Many of the people we are seeing are new to rough sleeping, like Joe who was helped by First Base Day Centre. This is his story:
“When Joe first came into our service, he had never before been in the position of rough sleeping. He was 45 years of age, had worked fairly consistently and always had friends or partners he could rely on if work dried up and he found himself in between jobs. The recession had meant that he had faced a longer period of not working, his relationship had succumbed to stress and he found himself sleeping on the beach.
“Joe had made a claim for Job Seekers Allowance, but had not received a payment after several weeks. He had eaten nothing for two days and was embarrassed, he said that he had not washed or changed his clothes for a week. We made sure that Joe had a hot meal, a change of clothes and was able to use the shower at First Base.
“Joe was assigned a caseworker who met with Joe every day for the following week and it became clear that he was feeling overwhelmed by his difficulties, ashamed and hopeless about his future. He said that he had visited a railway bridge on several nights in the previous month and had considered throwing himself under a passing train. Joe disclosed the difficulties that he experienced throughout his life and that these experiences were re-visiting him on a nightly basis and tormenting him.
“Joe’s caseworker referred him to the Mental Health Team, a multi-agency team providing mental healthservices for homeless people, contacted his GP and made Joe an emergency appointment. The Doctor was sympathetic and offered medication and follow-up visits.
“It was obvious that Joe was in no position to be actively seeking work and he needed a new claim for a sickness related benefit. Joe was very anxious and physically shaking while he spoke with the Department for Work and Pensions on the phone so his caseworker supported him with the call. It was a further two weeks and many phone calls later that Joe received any benefit payment.
“Joe met with the Mental Health Team at First Base and they agreed to offer some on-going support, seeing Joe fortnightly, alongside regular contact with his GP and daily support from his caseworker.
“With the support of his caseworker, Joe arranged an appointment with a BHT housing adviser who suggested that he make a homeless application. His application was rejected due to lack of medical information supporting his case. As Joe did not have a local connection to Brighton and Hove it was not possible for him to be referred into one of the City’s hostels, so we began to explore the possibility of privately rented housing with support from another BHT project, Firm Foundations.
“Throughout this time, Joe was continuing to sleep on the beach and his mental and emotional state would fluctuate greatly on a daily basis. Joe made very good use of services at First Base, including volunteering and on good days was able to plan the direction of casework himself.
“Over time, we collected letters from his GP and from mental health specialists involved in his care and re-submitted his homeless application. With the additional evidence gathered Brighton and Hove City Council accepted Joe’s application for housing.
“Joe is now living in BHT supported accommodation for people experiencing mental health difficulties. He has key work support from this project alongside specialist mental health support for Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He is engaging with alcohol support services and still calls in periodically to let us know how things are for him.”
First Base operates in the centre of Brighton and is the main centre for the provision of support to assist people who are homeless or vulnerably housed in Brighton and Hove to move on from the streets or insecure accommodation and realise their aspirations. First Base operates client-centred specialist services to support people who are sleeping rough in the city to get off the streets, start realising their aspirations through work, learning and leisure and find a place they can call home. Several services run from First Base including a Healthy Lifestyles Project (comprising the Catering Training Project and Fitness 4 All), PASH (Promotional and Awareness of Sexual Health), First Impressions (CV and Employment Service), Culture (Heritage and Cultural Activities), and Dine, our catering Social Enterprise company.