Today I ran a workshop at BHT Sussex on effective use on Twitter. One of the exercises we did was to reflect on who the participants felt tweeted best. The first person mentioned was Emma Daniel of the Brighton and Hove Community and Voluntary Sector Forum, and there was a general consensus that Emma (@Huxley06 on Twitter) had interesting things to say, her tweets were lively, and she gets into some interesting conversations.
The others commended (in no particular order) were:
@Shelter: does what others try to do, but Shelter does it well. It gets a balance between being informative and offering practical help;
@SocietyGuardian: a reliable source of information, interesting conversations and comments;
@ThirdSector: stories, news and views relevant to our sector;
@RSPCA_official: provides a really good learning tool on how to use social media;
@WstonesOxfordSt: tweets that make up a story, very original (particularly how staff now have to spend an hour each day practicing penalties);
@big_ben_clock: predictable, repetitive, makes me laugh;
@campbellclaret: Alistair Campbell has an understanding of traditional and new media like few others, and is generous in his promotion of others;
@JeremySwain: the CEO of ThamesReach is one of the original thinkers in the homelessness sector, a true leader.
Local to Brighton & Hove and East Sussex
@brightonargus: comprehensive news from Brighton and Hove;
@BHcitynews: independent news and views for Brighton and Hove;
@BrightonHoveBus: useful real time information on road works, delays, etc.
@demsoc: the Democratic Society tweets on local, national and international politics in an interesting and sometimes quirky fashion;
@davemarthur: radical, makes me laugh out loud (also into cricket…!).
Tomorrow I will write about a 15th, how @SallyBercow made my day!
The prophets of the Old Testament were not the Russell Grant of their time, making predictions for the future of your love life, romance, body and soul. No, they told the truth, no matter how uncomfortable, and no matter whose wrath they might incur. In today’s media-frenzy world, we have many people willing to express their opinions on a whole range of subjects whether or not anyone ins interested! I include myself amongst their number. But those speaking with originality and in an unfearing manner are few and far between.
Every now and again I am lucky enough to come across someone who is truly prohetic, in the true sense of the word. Jeremy Swain, Chief Executive of the homelessness charity Thames Reach, is one. He has one of the most original minds of anyone I know. His views are rarely conventional, always challenging, sometimes shocking. But he retains a clear focus on what is right for clients.
His column in last week’s Inside Housing is a good example. He challenges the mantra that “anyone can become homeless” by pointing out that “a typical rough sleeper will often have experienced dysfunctional family relationships, experienced a disrupted education, had early experience of the criminal justice system, misused alcohol or drugs and suffer from low self-esteem and poor mental health”. He reflects that the businessman who earnestly states that “any of us could become homeless and that we are all just two pay cheques away from homelessness” may have admirable intentions but “let’s be honest, those cufflinks alone would have cost four weeks’ of jobseeker’s allowance”.
Jeremy is right. Someone from my class background, with my economic circumstances, with my support network, with the absence of alcohol and drug problems and of mental health problems, is unlikely in the extreme to find himself homeless. The bottom line is I do not experience poverty, financial, emotional or social.
Do read Jeremy’s column and his blog.
Congratulations to Jeremy Swain from London homelessness charity, Thames Link, for his successful campaign to increase the tax on super-strength beers. Jeremy has campaigned relentlessly over the past five years to raise awareness of the problems caused by super-strength lagers and ciders. The new government plans for super strength drinks will mean a four pack of Tennent’s Super lager will increase in price by £1.50.
He said: “It’s a progressive move to increase tax on super-strength beers above 7.5 per cent in strength which will help save the lives of homeless and marginalised people addicted to these cheap and dangerous drinks. Scientific studies consistently prove that people’s drinking behaviour is affected by price and our experience is that people with serious alcohol addictions move over to weaker, cheaper lagers and ciders when their access to super-strength drinks is curtailed. From there, it is much easier to help them take further steps towards abstinence and recovery”
Jeremy is now calling on the Government to increase taxes on these dangerous drinks which have become the biggest killer of homeless people in the UK, responsible for more deaths amongst the rough sleeping population than crack cocaine or heroin according to the latest figures.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has provoked a debate after he was photographed giving money to a beggar in Leicester Square. The chief executive of the London homelessness charity, Thames Reach, Jeremy Swain, someone who I admire greatly, commented: “I would advise Boris to give money straight to his local drug dealer and cut out the middle wo/man”. Jeremy also Tweeted: “People will never understand homelessness if every campaign is based on rough sleeping image. Please no more sponsored sleep outs”.
I agree with Jeremy on both counts. In the late 1990s I did research into drug-related deaths in Brighton and Hove and, all too often, the homeless people who had died (and they accounted for a disproportionate one third of all such deaths) had generated enough cash for their final and fatal fix through begging. Of course the causes of begging can be more complex, but as a rule I don’t give to those begging.
I also agree that homelessness is far more complex than rough sleeping. Some tremendous work has been carried out in Brighton and Hove by the City Council and by the third sector organisations such as CRI, Central Sussex YMCA and BHT. Sleep-outs tend to provide too narrow a focus. It is unfortunate when high profile people like Prince William do sleep-out’s as he did last December because the issue and solutions are not simple. We need to have proper discussions about them rather than see more sleep-outs which I regard as an outdated and inappropriate gesture.