Correcting criticism of BHT in a poorly researched, inaccurate video about rough sleeping in Brighton and Hove

On Monday 28th December I received an email with a link to a film about rough sleeping in Brighton and Hove.  The film was critical of BHT but, as it happens, for things for which BHT is not responsible.  It said that we had not fulfilled commitments made in our Christmas Appeal video. The film also claims that BHT had declined to comment.  We had not been approached. I won’t promote the film on this blog given the number of inaccuracies and omissions, but in case you stumble across it, here is the response I sent to the film maker on 31st December:

“I was sorry that you have posted your film before seeking a comment, more so that you claim we hadn’t responded to your approach. I would respectfully suggest that the film be removed from public viewing and corrected.

“I was also sorry that you appeared not to have fully understood who provides services for rough sleepers in Brighton and Hove. You are correct that BHT operates the Phase One project.  It is not a direct access hostel and all nominations come from Brighton and Hove City Council (please note the correct spelling of ‘Council’).  We operate at near 100% occupancy at all times so merely presenting oneself at Phase One is unlikely to result in one being accommodated.  That is not, in my opinion, BHT “not fulfilling its promises”.

“It is a shame that you did not mention our advice centre and other services we provide that help people into accommodation. It is a shame that you did not identify First Base as a BHT project.  It does not pretend to offer accommodation, it is a day centre, but you implied it was, somehow, failing in its role.

“It is a shame that you did not acknowledge that BHT does not receive any funding to end rough sleeping, and it is a shame that you did not make any reference to the organisation that is contracted by the City Council to reduce rough sleeping by 20% year on year. The rough sleepers service that you did not reference is not based at First Base, although its workers spend a fair amount of their time there, for which we receive no funding!

“The Christmas Appeal video sought to raise awareness of other forms of homelessness, not just rough sleeping. People turn to various BHT services at times of crisis, and we are seeing more and more people approaching us who would never think that they would need the support of homelessness services. Hopefully the BHT video will raise both awareness and funds to help us to run First Base for another year.  You may wish to read a couple of recent examples of how BHT prevents homelessness, here and here.

“All funds raised through the appeal are used to keep First Base running, providing the services it does. I was grateful for the positive comments you made about the services it does provide.  First Base runs at a loss of between £70,000 and £100,000 per annum.  It is unthinkable what would happen to people sleeping on the streets of Brighton and Hove if First Base was to close.

“I think your film is well intentioned but suffers from a lack of basic research and awareness.  That is a shame because the issues you wish to highlight are very important and can easily be lost when raised in a film that could have been a lot better. I am, therefore, unconcerned about any reputational damage you feel your film might have on BHT.

“I don’t intend to engage further with you as it could end up with me spending a lot of time doing what an editor should be doing, questioning the accuracy and completeness of your reporting and product.

“Kind regards and best wishes for 2016”.

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