29 November, 2006

Plain and simply put

Martha is a forty seven year old woman who sleeps rough by Victoria coach station in Westminster. She says that every time she goes to a day centre there seems to be nothing for her. She has been waiting for a vacancy in a woman's hostel for four weeks now and hopes to be off the streets and into a nice warm bed sooner rather later. She did say she had a bit of a sleep in a West London church night shelter. This is not the first time that I have spoken to a homeless women and heard that services for woman are a low priority. I think this is due to the fact that in the early days of homelessness there were more male than females living on the streets but in today's climate it seems there are far more women in hostels and sleeping rough than there were before. This maybe due to numerous things but marital breakdowns and violence seem to be at the forefront these days but there are several reasons why, just as in the case of male homelessness. Which does bring me back to the subject of housing and the need for more social housing. I was speaking to a woman on the bus this morning. Just trying to make conversation as it's just boring staring out of the windows. Anyway it transpires that she has just moved into a flat but the rent is quite an astronomical amount and to find it every month so she has to work extra hours. She said she wasn't sure she could manage the rent all on her own so she had her friend move in with her. I had to agree with her that renting a flat is becoming impossible as greedy landlords are cashing in on the housing shortage. The fact that some of these dwelling are appalling seems to make no difference. Take my flat for instance. My rent has increased by £10 in the last four years. That's an extra £520 a year I have to pay since I first moved in and when April comes next year it will go up another two pounds. This is why I am saying the government should now be saying enough is enough and should be making sure landlords cannot charge the earth. It's something that must be done as the fair rent tribunals obviously do not work and causes more feuding between landlords and tenants it is one of the contributing factors why landlords try to evict. I know fair rents are a mine field for any government but something has to be done as social house building is at an all time low and the housing lists all over the country are forever growing. I have never been that good at maths but even I can calculate that if only 65000 houses are built this years and next year the same. There will still be 1,000,000 people that need of housing and they are just the people on the housing registers.
There has to be one defining moment every so often and I think I have one every so often. So does this mean I am normal? I think another one of those moments has come again. I am going to be putting questions on homelessness to Yvette Cooper the housing minister. It will be on BBC radio four on December the 7th I think. At present I am trying to work out the questions I want to ask.
This has to be a first that an ex drug addict and homeless man interviews a top politician. Funny five or six years ago I would have had everyone committed if they'd told me my writing would lead to all this. I am extremely nervous and after yesterday's performance on the radio I am doubly nervous but I think I'm getting the hang of things. So look out for my spot on radio 4. I have already wrote somethings for the BBC web site you can read them

28 November, 2006

Is success more than just an illusion

My first lost soul whom I interviewed today is a man call Alan Carter. Who has had various types of accommodation over the last thirty years on and off. For the last four years has had one permanent address of his own.
Alan was born in Coventry 48 years ago and has always had a problem with drugs and alcohol from an early age. He has been in a number of bed and breakfasts. Plus a large number of shared hostel accommodation. Amazingly he has had 15 permanent bedsits and lost everyone of them because of his problems. Which over the years had grown out of control. It's the type of story that is heard again and again. Then ten years ago when he first tried to get help. He was placed into a hostel and after a while put on the Greenwich housing list. His first permanent council flat was unsuitable because there was no access to the services this man required and the help he did receive once given the flat was short lived. So he ended up drinking once again and living in a flat without a bed. It was full of empty beer cans, there was no electric or gas and he had arrears for water and rent. It took another charitable agency to see that this man indeed had problems and they set about getting this man the help he needed and a more suitable address. Alan has now lived at his present address for four years and still receives help when needed. The fact that this man was given just a roof and limited help only helps justify the need in helping people with aftercare. Sustaining tenancies are important and just giving someone a roof over their head is just not enough. Alan has now been drink free for six months which is further progresson on the ladder to sucess.

Prevention better than the cure

What a day yesterday. For once I was left speechless on the radio. It left me all flustered and all a quiver but seriously yesterday was just one of those days when I was not having a good going day but I thought I would write what I had to say today.
Many homeless people who have ended up on the streets of our cities develop problems of drug addiction or alcoholism and some even develop illnesses. Who is to blame is it the person that becomes homeless or societies or is it a government and a welfare state that doesn't work properly.
Preventive measures for helping people at the start of their homelessness are low. It's only recently that people have actually been saying prevention should be one of the main focuses for ending homelessness. As many people know I don't agree with John Bird founder of the big issue most of the time but I have to admit that I do agree with his prevention is better than the cure. In the next few weeks I am trying to interview several people that have been homeless and had several places to live but in each case lost their place because there was not the right help or services. I am trying to show that if you don't have the right kind of services even those that have just arrived on the street can become long term homeless and the problem of homelessness only gets worse not better and I am also trying to show the same about people in temporary accommodation and that while waiting for permanent accommodation letting them stagnate is the wrong way forward wouldn't time be better spent teaching life skills because the revolving cycle of homelessness has to stop sooner rather than later.

