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Hangleton & Knoll: November Update

November 29, 2023

On Thursday I was already rather tired after a very busy day but knew that I had to leave home that evening at 11pm to go and pick up me fellow Cllr Paul Nann. It was the evening of the annual homeless street count. I have done it before so thought I knew what to expect. We went to First Base HQ where we were greeted by the organiser and Sarah from Change Grow Live.

There was a group of people including outreach professional and BHCC staff and Greg who had travelled down from Newcastle in his official capacity to verify the count. All volunteering their free time. Some had worked all day and had not been home.

Cllr Nann and I were there representing the Labour group, but sadly no other political party was present.

We were given lots of information relating to personal safety and how to identify persons to be counted. I learnt about the term “bed down”.

To identify a person who could be included in the count they had to be either bedded down or in the process of bedding down this meant that if a person was seen out on the street but actively awake and not bedding down, they couldn’t be counted. 

I assumed that even though the count was happening late at night this meant that if not bedded down they could eventually move to another part of the city and bed down at that location and be counted twice.

Having done this once before I had assumed that I would be out in central Brighton but found that Cllr Nann and I had been assigned our own wards as there had been reports of homeless people sleeping out in our wards.

It was very strange to then find myself back in Hangleton. On the way though we had to stop at a local cemetery in Hove where there had been reports of an encampment. This is where the benefit of doing the count in my own ward really made sense. In the preceding weeks I had met 2 elderly female residents at the cemetery where an elderly resident had reported to me that she was too scared to attend the cemetery on her own as on her last visit she had seen a man in an isolated secluded part of the cemetery hiding in the long grass, this had frightened her. 

I don’t know if this was a coincidence, but the reported encampment was in the same area. In the dark of night, we parked the car and shone the car headlights towards the area where the encampment was. It was cold and eerie, and I felt very sad that a person had chosen to make their home in the cemetery, it was bleak secluded and frightening. 

Could it be that the very seclusion and isolation made them feel safe knowing they were very likely to be undisturbed whilst they slept? 

There was no one at the encampment and I felt very relieved and hoped they had found a permanent home and better living conditions. We then drove to a location very near my own home address. 

This report of a homeless female sleeping in one of the flats housing blocks was also not new to me as I had recently received complaints from residents which when followed up had not located the women.

This is when it dawned on me that I had received this complaint as someone was reporting to me as their Cllr the anti-social aspect of a person sleeping in the communal hallway but here I was now at 1am in the morning looking to find and offer help and support to that person,  sadly we did not find them so was unable to offer help. It did occur to me after looking in all the blocks, creeping around in the dark trying to search and not disturb residents must have looked very strange.

I got back to first base around 1-30pm and was home back in Hangleton and in my own warm bed by 2pm. Whilst the experience was tiring, I felt very privileged to have spent the evening with such a dedicated committed team who do this day in day out for their professional lives. They were courageous dedicated professional and kind and filled with humanity and a zeal to help those less fortunate.

I highly recommend that as many Cllrs as possible attend the next one. It’s an eye opener to the horror of street living and survival in the elements.

I also visited 2 other sites which opened my eyes to the toil it must take to be street homeless.

Related councillors

Cllr Amanda Grimshaw BEM

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