Real Life Stories: How First Base Day Centre helped Joe off the streets

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.  

Launch of BHT’s Christmas Appeal

This Christmas we ask that you remember the men and women who are sleeping rough on the streets of Brighton.

For most of us, Christmas is a fun time of year involving family get togethers,  presents, too much to eat and drink, awful jumpers and cheesy films.

If you are sleeping rough or are homeless,  it can be the most miserable and lonely time of the year. A bitter reminder of what you haven’t got, what you’ve lost or what you’ve never had…

christmas-appealThroughout this festive period BHT’s First Base Day Centre offers comfort to local homeless men and women with a month of Christmas events, food
and activities.

First Base is the only project for homeless men and women in the City to remain open over the Christmas and New Year period.

In the weeks before Christmas service users decorate the Centre and help with cooking mince pies and sorting through donations of scarves, gloves, hats, socks ready to give to those who need them.

A couple of days before Christmas we serve a traditional Christmas dinner to people who are sleeping rough in the city,  along with entertainment and games. We also provide a cooked breakfast and a warm welcome on Christmas morning, for people who have literally nowhere to go and no one to spend Christmas with.

The work of BHT, and specifically First Base Day Centre, relies on the goodwill of people from the local community.

The money raised will go towards the much needed services at First Base which literally change lives and move people away from the streets. Please give generously this Christmas to ensure we can reach everyone who needs us.

You can donate through our JustGiving page or you can send me a cheque made payable to ‘Brighton Housing Trust’ c/o BHT, 144 London Road, Brighton, BN1 4PH.  Thank you for your support.

First Base Day Centre is celebrating its 250th anniversary. Actually it is the building’s, not First Base’s, 250th!

Today (Wednesday 7th September) eighty friends of Brighton Housing Trust will gather at St Stephen’s Hall, home to First Base Day Centre, to celebrate the building’s rich 250-year heritage.

ballroom_W300Originally built as an Assembly Room in the Old Steine, the building attracted many visitors and became the focal point of the town’s entertainment during the late 1700’s. In 1822 it was connected to The Royal Pavilion via a covered passageway and converted into a private chapel, used by King George IV, William IV and Queen Victoria.


The Pavilion estate was sold in 1850; in order to save the chapel from demolition it was moved brick-by-brick to Montpelier Place where it opened as a church and later became a centre for deaf people. In 1984 BHT launched First Base Day Centre for men and women experiencing street homelessness in the town.

We’re delighted to mark this fantastic occasion with so many people and organisations that have supported the work of First Base Day Centre. The building is now a place of change, where men and women with a history of sleeping rough are supported to make the changes needed to move away from rough sleeping, into education, training, work and, ultimately, secure accommodation.

Guests will hear from the Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Cllr. Pete West, who volunteered at First Base in the 1980’s, Operational Manager, Simon Hughes, and Sara Peskett who has run a client-focused Heritage Project for the last three years at First Base.

fbgalleryrenpost_W600hlf_logo_W220BHT received funding from the Homes & Communities Agency in 2008, in partnership with Brighton & Hove City Council, & the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2010 to extensively and sympathetically restore St Stephen’s Hall for future use. Conservation of original architectural features and installation of contemporary facilities has created a welcoming, empowering and aspirational environment for clients of the service.

My colleague, Simon Hughes, got it absolutely right when he recently said: “We hope that St Stephen’s Hall continues to evolve. It is our belief that nobody should be rough sleeping, and by working together with other agencies in the city we hope that in the future day centres for people who are street homeless will no longer be needed.”

First Base Day Centre relies on donations to provide vital services for people who are rough sleeping, and every contribution makes a difference. To support the work of First Base Day Centre please visit our website.

Making specialist supported housing unviable, including the new homelessness scheme in Brighton

One of the biggest issues facing BHT and all providers of social housing, including Brighton and Hove City Council, is the Treasury’s decision to cap from April 2018 Housing Benefit for all accommodation provided by social landlords at the level available for private rents. This measure will make unviable many specialist schemes for people who are homeless, have mental health problems, or addressing issues of addiction.  The additional rent is to provide the additional housing management that these projects require.

