Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)
RIGHTS NOT GAMES 2016 – Solidarity Not Charity
**WEEK OF ACTION** 4th-10th September, 2016
Ann Narkeh Media is very proud of this flyer/poster, which was put together in collaboration with Love Activists Brighton for the Street Stories exhibition, which they are co-facilitating with Opsafe Brighton in Brighton Art Market, Saturdays in May.
“Exhibiting photographs of people’s experiences of different types of homelessness
Every Saturday in May, come along to share your own stories and to hear other peoples
Everybody is invited to write in the book of street stories, to share past and present experiences with our community
The exhibition will be facilitated by Love Activists Brighton and OpSafe Brighton, in solidarity with the homeless folk of Brighton & Hove”
To download, right-click >> “save image as…”
greyscaled for print:
and the front cover for the Street Stories book:
March with The Homeless is this Friday, 15th April, worldwide.
In Brighton, the Anonymous Opsafe crew have organised the march for this Saturday, 16th April, (meet 11am, Old Steine).
Love Activists Brighton asked me to put together some placards for the march:
The Met Office has issued a Severe Weather Warning across the Sussex coast for today, Saturday 26th March and this Bank Holiday Monday. Wind speeds today are 60mph.
It is expected to ease off a little on Sunday, though by Tuesday, they are expected to reach 70mph.
Love Activists Brighton contacted the relevant authorities to find out whether the emergency shelters would be opened up, to discover that apparently they are not.
Do whatever you can to let our elected representatives know that this is not OK. Take direct action.
#OpSafe – #SolidarityNotCharity – #NoMoreDeathsOnOurStreets
After livestreaming with Love Activists Brighton at the Housing and New Homes Committee meeting, I finally got around to filming a few of Brighton’s empty buildings, from halfway down North St to the top of St James St.
There were 16 visibly empty buildings in that short route – some long time derelict, some being refurbished.
I’ve been meaning to do this for ages, as it’s so blatant and deplorable a juxtaposition, when so many people are sleeping in the doorways of shops which have been covered in steel.
The people who are responsible for these spaces actually employ round the clock private security to protect their investments from people desperately in need of shelter.
This investment could be transferred to a homeless person as a 24-7 live-in property guardian, with a mutually vested interest in maintaining and improving the property, rather than protecting it while it rots and people die in their doorways.
Needless to say, there were also several people bedding down for a night sleeping rough in shop doorways and/or begging and/or in need of medical assistance from our massively overburdened, undervalued and underfunded NHS.
The commission also heard from the National Housing Association, the Community Land Trust, Our London (regarding self build), Royal Greenwich, (regarding Gold Standard in Housing Options), and from Brighton and Hove Energy Services Co-op, (BHESCO, regarding fuel poverty & community energy schemes).
There was an open session in the middle and at the end.
I crossed the streams with the council again, who were also broadcasting the meeting. You can watch their somewhat less shaky, higher definition footage, here.
There was a lovely spread of locally sourced food from ethical suppliers courtesy of The Big Fig.
The Fairness Commission want to hear from all residents of Brighton and Hove about how to make the City a fairer place to live.
Their call for evidence closes on Monday 29 February.
You can participate here, if you’re of a mind to.
GMP Wigan East incurred the wrath of hundreds of facebook users yesterday, when it posted an unbelievably cruel message, requesting that the public not give money to a man who was begging:
They even asked people to shop any beggars they see. Presumably to be processed, fined and slung back on the street. Because nothing discourages begging like the application of more debt does it…?
“It has been brought to our attention there is a male begging in a public place near to Tesco, Hindley. We request that members of the community do not encourage this behaviour by giving him money.
Sec 3 Vagrancy Act – Begging in A Public Place any person sighting persons committing this offence please contact the Police on 101“
Fedbook users responded with hundreds of comments condemning the inhumanity of treating desperate, vulnerable people with so little compassion.
At the time of writing, over 1000 people have basically told them to have a heart, or to go fk themselves, with varying shades of diplomacy, anger and humour.
Here are a few of the most popular replies;
It warms the heart to see fedbook being used to slap down the creeping tide of Orwellian police state fascism in the UK. I hope these people were able to share a banquet with this bloke. More street kitchens – break down the stigma – spread the love!
If GMP Wigan East haven’t had the good sense to take the post down yet, you can read the full thread here.
