George and Diane Face Eviction Tomorrow

I am afraid I have bad news. Long term readers will know of George and Diane, a couple that I know well, who with the assistance of Caroline Lucas MP, were able to leave Percival Terrace, a squalid excuse for temporary/emergency accommodation on the seafront of Brighton and into a temporary one bed flat on the border of Kemptown and Whitehawk. Today I report on a story of the powerful, rich and strong exercising power brutally over the powerless, poor and weak.

Since being at the new flat George, and especially Diane, have made great progress in trying to build a new life.  Diane, who I wrote about in an issue of The Catholic Herald last year, concerning the issue of drug addiction, has given up both alcohol and drugs.

Due to complaints from one resident concerning "noise pollution" both have now been told by the owners of the property that they have just one day - that's right - ONE DAY - to get out of the accommodation. Suffice to say I am furious and upset (though not as furiously upset as George and Diane obviously are) that all of a sudden the rug has been pulled from them and they are once again facing a situation where they are homeless and back in terrible accommodation in Brighton. Up to press, the couple were, on moving into their property, reassured that even this far improved accommodation was temporary - that more suitable accommodation for Diane would be offered later, since the flights of steps leading up to the flat aren't ideal for her bad back and legs. All this makes the potential move back to a homeless hostel even more bizarre.

According to my latest conversation with Diane, the Council seem quite content to put both George and Diane in either a hostel in Grand Parade (which is full of alcoholics and drug addicts) or the very same temporary hostel which they left, Percival Terrace (which is full of alcoholics and drug addicts). Diane did detox at Mill View Hospital relatively recently and has been 'clean' ever since. She had given up her drug addiction to cocaine before entry into the new flat. Since living at the new place, there have been difficult times, a few arguments, but her progress in recovering from drink and drug addiction has remained strong.

George and Diane, once again, stand to lose everything - in terms of possessions - but also the progress that both have made. Diane will be placed into a place of great temptation concerning drugs. She is bi-polar as well and is now severely depressed. I cannot believe that her 'keyworker' has not looked into any legal rights she may have concerning eviction notice. I cannot for the life of me believe that the Council and social services really consider that a woman who has made such progress in giving up her addictions belongs in a hostel surrounded by drugs and drug addicts!

Mears: All over Brighton. All over Council vans.
I am also aghast at the lack of mercy shown to this couple by the neighbour, who turns out to be one of the Mears family. He lives beneath the couple facing eviction. Mary Mears, a Councillor who owns the Mears and Sons stall at the Open Market, which is soon to be demolished and turned into flats could perhaps have a word with her relative or family member and sort him out a little. George is, I imagine, doing everything within his power not to give into the temptation to 'sort' the neighbour 'out' himself. How would this Mears family member feel if he were just kicked out onto the street and placed in a hostel surrounded by junkies? Well, I suppose that is not something about which  the much more wealthy individual has to worry.

Apparently, the same man allegedly also had a woman with a baby evicted from the same premises because the baby cried at 'inconvenient' times of the day and night, according to George's other neighbour, who, in stark contrast to the member of the Mears clan (or shall we call it the 'mob'?), has shown George and Diane nothing but kindness.

As you can imagine, as a friend of theirs, I, like them, feel somewhat powerless, but I fear greatly for Diane's mental health and the possibility that having made so much progress with her addictions, she will feel like she has entered once again into the squalor of Percival Terrace and back into a drugs scene. This is the place where things were not just bad. Things were really, really bad. George, too, has his temptations. They do not deserve to be put through the squalor of the hostels once more. They do not deserve to be ground down into the dirt and evicted with just one day's notice! They deserve, like we would all like, a little bit of understanding.

The last time I saw Diane, I went to a pub with both and she was happy. She seemed serene and peaceful, even though life was up and down. She'd been out to a charity shop to buy herself a nice dress and some shoes. She was thrilled with them.

Now, she sounds absolutely devastated. This neighbour and the company who own their residences do not understand that they are putting Diane in a place of grave temptation and danger and whether it is legally acceptable or not, they are causing untold psychological damage to a woman (and a man ready to explode) by asking them to leave the premises immediately.

Let me emphasise this: They are not being evicted for drugs. They are being evicted because one of the Mears family, who apparently tried to buy out the whole of the building where they live, but failed, has taken exception to the couple and, using his influence with the owners of the building (whoever they are), is having them moved out.

