s Property Ombudsman scheme, a Guild of which we can only presume that Baron Homes Corporation is not a member.

Perhaps the ‘Property Ombudsman’ scheme for lettings agents should still be informed of Baron Homes’s terrible management of the premises of 17/19 Grand Parade. It reflects rather badly on Baron Estates.

More generally, howver, the whole nature of local Government’s relationship with the The Baron Homes Corporation Ltd is rather mysterious. It is interesting that Baron Estates are members of the ‘Guild of Professional Estate Agents’, but The Baron Homes Corporation Ltd appears not to be, but given that the Guild shares office space with Baron Estates’s office in 121 Park Lane, Mayfair, one wonders whether it exists only to serve their interests in “lucrative investment” operations.

Regardless to say, the relationship between Brighton and Hove City Council and this company stinks to high heaven and all the more in the light of the fact that Baron Estates boast of their other services.

These ‘services’ include their ‘Shops Department’, their ‘Office Space’ department, their ‘Industrial Property Department’, their ‘Valuation Department’, their ‘Commercial Land Development Consultancy and Town Planning Department’, ‘Motor Trade and Roadside Property Department’, their ‘Hotels Department’, ‘Nursing Homes Department’, ‘Business Sales Department’ and ‘Investment Property Department’.  It rather looks like, between them, The Baron Homes Corporation and Baron Estates have Brighton pretty much sewn up!

Quite what is the nature of the relationship between Brighton and Hove City Council and The Baron Homes Corporation Ltd, when the same company that runs the most squalid, wretched emergency temporary accommodation in Brighton is also able to buy up the much sought after Regents Arcade, as reported by The Argus, for £10 million pounds, in 2004?

Perhaps it is not surprising that The Baron Homes Corporation Ltd were able to afford Regents Arcade. As well as the housing benefits and “top-up fee” revenue, just look at what Director of the company, Mrs Nazila Blencowe, is ‘President’ of: Baron International, Inc. The Director of the mysterious Baron organisation has been living in Beverley Hills, USA!  Lucky for some! What the tenants of 17/19 wouldn’t give!

The Blencowes: The Barons of Brighton

So who is the Director of The Baron Homes Corporation Ltd and who is the Director of Baron Estates?  Well, our investigation has discovered that Mrs Nazila Blencowe is Director of The Baron Homes Corporation Ltd.  Michael Blencowe, is Director of Baron Estates and Michael is the son of Nazila Blencowe.  Now there is a co-incidence!  Could it be that the public money flowing into the account of The Baron Homes Corporation Ltd is assisting, in some way, the acquisition of new property for the Baron Estates portfolio as well?  Surely not!  It couldn’t be!

And it appears that Mrs Nazila Blencowe, at least, is one very wealthy lady, indeed.  According to property website Blockshopper, Mrs Blencowe’s Beverley Hills property at 1121 Marylin Drive was bought on 31 March 2009 by her and her now deceased husband, Richard Blencowe, for $6,685,000.  By 2nd April 2009, ownership had changed hands to Baron Holdings International Llc.  Now, it is being marketed for sale by ‘owner’ Mr Curt D Cassingham and is being offered for $7,995,000.  Mr Blencowe may have gone to his Maker, but Nazila still appears to be cashing in on her ‘investments’.

Mrs Nazila Blencowe, as the Director of The Baron Homes Corporation Ltd., I would say you owe the poor of Brighton and Hove, living in the disgusting excuses for “emergency temporary accommodation” an explanation. You and your son clearly manage a considerable array of Brighton’s property, both residential and commercial. Your firm are clearly very, very wealthy and so are you. You have profitted, at least in part, from your ownership of Brighton’s most appalling ‘emergency temporary accommodation’.  This accommodation is by no means adequate for Brighton’s most poor and defenseless and you quite blatantly charge the Council at least double what it would cost for them to place Brighton’s most vulnerable in more adequate property with different landlords.

Perhaps, in the light of this investigation, you could put some new locks on the doors of the tenants at 17-19 Grand Parade so they’ve got some security.  Perhaps you could show a little more generosity to the people who have to endure harsh poverty and the unsupervised mayhem of the premises who contribute to your company’s great wealth.

Perhaps you could live there for a week and see what it is like. Within those walls are housed people with addictions, people with mental health problems, people who have suffered greatly and still suffer.  Their sufferings are compounded by the poor quality of your accommodation.

Your money and your vast property empire may make you happy, but ultimately, the rich who spit upon the poor in this life will have some serious explaining to do at their tribunal before Almighty God and all your money that you stole from Brighton’s poor will never buy back your immortal soul.  Your company must literally be swimming in public money.  For the love of God and the sake of your soul, give something back to those in your care.

What is ‘Baron International, Inc’?

The vast wealth of the operation and Mrs Blencowe’s status as  an agent of ‘Baron Holdings International LLC’ and President of ‘Baron International, Inc’, means that this company, presumably encompassing Baron Estates, is highly interested in investors, stocks and shares.  Even with the revenue of housing benefits, no company can emerge out of the blue in 1994 and acquire so much, so quickly and our investigation has uncovered that ownership of ‘Baron International, Inc’ is shared between different parties.

The Veromi Business Search website informs us that ownership is shared between at least five people.  These parties include Nazila Blencowe, Maria S Freebairn, Robert Freebairn, Arthur Hernandez and Mark R Jones.  Mark R Jones just so happens to link Baron International with Best Beverage of America Inc.  It just so happens that the corporation of Baron International, Inc is a name associated with beverage equipment distribution.

'Baron International, Inc., a multi-million dollar a year revenue operation,was founded in 1982 by Mr. Robert Ingala and Mr. Norman Kushner. Since its inception, the company built many restaurants and has sold several beer systems and equipment. The company serves major companies such as Applebee's, Pepsi and National Amusement (Mr. Summer Redstone, Viacom), among many other major corporations.'

Well, well, well. Who would have thought it, eh? 17/19 Grand Parade, the most filthy dive of “emergency temporary accommodation” in Brighton, is, in fact, run by a multi-million dollar company in West Orange, New Jersey, USA. Now, we don’t know about you, but that is what we call a story!

How can it be, that a small cabal of wealthy Americans can chunks of Brighton?  Wouldn’t you say that Brightonians have a right to know about it? The poor of Brighton sure deserve to know it, because with a wealthy empire like that, “emergency accommodation” in Brighton could become rather more pleasant in a matter of a year or two. Perhaps, with that vast wealth, 17-19 Grand Parade could be transformed into a decent, staffed, safe, secure, caring home for Brighton’s most vulnerable. You may not think they are worth it, but they are and they deserve the truth and more than that, they deserve justice!

Brighton and Hove City Council’s neglect of their duty of care to the homeless

As for Brighton and Hove City Council,  well, we think you may be hearing from some of the residents of 17/19 Grand Parade quite soon. You have been well and truly exposed. You thought that the people of Brighton would never hear of your disgraceful and perhaps dangerously close friendship with the Baron empire. You were wrong.  You had thought that The Argus could be relied upon not to investigate 17/19 Grand Parade and sorrowfully you were right.  But now, at long last, a new publication tells the truth, the truth is out and the people of Brighton will know of Baron Homes and their exploitation for profit of Brighton’s most poor and defencesless!  We condemn your indifference and your exploitation of their sufferings and the Council that neglected to bring you to book and this, we assure you, is just the start.