Love Activists Brighton recently delivered their petition in support of the Solution Based Proposals to End Homelessness to their local council. They were invited to speak at the full council meeting held in the chambers of Brighton Town Hall, Thursday 28th January, 2016.
The solution based proposals were developed in consultation with the local community, prioritising feedback from rough sleepers. You can read the proposals, the rationale for them and sign the petition here.
Over 800 people have signed the petition online, while over 1000 handwritten signatures were gathered by people living on the streets. The petition is still gathering signatures now.
For the purposes of this project, the Love Activists have suspended their righteous cynicism about the democratic deficit, in order to give the council the opportunity to prove them wrong.
Ree represented the group and in her allocated 3 minutes she addressed the council respectfully, but firmly. She gave voice to the grief and anger we are all feeling, without becoming upset or angry. The Love Activists are at pains to remain non-party political and non-combative. Their intention is to inspire the council to actually implement the proposals, not to play the blame game with them.
Personal Blog: 16-1-16
Late last night, I was walking along on the phone with a friend who was worried about a homeless comrade who’s been having suicidal thoughts. Talking and walking, I passed a bloke dead or dying on the pavement. A man and a woman had stopped to help him. She was calling an ambulance – he was down on the ground with this bloke. I waited around til an ambulance arrived.
The most horrific, surreal aspect of it all was how commonplace scenes like this have become and how numb to it we all seem.
I couldn’t sleep last night, it was fkn freezing, even though I was indoors.
This morning in my prolefeed, there is a story about a homeless man dying in a car park in Swindon; a homeless soldier dying in Salford after being evicted from a squat he was sharing with 12 other ex-servicemen; and the news that homeless people are being used for target practice by a gang with crossbows in Cambridge. Tonight I’m off to try to help yet another friend who is suffering depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
Horrible things happen on the streets. Homeless people are extremely vulnerable human beings. Homeless people are not the problem. The way we think about the problem is the problem. The narrow parameters of debate around the problem are the problem.
In slightly brighter news, there has been a terrific response to Love Activists Brighton’s petition mission on the streets over the last few days. Hundreds of people have signed the petition to persuade the council to support the SOLUTION BASED PROPOSALS TO END HOMELESSNESS.
I filmed this interview with them:
It would be too easy to just slag off Brighton & Hove City Council’s (BHCC) recent homeless summit and consultation, so I’m going to do my best to resist that natural impulse, but I’m not going to hold back my criticisms of it. The summit was hosted by BHCC last Friday 4th December, as part of their homelessness strategy consultation. The council’s stated ambition is “To make sure no-one has the need to sleep rough in Brighton & Hove by 2020”. All attendees we spoke to agreed that this seemed to be an arbitrary, unrealistic deadline, not based on any feasible strategy to accomplish the objective.
You can read the proposals and the rationale for them on the 38 Degrees petition, here.
According to the council’s own documentation, as of the 14th October 2015 the city has 272 hostel beds and 25 mental health hostel beds which are all full and a waiting list of 126 clients for these beds, 68 of which are considered a high priority (27 women and 41 men).
We heard from a number of speakers, including Andy Winter of Brighton Housing Trust, who was at pains to stress the severity of the unfolding crisis, particularly for young people. He said that without intervention, Central Government’s plans risked at least a further 300-400 under-35s becoming street homeless in Brighton by April 2016.
After hearing all the speakers, there was unfortunately scant opportunity for any meaningful discussion. The event was compartmentalised into 8 tables, each discussing one of the council’s seven different priorities with an eighth table for ‘anything else’.
You could choose 3 tables, with 20 minutes discussion at each. We chose ‘preventing homelessness’ – ‘working with the city’ and ‘managing the street community’, we missed ‘Street Triage’, ‘Improving Health’, ‘Pathways to Independence’, and ‘Safe Reconnection’. At the end of the summit, each facilitator had just a few minutes or so to feedback on one aspect of the discussions they had hosted.
Brighton has a reputation for providing excellent service and care for rough sleepers and the street community, however the scale of welfare cuts, evictions and repossessions have had a significant, detrimental impact on services in recent years. It’s already well beyond crisis point, but the projections for the coming weeks, months and years are catastrophic.