I understand that people can get annoyed by noise. The man, however, does not realise that he is making the couple homeless and once again in danger of falling prey to the drugs underworld of Brighton. It does not take much for an ex-user to become a user again. It can be a relatively small thing. But a massive upheaval like very sudden homelessness is just the kind of thing to break you. All that is needed is to be pushed 'over the edge'. Being made suddenly homeless and finding yourself in the hell-hole emergency accommodation that you joyously left, which you pretty much only associate with crack, is the kind of thing that would make you want to give up your good intentions and perhaps spit in God's eye.

Please pray. Pray hard for them. They deserve a lot more than this. A heck of a lot more. In deep winter, they put a homeless man up for a night or two because he was freezing in the cold of Brighton at night. They give, they always have done, fully shaken, pressed over, to others in need, yet they will find themselves with no help from those they helped now, because all of their friends are either homeless or in hostels. All their kindness to others will now be kicked back in their faces. Diane's faith is strong. It has been for a long, long time, but George's faith is weak. They will both wonder: 'Where is God now? What have we done to deserve this!?'

I see that Councillor Mary Mears's latest blog post concerns the impromptu 'climate' campsite on the Old Steine in Brighton. Mary appears to be very angered by it. Hmm...Well, if she doesn't want another tent on the Old Steine, because I'm quite sure George and Diane are ready to knock homeless hostels on the head, perhaps she could have a word with her rather unmerciful family member/relative at Arundel Court, or perhaps the company that are kicking my friends out onto the street tomorrow? Any way you can help them, Mary, would be much appreciated. They may have had an argument or two but they don't deserve this and, for my part, I won't rest until news like this is all over Brighton. It looks like my first magazine is going to be a four-pager at this rate.

If you are making the Novena to St Anthony of Padua, include them, please, in your prayers. I entrust them to his prayers. If not, just pray for them. More than that, I doubt, can we do. I tell you what though. I might just put a link to this article on Councillor Mary Mears's blog. It's important that she knows what the actions of her relative/family member has caused or certainly could cause. God help the Mears's. God help George and Diane.

If George and Diane are to be asked to leave the flat at Arundel Court, then justice demands that they are given a fair warning of eviction so that either they can make other living arrangements, or the Council can respond adequately to the needs of Diane, a client of the mental health services division of Brighton and Hove City Council.


Felicity said…
Nasty business.
I like this post. It shows real empathy and kindness. It's personal and has passion. Can you get it in the local paper, removing names as far as possible?
Most of us are removed from this kind of suffering, sitting at our computers, smug in our comfortable life-styles.
You made theirs vividly real.
Prayers to be said now and candles to be lit tomorrow.
Good Counsel said…
Hi, perhaps you have looked at all this already, but how long notice have they been given? What kind of tenancy do they have. People often think that if the landlord says "go" they must go, but it can take months for them to be legally evicted, they may even be able to challenge the complaint made against them. They definitely should not move out just because they have been told to. Even if it is an uncomfortable situation and they do have to go eventually, staying until they are formally evicted may buy them the time to find a good long-term home. If the formal process has been followed and they do have to leave now, my apologies for this information that will then be of little use, but just thought I would mention it in case this hasn't yet happened. Clare
berenike said…
Does no-one have a spare room? Though if folk fight a lot etc it might have to be someone able to keep the disruption to their lives under control :/
umblepie said…
It cannot be legal to be ordered out of your home at such short notice. Suggest a quick call to the Citizens Advice Bureau to confirm this; the service is free.
You may remember (or know of) the infamous landlord in the 1950/60s in London, I think his name was Rachmann or something similar,he eventually came unstuck - legally. But I don't remember exact details.Prayers for George and Diane today and every day until situation remedied.
Anne said…
What happened yesterday?
sanabituranima said…
This is so, so wrong. I will keep them both in my prayers.

They've now been told by the agency that they won't be thrown out straight away, but that they will have to go 'in the next week or two'.
Good Counsel said…
I understand that if the legal process is followed it takes about 5 months to get someone out of a property. 5 months could be a great help towards finding alternative accomodation.
Linda said…
@ berenike and Laurence
I am in "social housing" having been made homeless due to disputes over a property and a will.

The quality of the building, built in 1956, means that sound-proofing between floors is very poor, well below the permitted decibel transference in Building Regulations.
Noise is quite the greatest cause of conflict.
I have to encourage the couple, even if it is less enjoyable to listen to music or socialise with reduced volume, that they will win friends and influence people if they try.

Noise pollution is a killer. I have found it stressful and a cause of repressed anger but others have required hospitalisation due to depression from a sense of impotence at this form of social abuse.
I hope this might help wherever they go.
Thank you.
sanabituranima said…
Have you heard any more from them since you posted this?

I went to Lindisfarne (island where Saints Aidan and Cuthbert lived) this weekend and I lit a candle for George and Diane.