WAKE UP!! It's yer sort-of-weekly...
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Let's all sit back and relax as Brighton and Hove Council give themselves a well earned pat on the back for significantly reducing the numbers of homeless people on the streets over the last ten years. According to the Homeless Strategy 2008-2013, the number of people sleeping rough in Brighton fell by 82% between 2001 and 2007, i.e. from 66 to 12 people. Maybe that's why they think it's safe to close the only overnight sleeper shelter in the whole city - St Patrick's.
Of course this is actually statistical manipulation of the North Korean variety. The reason the figure is low is that you need to be 'verified' by the Rough Sleepers Street Services team (RSSST) who alone have the power to turn a homeless person into an actual rough sleeper. In order to be eligible for help from the council, you have to be told that you actually exist by this team. So if you are vulnerably housed, sofa surfing etc. and there is a real danger of you ending up without roof over your head, you approach this lot and your fears will become a reality straight away. They will ask you to sleep out at a specific location, where they can then come and check you. Then and only then are you eligible for their particular brand of support.
Ironically enough as well as creating rough sleepers, this “assertive outreach team” has a part to play in the council sponsored disappearing act. As part of the CRI (Crime Reduction Initiative) Charity the team encourages rough sleepers to take advantage of the generous relocation policy, which pushes the poor back where they came from. Lucky them getting to reconnect with their roots. It's likely that they may have had good reasons for leaving in the first place, but as the disappeared, barely clinging on to their right to be alive and be seen, they don't get the luxury of choice. All this in the City which proudly proclaims itself 'The Place to Be'.
The RSSST are also commissioned by our local authority to carry out street counts of people sleeping out. These figures are routinely so low that you mighty be forgiven for thinking that in a triumph for equal opportunities they'd been carried out by the visually impaired. In fact they are carried out in in accordance with official guidelines, using criteria so rigid that the vast majority of those simply bedding out for the night are excluded from the official numbers or as has happened in the past conveniently granted emergency accommodation on the night of the count.
These dubious methods don't really square with the council's stated intent to reduce and prevent homelessness. Those with a boredom threshold high enough to handle their various publications on homelessness, find themselves puzzling over such pearls of gnomic wisdom as “with this strategy we would like to provide clear and transparent pathways to independent living” and similar equivocations about psychological interventions to prevent repeat homelessness (Homeless Strategy Executive Summary pg 15, for those who want some light reading).
It doesn't seem to occur to anybody that perhaps the psychological interventions are slightly misplaced and may be better aimed at the policy makers, whose heads are so far up the social stratum that they fail to see that all the psychological, inspirational and motivational support and other such deceptive jargon cannot do the impossible and magic up the four walls and roof that make a house.
Evidently it is a lot easier to send someone on a metaphorical pathway than actually try and fill some of the thousands of empty properties in the area. Trudging through these articles one is left wondering whether any of the people devising such useful policies have ever themselves tried to tread a “transparent path to independence”.
Slightly misleading also is the much lauded aspiration of “independent living”, which actually means “sustaining a tenancy in the Private Rented Sector”. Surely those who have managed to survive life on our streets, or seek out alternative ways of living are far more self reliant than people paying astronomical rents off the back of coming from privileged financial backgrounds?
Of course it's not only in Brighton and Hove that this statistical and physical disappearing act is happening. Council websites nationwide are urging people to “report” rough sleepers on specially provided phone-lines while service providers such as the London charity Broadway are singing off the same sheet as the state and justifying relocation polices “as for the good of the community”. As we speak authorities in the London boroughs are falling over themselves in a bid to “cleanse” the areas of the most entrenched and visible rough sleeping community in their drive to showcase their idea of London in time for the Olympic Games. This means that in the coming months, Brighton is likely to have more rough sleepers than ever, a fact that has been noted by people in the know, such as the CEO of Brighton Housing Trust.
To help cope with this influx and with impeccable timing as ever, in one last surge to finalise the disappearing act, Brighton and Hove Council has sat back and allowed the closure of St. Patrick's night shelter, the only remaining walk-in night shelter in not only Brighton, but all of East Sussex. Since being taken over by Riverside ECHG in 2010, the fate of this formerly charity-run facility - which has saved countless lives over the years - lays in the hands of England's fourth largest Housing Association and our local authority. The joint decision to close the night-shelter was undoubtedly a political one as St. Patrick's had always operated outside of local authority official policy and helped those who according to our council don't actually exist.
As of the 31st of January there will not be the option of arriving at St. Patrick’s' and getting support and advice there and then. If you're down on your luck in Brighton now, it seems you have to allow yourself into the grasp of the council, get chewed up for a bit, volunteer all your information for their records and then be told that they have no statutory obligation to house you. This is part of a nationwide trend, as housing associations vie for tenders and try and streamline their services and increase organisational growth and in doing so deprive those without homes of their rights to make any choices about their fate. Welcome to the Big Society!
Squatted community social centre and veg shop opens in Lewes.
UPDATE: They finally coughed up. After two days of consistent hassling by activists at the Department for Transport earlier last month, during which one person got nicked, the DfT sheepishly released the previously top secret (read: problematic and embarrassing) documents about the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road.
New Squat Law Fails In Court
Anti-cull travellers and squatters plot land seizures.
New squatting law forces homeless to sleep in the cold with lethal consequences.
Since October, Europe's longest, largest 'Postcapitalist land occupation', la ZAD (Zone A Defendre) has been under attack from French authorities who want to clear it and build an airport. Here's another update from 'le frontline'...
German anti-fascists take Berlin on 20th anniversary of comrade Silvio Meier's murder.
UPDATE: The sh*t's well and truly hit the fan since we published this interview last week... Stay tuned for more SchNEWS from the front...