For example, the City Council has a plan to develop a new accommodation scheme for eight homeless men and women with multiple and complex needs. The scheme is dependent on rental income of £230,000 that the project could generate under current arrangements.

However, following these changes, and assuming the accommodation will be self-contained, the most that of the City Council will be able to generate will be £63,000. (If it is shared accommodation, this reduces further to just £34,000). The difference will have to be made up by additional charges to residence (impossible for them to meet) or from council tax (highly unlikely in the current period of austerity).

There are other proposals, which I can’t presently talk about, which are being pursued without reference to this change. It is really important that local authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups factor in this fundamental change in how supported housing schemes are funded and to make appropriate alternative provision. It is potentially the biggest change in funding in my 30 years at BHT.

The consequences, should they ignored this change and should the government proceed with it, will be to see the specialist projects closing and the number of rough sleepers increasing.

Charity Fundraising Epic Cycle Challenge is Delayed

We are sad to say that our two charity fundraisers, Paul Bonnet and Jim Stevenson, have been forced to delay the last two weeks of their 1,000 mile cycling challenge, due to a family member of Paul’s being taken ill. Both cyclists are back in Brighton to be with their families at this difficult time.

Paul and Jim were set to cycle from the Orkney Islands to Paris this June, with the extra challenge of playing seven rounds of charity golf and teaching Aikido classes along the way. The pair have already raised over £2,100 for First Base Day Centre, which supports people who are homeless and rough sleeping in Brighton and Hove.

We would like to thank them for their fantastic fundraising efforts so far, and our thoughts are with Paul and his family.

We’d also like to thank everyone who has supported them already, your support has been the motivation and purpose of Paul and Jim’s challenge, and will make a great difference to the lives of very vulnerable people.

The pair hope to resume their challenge when circumstances permit.

To find out more about their challenge please visit Paul’s blog:

Once a ballroom for the future King of England, now a day centre for homeless people

BHT has a habit of taking on interesting buildings. Our head office was once a bank (we still have the vault, a great place to let off steam because nobody can hear you). Our main office in Hastings was once a school, and we have 36 studio flats constructed of converted shipping containers. One of the houses in our Addiction Services used to be three fishermen’s cottages.

But our day centre for homeless men and women must take the prize, anywhere in the UK, for its origins. It was once the ballroom of the Prince Regent where he and Mrs Fitzherbert indulged in sex, drugs and rock and rock and roll, or whatever it was called in those days.  Iin 1822 it was connected to the Royal Pavilion and became a private chapel for George IV, and subsequently William IV and Queen Victoria (who isn’t particularly known for her interest in rock and roll). aparently, Victoria hated the Royal Pavilion and was only to please to offload it to the Brighton Commissioners.

In 1850, the Castle Ballroom (the chapel) was moved, brick by brick, a mile up the road to its current location in Montpelier Place. After the 1939-45 war, St Stephen’s  also served as a centre for deaf people until BHT acquired the building in 1984.

Last weekend, the Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Cllr Brian Fitch, accompanied by the Mayoress, Mrs Norah Fitch, attended a charity fundraising evening at St Stephen’s Hall in Montpelier Place, to celebrate the building’s history and heritage.

The evening, which included a three course meal prepared by BHT’s social enterprise and training project, Dine!, was attended by thirty five guests, including Baroness Gould of Potternewton, former Member of Parliament, David Lepper, and councillors.

The evening, which included a silent auction, raised over £750 for the Mayor’s Charities which this year are the Martlets, the Argus Appeal, and BHT itself.

The guests heard talks on the history of the building by heritage experts Nick Tyson, Curator at The Regency Town House, Dr Tracy Anderson, Post-doctoral Researcher at The Royal Pavilion and Sara Peskett, BHT’s Heritage Officer, a post funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Sara said that the evening highlighted the fascinating history of St Stephens Hall, how it has evolved from being a ballroom used by a future King of England, a chapel for Queen Victoria, and now a centre for homeless men and women.

She sid: “The building has seen much change over the last two hundred years. It now is, itself, a place of change, where men and women with a history of sleeping rough are supported to make the changes needed to move away from rough sleeping, into education, training and, ultimately, work and secure accommodation.”