Thursday, 4 February 2010

Brighton and Poverty and Homeless Week 31 January-7 February

The arctic weather conditions in Brighton during December and January have highlighted the daily hardship faced by homeless people. While severe weather shelters were opened to provide emergency beds for those without accommodation, rough sleepers also needed the support of day centre facilities more than at any other time to avoid the very real risk of hypothermia during the day time.

So it’s fitting that Poverty and Homelessness Action Week 2010, which runs from 31 January to 7 February, is highlighting the needs of homeless and vulnerably housed people with the challenge for everyone to take action to bridge the growing gap between rich and poor.

Young people are especially vulnerable to homelessness, its impact and consequences. One of the main reasons young people leave home is because they have fallen out with their families but many have also recently left care. When this happens, only a few have the skills, knowledge or resources to find and secure safe accommodation. A large proportion end up seeking support from the Council and homeless agencies, sleeping rough, squatting or sofa surfing. The impact of losing your home at this age is huge: young people lose the emotional, financial and practical support they get from their families. This makes them vulnerable to exploitation by older, more street-wise homeless people, sexual predators, and more at risk of alcohol and substance misuse.

The Clock Tower Sanctuary (CTS) is one of the city’s three day centres and provides support exclusively to young people six days a week. It supports up to 200 young people each year providing short-term information, advice and support to the newly homeless and long-term support to those who are insecurely housed to help them move onto independent living.

When Ben, a young homeless man who ended up living in a squat came to CTS for help, he not only had the chance to cook himself a hot meal, but he was signposted to agencies who could offer help with housing, given a crisis payment to buy a new pair of shoes and has taken up training courses through the Centre. Ben said: “The Clock Tower Sanctuary has helped me when I’ve been at my lowest. I’d have been stuck in the rain, hungry many times without it.”

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