Tuesday, 26 October 2010

"You're Barred!"

One essential item for the rough sleeper...
Yesterday was a breath of fresh air for me on a personal basis.  I taught at the Brighton Unemployed Centre Families Project (BUCFP), Adobe InDesign, a desk top publishing software to a class of six.  So much more rewarding and so much less exasperating than teaching a class of 33 six year old children! Also, it feels good to be able to use a talent God has given me in a positive way, rather than just arseing about like I normally do.

One lady has been asked by the BUCFP to design a 'Rough Sleepers Guide to Brighton', the contents of which have been drawn up with the help of Paul and Neil, regular users of the Soup Run.

There is a life-affirming atmosphere at the BUCFP.  At lunchtime, the children come out of the creche and it feels like a proper family centre with people chatting and eating a cheap meal.  Over the next few years it is likely that due to cuts and the resulting public sector unemploymed, this place will get even busier.  Brighton has always been a bit of a graveyard for jobs, reliant on tourism and a great deal of seasonal work. The Council, Amex and Lloyds TSB have, in recent history, been the largest employers and all will surely be shedding staff in the near future, though the Spending Review did seem to let banks off rather.

A rough sleepers guide to Brighton is a good idea.  It aims to set out the homeless services in Brighton from the perspective of someone arriving on the train.  People without a 'local connection' usually get shafted. "Brighton's full," the Council will say, while leaving hundreds of properties boarded up and empty. St Peter's Church, the Soup Runs in Hove and Brighton, the First Base Day Centre and others will be featured, providing the homeless with a detailed booklet of all available services.

The level of social exclusion in Brighton is appalling. Jason related to me a couple of stories that I think are worth sharing. His rough sleepers worker, Harvey, accompanied him to a homeless hostel in Brunswick Square, Hove. He walked a particularly long route to get there with his worker. He was still wearing his heavy winter clothes and so was sweating profusely.  When he finally arrived at the door of the hostel the proprietor opened the door, took one look at him and said he recognised him from other hostels and told him that he was "barred", summararily closing the door in his face.  Either the hostels talk to each other or the proprietor judged Jason there and then because he looked unwashed and was sweating profusely so suspected he was on drugs. I don't know the owner's real motivations but Jason felt rather let down, as you can imagine. I can't help feeling that if St Francis was accompanying Jason he'd have gone mental and kicked the door in, only to quote the Gospel to the proprietor.

Another bad experience followed at an evangelical church in London Road when he walked into the room early while some of the volunteers were saying a prayer. He interrupted and asked them a question, which was answered by the "vicar", in Jason's words, coming over to him and grabbing him by the neck, pushing him up against a wall, chucking him outside and barring him from the Church meal, apparently permanently! I'll bet that vicar didn't expect news of his reaction to Jason getting online but, hey ho, there we go. Jason is also barred from the evangelical Christians '[MFI warehouse', Church of Christ the King, near where I live. They'll give him a meal but he is not allowed inside to be preached at and encouraged to say a 'Jesus prayer' to make his and all the homelesses' sins and misfortunes magically disappear, as so often these evangelical Protestants believe that it will.  You could argue it is a Godsend to be excluded. It only sends him back to the One True Church more aware of the evils of Protestantism. I know Jason can be 'hard work' at times, but I really do think there is something diabolical in the way in which he is treated as 'sub-human' by so many. Landlords, hostels, probation, the Council, even 'vicars' don't know how to handle him and believe me, I've lost my rag with him on more than one occasion, thoughby the Grace of God I've never laid a finger on him.

Ideally, I'd like to start a magazine here at the BUCFP in which contributers can learn the design skills, write for the magazine or simply tell their stories and dispense some good old fashioned written justice to those in positions of power and responsibility who have crapped on them from a great height. The next post will also be a post along these lines! Bloody Swedes!


gurnygob said...

Just wanted you to know there is a new post up at

Left-footer said...

Great work you're doing, and really enjoyable. I worked for Nacro in London, and the service-users, as we had to call them, educated me no end.

The Thirsty Gargoyle said...

I'd be careful with this one, Laurence. Even if your stories are true, they don't look like the sort of things you could easily prove, and could well invite libel charges, of a sort that's far more credible that Monsignor Loftus's warblings. It wouldn't take much to remove the names of the institutions of which you speak, and just to blur their identity a bit.

Also, I hope that isn't true about St Peter's. I have several friends in Brighton who worship there, and I'm sure they'd be deeply unsettled - and probably rather incredulous - to see what you've written.

Charles said...

There aren't any homeless hostels in Brunswick Square, Hove

The Bones said...

Think it might have been B & B.

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