23 November, 2006

Housing and homelessness

Since the mid sixties there has always been talk about housing and homelessness and how to remedy the problem. And today we are still talking about it. The fact that there is a national housing crisis and a homeless problem that on the face of it seems to be being tackled. But is it? It seems that although people from several organizations and the Government talk about these things we never seem to see the real outcome and does Joe public know exactly know what's going on?
When councils sold off housing stocks why wasn't they allowed to spend it on new social housing? Oh and wasn't homelessness supposed to be cured within twenty years some 40 years ago?
The fact that we now have people stuck in hostels, in bed and breakfast, sofa surfing, squatting is just another twist is the homeless saga and at the rate it is rising it could reach a million in fifteen years. Governments always come up with facts and figures on housing and homelessness but for a country with the resources we have, should we be still talking about it and should the Government be patting themselves on the back? I did read Ruth Kelly's speech and to me that is what it amounted to. To cure homelessness and to stop me writing about it, more has to be done. Prevention is better than the cure but for the many that are stuck in an endless cycle of homelessness. We need to do that little bit extra. We need to keep making homelessness become a thing of the past. Which at present it is most definitely not. Homelessness today is not just about having a roof over your head it's about learning the skills of life but it's also about learning to live in what people call the real world, society I think you call it but I do sometimes wonder.

22 November, 2006

On Monday the 27 November I shall be on the BBC radio with a geezer called Alan Sampson the chief executive from shelter. No doubt he will be talking about families and the 60.000 housing shortfall. I will be listening intently so I can answer questions from my own point of view and I do have my own opinions and you'll probably hear them but I think my being homeless has a different slant and a large say on the way I think. Homeless people do not get many chances to say things that matter to them. It's this thing of thinking because you are homeless you are in fact a second class citizen or not a member of today's society.
Facts and figures are all I seem to hear from politicians and such but as I know from my own experiences that's not all that counts. I read Ruth Kelly's speech the other day. The case she makes for tackling homelessness is good but has the government gone far enough or have they in fact just taken homelessness off the streets and created an even bigger problem in what's now being touted as hidden homeless. After all aren't hostels supposed to be a stop gap to permanent housing.
The housing problem all over the country adds to the problems off the homeless. I agree that we have to stop people repeatedly becoming homeless. The Revolving door syndrome as it is known. So shouldn't we be concentrating on housing support once people get housing and the question how long should the support last I think depends on the individual case because every case is different. The thing of how much it cost should be irrelevant as we are dealing with lives and doing it now will definitely save money in the future.
the real question i think now being asked is, is there really an answer to the homeless problem? Homelessness as been around as long as prostitution and if you think about it Jesus was made homeless for a night or two and had to get temporary accommodation.

Homeless any spare change

How often do you see someone in your town or city sitting there with a sign saying homeless and hungry? I see it everyday most places I go but did you know it's not the easiest of things to do. Because it's soul destroying and demeaning. I should know I did it for many years just to feed my drug habit( along with a bit of shop lifting.) I am so glad those days are over but when I see it now I stop and talk to the people begging and most of the time they are genuine but as we all know there are some who are not. Christmas is just round the corner and no doubt we will all see a rise in people begging but should we give well my own train of thought is it is up to the individual but we must not forget that just because they are begging and look rough, they are not part of our society because they are. Most people that are homeless are there because they have problems from simply being homeless to drugs, alcohol or mental health issues or just simply health problems. When you get help for those problems there is still the problem of housing. Every government since time knows when has had this problem of homelessness but forty years ago a film called Cathy come home showed the real perils of homelessness . Homeless hostels and organizations sprang to life. The original problem of drugs and drink at first where a problem because no one would take on these problems. It was only in the eighties that hostels began to accept people with problems. Still today the problem of people with severe mental health problems have not been addressed as there seems to be only a few places available for this type of problem. Homelessness has several faces today but it's still a problem

15 November, 2006

Back on song and still smiling

Yesterday I brought myself a new camera so I can now go out at night and take photo's once more. Things are looking rosy in my garden right now but as always things change and progress has to have a say or you make a mistake and things seem to go backwards. It's at times like this you doubt yourself, I often do but I don't let it stop me from doing what I am doing. I used to be this guy that never finished anything but now I try my best to. Which leads me to what I am doing for the next couple of weeks. I think I'm doing some radio work on BBC radio 4 interviewing and debating homelessness. Frightening isn't it me interviewing, God who thought this one up must have their head examined but I think I will manage to cope or should I say I thinks the BBC will have to cope with me as I have been told I have a real annoying sunny disposition but that's me. I enjoy life to the fullest. I don't have the perfect life but who does? What's wrong with a smile anyway?