One of the Love Activists’ most interesting, simple and insightful proposals, is that no single local authority is capable of ‘ending homelessness’ unilaterally. If one authority were able to end homelessness, that local authority would risk being overwhelmed by demand from around the country, by what business people call ‘first mover loses’. To actually accomplish the ambition of ending homelessness, we need effective change nationally. This isn’t going to come from central Government so it’s necessary for all local authorities to work together, to agree on and implement practical solutions together.
Everybody we discussed this proposal with agreed that we were absolutely right. In fact, most of the Love Activists’ Solution Based Proposals were popular, but all the attendees deferred responsibility for doing anything about them to central Government. The only really proactive responses came from the ‘preventing homelessness’ table, where we heard how “Brighton & Hove has done some great work with Worthing”. They suggested that looking at regional networks might be the first step towards a national campaign.
In the council’s documentation, distributed prior to the summit, there is an acknowledgement that “Relationships with specialist private landlords need improving”…noting that “Private landlords also need help and support”…One of the Love Activists’ proposals is to impose social rents on private landlords and property developers. “Where are they?” One brave soul asked. Private landlords, evictions and repossessions are the lion’s share of the problem, so really, they would need to be involved in any solution for it to be effective.
Somebody mentioned how most of the homes recently built on Brighton Marina have already been sold to ‘foreign investors’. (This turn of phrase has been forced into the collective consciousness by the 1% media. Substituting the word ‘wealthy’ with the word ‘foreign’ is a snide way of tricking us into blaming foreigners rather than 1%ers).
In the absence of any focus on the poverty developers; central Government, austerity, welfare cuts, private landlords, the bankers, their housing crisis – the council’s strategy seems to focus on how to persuade homeless people to take ‘responsibility for their own lifestyle choices’. The homeless themselves being the problem, rather than their homelessness.
Such is the power of this propaganda, more than one person at the summit expressed a belief that people become homeless intentionally, or even because street life is ‘fun’. The council’s literature describes reports of ‘lucrative’ begging spots.
At the ‘working with the city’ table, there was excited talk about Homeless Link’s new ‘Street Link’ app. Homeless Link say Street Link is a way to ‘help’ rough sleepers, by reporting them.
David Steele, who was representing the faith community was interested in what happened once such a report was made. “It gets added to the database”. Is there any contact made with the individual, do they get any actual help? “they send someone out from St Mungo’s to ‘confirm’ the report and then we add them to the database”.
Ree had street tested the ‘service’ before the summit and found it to be distinctly lacklustre. The rough sleeper who she called the ‘service’ on behalf of was eventually contacted around 30 hours later. “You’ve got to understand, it’s not an emergency service”. Well, shouldn’t it be? Personally, I’d call having to sleep rough an emergency.
Matt Harrison, CEO of Homeless Link has said that once a report is made about a rough sleeper, Homeless Link’s Street Link app would “put them in touch with their local authority and see what can be done to help them”. Unfortunately, this means that street link is little more than a signpost pointing nowhere – to services which don’t exist, or possibly to an arrest, an ASBO, PSPO and/or a court date to be prosecuted and fined. Begging is not a prisonable offence, so beggars don’t get representation in court. Central Government have stumped up £250, 000 towards the street link app, which invites you to help ‘end homelessness’ by shopping every beggar you see to an Orwellian database for processing.
I asked whether homeless link, (being a national charity representing 500 other homeless charities) might be able to help with connecting local authorities up, or with lobbying Central Government for more meaningful action on the crisis. After a brief acknowledgement that they probably didn’t really want to ‘rock the boat’, and some uncomfortable silence, the conversation quickly returned to the virtues of the app. “We can get a bespoke ‘Brighton’ version” and “it’s got a donate button”.
Ree asked, “Where does that money go”? Silence, blank expressions followed by stuttering noises which meant; “We don’t know”. It bears noting that thirdsector.co.uk recently conducted research into escalating pay for the UK’s leading charities’ senior executives. The overall average pay across the top 100 charities was £208,000 to £217,000. The median pay level for all UK charities’ top brass was £165,000. http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/charity-pay-study-highest-earners/management/article/1335060
It quickly became clear that our proposals were going to be well received, but thwarted by what Adam Curtis has described as “oh dearism”. Curtis proposes that “oh dearism” is a socially transmitted disease. We wring our hands at injustice, but resign ourselves to it. Rather than take action, we describe our resignation as ‘being realistic, or practical’ and so fall into the trap of believing that the point is simply to agree or disagree with things. When we relate to the world in this state of resignation, we inevitably repeat the same patterns, excluding the possibility of creating new realities or changing our circumstances. We ‘like’ things on social media to agree with them and troll things we disagree with, precluding any action to meaningfully change anything.
