“27 surveys completed this morning and some amazing feedback from the volunteers about what it was like to sit down and speak to people about their live. We also had a great outreach session at the Library where we did four surveys. Some very moving stories and a whole list of jokes from one of the participants”
More than 200 volunteers took part in a mass survey that aimed to get to the bottom of the particular problems that Brighton’s homeless population face on a daily basis, and the best ways in which to help them out of their dire situation.
Activists and volunteers took to the streets of Brighton and Hove in the early hours last week, speaking to homeless people in the first part of a long-term project which ambitiously hopes to put an end to rough sleeping in the city by 2020.
The project was part of Galvanise Brighton and Hove Connections Week, a community-led campaign supported by homelessness charities and businesses.
The campaign aims to build an understanding of the everyday lives and aspirations of people living on the streets in search better solutions to the crisis that our society currently implements.
Tracey Wilkes, a volunteer on the campaign, said she had signed up after seeing a sharp increase in people living on the streets. Her decision to no longer be a passive onlooker at the problem led her to roll her sleeves up and decided to be part of the solution.
She said: “I originally signed up for two evening shifts but have just finished my third shift in a row. Getting up at 4am in the cold when tired is not an ideal start to my morning. Giving myself a talking to about how I am leaving a warm bed gave me the motivation to get up and feel a bit ashamed of moaning as I was about to engage with people who do not have this option. Over three mornings between 5am and 9am we interviewed a number of street homeless men. There was charismatic Ben, sleeping on the streets for 15 years. His partner had been killed by a drunk driver and he fell out with his landlady when he saw her driving over the limit. There was Mark, 32, and homeless through a relationship break up. And John a painter and decorator homeless through relationship breakdown and doesn’t see his four kids – everyone had a story.”
The survey data has now been collected, and the information collected is being poured over and analysed by some of Galvanise’s best. Findings will be presented at a briefing meeting at the i360 tomorrow evening (Tuesday 5th).
In the short term, the aim of Galvanise Brighton and Hove is to improve local support services for homeless people. The longer term aim is to ensure homeless people are housed in permanent, safe, appropriate and affordable housing with the right sort of support in order to sustain it.
Galvanise is part of the European Campaign to End Street Homelessness, a project in which 1,000 volunteers have surveyed rough sleepers in cities across Europe from Valencia to London.
The information collected by the volunteers will support the City’s Rough Sleepers Strategy. The city has £1.25 million in new funding to tackle its homelessness crisis. It is part of a Government “trailblazer” initiative to help councils prepare for their expanded responsibilities under the Homelessness Reduction Act which comes into effect next year.
The Building and Social Housing Foundation (BSHF) is an independent research organisation that promotes sustainable development and innovation in housing through collaborative research and knowledge transfer.
Established in 1976, BSHF works both in the UK and internationally to identify innovative housing solutions and to foster the exchange of information and good practice.
BSHF believes that everyone should have access to decent housing and is committed to promoting housing policy and practice that is people centred and environmentally responsible.
The foundation has recently extended their operations in the UK to Brighton where research will be taking place to asses the particular and specific issues that rough sleepers face in the city.
The aim of the overarching campaign is to create a perspectival change that both asks acts to stop ‘managing‘ the issue, and start working towards ending street homelessness.
“We want to change the focus from ‘a problem to be solved’, to ‘a phenomenon that has a solution’. We know that one of the keys to this is housing, and perceiving housing as a right, a human right”.
BSHF are clear in their vision to end street homelessness, and to ensure that criticisms of idealism are limited and concerns of costs are ameliorated, the foundation is deliberate in laying out their goals, guided by some key principles:
- Housing First: Ensuring homeless people are housed in permanent, safe, appropriate and affordable housing with the support necessary to sustain it.
- Knowing who’s out there: Getting to know every homeless person by name by going onto the streets to find them and understand their needs.
- Tracking progress: Regularly collecting and sharing person-specific data to accurately track progress toward ending homelessness.
- Involving the community in solutions: Many people are concerned about the individuals in their communities who have no roof to sleep under and they want to play a meaningful part in helping to find solutions.
- Improving local systems: Building coordinated housing and support systems that are simple to navigate, while targeting resources quickly and efficiently to the people who need it the most.
- Learning from and sharing with others: There must be a willingness to contribute to sharing knowledge with other cities whilst also learning from their campaign.
In Brighton, more than 1,000 people sleep on the streets every year. The local vision is to work together to make sure no-one experiences street homelessness in Brighton and Hove by 2020.
Brighton hopes to expand their Housing First provision through the campaign building on the city’s initial Housing First pilot which began in 2014.
The European End Street Homelessness Campaign developed following BSHF’s peer exchange to Los Angeles in August 2014. The exchange enabled homelessness practitioners from around the world to visit the 100,000 Homes Campaign, a 2013 World Habitat Awards winner.
Over four years that campaign mobilised 186 communities across the USA to house over 100,000 chronically homeless people. Following the peer exchange some participants were inspired to take action together in Europe with BSHF’s support.
Inspiration also came from the Y-Foundation, Finland, a 2014 World Habitat Awards winner. The organisation has been central to Finland’s efforts to eliminate long-term homelessness. As a provider of rental housing it has pioneered a Housing First approach, providing housing as a first step and then supporting people dealing with additional problems.
For more information on the vision posited by the BSHF and the principles which guide it’s action, take a look at this video, and if you like what they’re doing, do try to share it as much as possible. With a government in the UK whose austerity policies have seen not only the repeated underfunding of local council’s, communities, and services, but more widely a shift in the role and responsibility of the state in relation to the country’s population, it really is up to us to band together and solve the problems that we recognise from the bottom up.