10 November, 2006

Do I have an ultra motive for what I do? I think so . To give someone the chance to see that drugs and homelessness is not all there is in anyone's future is a big plus for me as I spent so long missing out on life, now life misses out on me. I am so busy doing things I love and I am now trying new things like art and writing songs and music that I have no clue as to what I am doing yet but will get the hang of things sooner rather than later. I do have one song recorded by Don crown who wrote the music http://www.myspace.com/doncrown. It's called when a child is born ( a song of love). So things are looking up although this year my blog has been slow due to commitments and pressure I put myself under. My agenda for this month I do believe is to interview more homeless people and get their stories so far. Life is full of little suprises but suprising yourself is the most unexpected.


Do I have an ultra motive for what I do? I think so . To give someone the chance to see that drugs and homelessness is not all there is in anyone's future is a big plus for me as I spent so long missing out on life, now life misses out on me. I am so busy doing things I love and I am now trying new things like art and writing songs and music that I have no clue as to what I am doing yet but will get the hang of things sooner rather than later. I do have one song recorded by don crown who wrote the music http://www.myspace.com/doncrown. So things are looking up although this year my blog has been slow due to commitments and pressure in put myself under. My agenda for this month I do believe is to interview more homeless people and get their stories so far. Life is full of little suprises but suprising yourself is the most unexpected.

09 November, 2006

Fair rents is it that complicated

Last night I went on one of my question sprees asking people what they thought affordable housing really meant. Most people thought it was being able to buy housing at affordable prices but because of today's housing prices rises it wasn't viable. So why does the government keep on about it and why don't they make it easier for people to buy instead of these developers making huge profits from the working class. Some thought it was the governments way of dealing with unsocial housing, whatever that meant but I was outside the opera when I asked the question. Mostly people wanted to ask if there was any government ideas about fair rents. To me this comes under the heading of affordable housing. Here in London getting a flat at a fair rent is virtually impossible and with house prices rising by about 2.5 every quarter buying one is getting much harder for everyone. So the only option for most is to rent but with landlords seeing the opportunity to make money do so. So my question is can the government make good on their promise of affordable housing by putting a ceiling on rents. Just an idea because this would not only make it easier for people that have jobs but may make it easier for homeless people to get much needed accommodation. Anyway these are just my thoughts

08 November, 2006

What does affordable housing really mean and who is it directly aimed at? I think it's aim at buyers like first time buyers that have an income that supports their life style, after all if I could afford my own house I would jump at buying my own home but what about the 6.7 million people that live on run down council estates that cannot afford to buy? Is this the case of the poorer members of our society being treated as second class citizens and not being considered properly.. When the conservative brought in the right to buy schemes they said everyone should be able to buy their home and it was thought to be a real good thing but as with everything else things go wrong. House prices rise, inflation rises people lose jobs due to redundancies ect. Before you know it you can't meet the mortgage repayment and boom you've lost your house. Which of course happened under the conservatives. Questions need to be asked now that it looks as if house prices will rise once again and people are being priced out of the housing market but affordable housing should also include rented accommodation things like fairer rents, more council housing and private renting and should their be a maximum rent
that can be charged. Like in London a one bed roomed flat costs 250 pound a week in some areas that are now being touted as the place to live. Is that a fair rent and who can afford that? Not a nurse or care worker or cleaner. If you are homeless well what chance have you got? Anyway what do I know about these things after all I have my own rented home.

03 November, 2006

Another year nearly over

Another year nearly over and it seems I only blinked and really nothing has changed. We are still talking about homelessness and hidden homeless. Funny thing is I meet all these MPs and talked to them but I don't think they really understand the real problem because they haven't experienced it and it's just another problem to be solved the best and cheapest way possible. Like interest rates homelessness is now on the increase again and in areas where you wouldn't expect homelessness to occur but saying that becoming homeless can happen to anyone rich or poor. I myself have had a few problems with mounting debts but I now have them sorted but it's the little things like this that a large percent of ex-homeless people face and sometimes cannot manage. The staggering fact three out of every homeless person that is housed becomes homeless again needs to be looked at. I believe that simple life skills are needed like cooking, cleaning, paying bills and general health things are really important besides normal education. Things do have to change as they say and we have to find more ways to prevent people from becoming homeless and once they are,we have to re-educate people in the simple things which most long term homeless people lose. I hope from next week to write more often as there are a lot of things in the pipeline and as Christmas draws closer the issue of homelessness becomes louder for a short while. don't forget the crisis christmas puddings are now on sale