The summit was mostly focused on discovering whether people agreed or disagreed with ‘the 2020 ambition’ and with the seven priorities that the council had put forward.
Oh dear. I feel at this point that I should reiterate, I am doing my level best not to slag anybody off. I honestly believe that the vast majority of people who were in that room are sincere, good people, with the very best of intentions. However, they also seemed to be suffering from a corporate state induced pandemic of ‘oh dearism’, combined with the effects of 21st Century McCarthyism. Despite this, most of these human beings do amazing work under impossible conditions and they all deserve our respect for their service thus far. The frontline staff in particular, receive a pittance or have volunteered for no remuneration, yet they are the ones who consistently innovate under the radar to stretch non-existent budgets and perform miracles.
The literature produced by Brighton & Hove City Council for the 2020 plan does not do these people or their work justice. It is neither innovative, nor ambitious. It retreads the same tracks that have been tread since before anybody reading this was born. Some of the euphemisms might have changed, but the core message remains the same. Blame, shame and vilify the victims, cosy up with their abusers. Get the tramps ‘moving on’ to somewhere else to ‘reconnect’. The rhetoric says ‘blue sky, out of the box thinking’, but when faced with genuine innovation, like all bureaucrats, they flinch.
Politicians and councillors flinch because they have a healthy fear of central Government and neighbouring local authorities. Public sector management flinch because they’re told that they are under the thumb of central Government. Corporate management flinch because they know that effective solutions might hit their balance sheets. Frontline public and corporate service workers flinch, simply because they don’t want to risk their salaries and careers by ‘rocking the boat’.
It’s a curious metaphor in this instance, because the homeless sector’s ‘boat’ has become a massive industry, providing employment and subsistence to so many people, wasting so much money, while the people it was originally built to help drown in a rising tide of corporate tenders and oh dearism.
From the boat, those captains of industry charged with rescuing them sympathise with the landlords who threw them overboard while worrying about damage to the boat’s reputation. Spinning the investment in a national database of homeless people under the auspices of empowering the community to ‘help’ rough sleepers. By shopping homeless people to an Orwellian database for processing.
One of the final comments at the summit came from a brave doctor who explained how he has treated at least 50 rough sleepers who have died in the last three years in Brighton. The situation is the same or worse all over the country. It should be a national scandal, but the national media are preoccupied with party political pantomime and xenophobic warmongering.
The scale of the crisis requires immediate action, but local authorities defer responsibility to Westmonster, who are too busy flogging off public services to fund mass slaughter in the middle east to worry about the 9,000 ex servicemen and the hundred thousand children and the hundreds of thousands of people with no permanent home, struggling and dying on the streets of the UK.
In the shadows of COP21 and the rise of ISIS/Daesh, what used to be our homes have become ‘investments’ for the 1% to gamble with on the world’s financial markets. These same markets enable industrial scale pollution, bombs and guns.
The bombs and guns kill people in faraway countries while the streets kill people in the UK.
The resulting pollution, both material, intellectual and spiritual is killing the whole planet.
The council’s strategy to end homelessness by 2020 thus far is led by seven ‘priorities’ which most people present at the summit agreed are not adequate for the scale of the crisis we face. Love Activists have seven solution based proposals which most people seem to agree would be quite a good start.
The council are consulting until the end of December. If you live in this city and care about the issue of homelessness, I urge you to participate in their consultation and share your thoughts and ideas with them: http://consult.brighton-hove.gov.uk/portal
Love Activists hope to gather 1250 signatures to force the council to debate their progressive proposals to end homelessness at a full council meeting.
The 38 Degrees petition to support the Solution Based Proposals is here.
You can find out more about the Love Activists’ Solution Based Proposals by visiting their fedbook page: facebook.com/loveactivistsbrighton
(This article was originally published as a note on Love Activists Brighton’s fedbook page on Thursday, December 10th, 2015)