Those who would instruct the rest of us on how to lead our lives are stubbornly blind to their own shortcomings.
Here in Brighton and Hove, the shameful conditions in which homeless people are housed make a mockery of the city council’s fine words about promoting equality through the provision of fair services.
Vulnerable people are dying in squalid conditions.
Figures obtained from the council reveal that in the last five years there have been six deaths in accommodation for homeless people in the city.
One death recorded was recorded in 17/19 Grand Parade on July 19 2011. Five deaths were recorded at the West Pier Project in Regency Square, on 14 November 2010, 28 November 2010, 7 October 2012, 12 September 2012 and 31 May 2013.
The causes of death were given as alcohol-respiratory arrest; ruptured oesophageal varices- blood loss; perforated ulcer; heart attack; and heroin, alcohol and benzodiazepine use.
It is not good enough to shrug one’s shoulders and ask, rhetorically, what else you can expect when you are dealing with people suffering from serious mental and physical health problems.
The council has outsourced the provision of temporary accommodation but it cannot abdicate responsibility. The budget for housing options/statutory homelessness and temporary accommodation including all staff costs last year was £3.4 million. Staff at the hostels must be better trained to deal with the complex issues faced by their residents.
When the so-called container town opened in Richardson’s Yard last year, I spent a night in one of the units and wrote about it for The Argus.
Chatting to a new-found neighbour, I learned about the scarifying experiences of people who live in the city’s hostels.
One housing professional told me he would rather take his chances on the street than in Grand Parade of the West Pier Project.
Extortion, bullying and theft are common.
My container-neighbour said: “At the West Pier Project, I saw a man I knew only as Nick, rolling around in agony clutching his stomach. The staff told me to leave him be. Two staff members picked him up and put him in a chair. They would not call an ambulance. They said he had malnutrition because he wouldn’t eat properly. I saw him taken out the next day in a body bag.”
How many deaths does it take, until the council decides the body-count is too high?
First published in The Argus: March 8, 2014