(This article first appeared in the Brighton and Hove Independent on 6th December 2013)
The result of the latest annual count of people sleeping on the streets of Brighton and Hove was announced on Monday – fifty men and women were counted, an increase from 39 in 2011 and 43 in 2012.
Of course this is just a snapshot of the situation. Most organisations working with homeless people in the city agree the actual number is between 70 and 100.
As winter sets in, and as we approach Christmas, many people ask what they can do to help organisations like Brighton Housing Trust. It is understandable and right that at this time of year people do want to help. It is no coincidence that our main annual fundraising appeal happens in December. It is when supporters are at their most generous.
You may have seen a film about Pearl shown on Meridian TV on Monday night. She described the horror of living day in, day out, on the streets, not knowing where her next meal would come from or where she would sleep that night.
Pearl had the courage and determination to address the cause of her homelessness. With support from BHT, she has turned her life around, is housed, and is now doing voluntary work with BHT.
The film also showed the work of a soup run on the seafront. Every time I see soup runs I feel that, as a society, we are stuck in a time gone by. How can it be, in this day and age, that it is still acceptable to be handing out soup on a wet, windy and cold seafront at night? It is wrong on all levels, from people being dependent on soup runs, to such soup runs being regarded as an acceptable way of doing ‘charity’.
The challenge for charities and churches working with homeless people is to ensure that they are always helping them to move off the street. Merely providing soup and bread is not enough.
But at Christmas such sentiments may be seen as uncharitable. You can help charities help homeless people this Christmas? I would suggest you support the appeal for donations from BHT or one of the other 32 charities working with homeless people in the city. You can donate to BHT online or sending your donations to BHT, 144 London Road, Brighton, BN1 4PH.