Tomorrow morning (Saturday 6th June) we will be launching a report on our work in combating street homelessness in Brighton and Hove.
The Impact Report 2015: How BHT combats rough sleeping in Brighton and Hove sets out of the scale of the problem locally and nationally, and looks at what the BHT is doing through its various services to reduce rough sleeping in the City.
The report sets out our ambition that by 2020 the City should have reached the point where nobody has to be street homeless in Brighton and Hove.
My colleague, Nikki Homewood, who is director of services at BHT, told the press: “BHT aims to combat the worst immediate aspects of homelessness by the provision of basic, life-sustaining services at First Base Day Centre. We provide the basic amenities that most of us take for granted: food, company, washing facilities, clean and dry clothes.”
She said that those living on the street have a high mortality rate and a shorter life expectancy than the general population: “National statistics evidence that women who are homeless have an average life expectancy of 43 and men 47; that long term rough sleepers are 35 times more likely to kill themselves than the general population and are four times more likely to die from unnatural causes, such as accidents, assaults, murder, and drug or alcohol poisoning.
“In partnership with the NHS and others, First Base ensures that men and women sleeping on the streets of Brighton and Hove can access basic health care.
“The most important thing is to get each person who has to sleep rough, off the street as quickly as possible. BHT provides a range of services that seek to help people move off the street into stable accommodation, start to overcome the real problems that resulted in their homelessness, and help them move forward into education, training and employment.
“Without the work of BHT and our partners, including Brighton and Hove City Council, Sussex Police, CRI, the YMCA and others, there would be many more people sleeping on the streets of the city.”
By combating the homelessness of individual men and women, not only do we help them, there are savings for the wider public purse. For example, homeless people are more likely to require ambulance callouts and attendances at accident and emergency units. By getting people off the streets, their health improves and there is less demand on public services.
Looking to the future, nobody should be sleeping rough on the streets of Brighton and Hove, one of the wealthiest cities in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
It is to our collective shame that in recent years the number of men and women who are street homeless in the city has increased. Sleeping rough is a dangerous and traumatising experience. Many people who sleep rough suffer from multiple health conditions, such as mental health problems and physical illnesses.
Therefore, it is our ambition that by 2020, we will have reached the point where nobody has to be street homeless in Brighton and Hove.
Will this be easy? Absolutely not. Is that possible? We believe so. It will take massive collective ambition and effort, political leadership, determination, and a realignment and focus of many services, all working together with the objective of ending rough sleeping in Brighton and Hove by 2020.
A client from First Base Day Centre summed up the importance of the work of First Base: “First Base is the backbone of Brighton – everything for rough sleepers evolves around it. Without First Base nothing would work”.