First Base, our resource centre for rough sleepers in Brighton and Hove has stayed open during the Covid-19 pandemic, but with reduced numbers to keep everybody safe.
When the government launched its ‘Everyone In’ initiative, which aimed to get all rough sleepers off the streets, First Base supported Brighton and Hove City Council in its efforts to house rough sleepers, becoming the main hub in the city for the completion of Covid-19 related referrals to Emergency Accommodation. Many clients who had previously been resistant have accepted accommodation referrals.
Terry is seventy-five years old and has been supported by First Base for two and a half years, after becoming homeless nearly three years ago. He was born in Brighton and lived in the city for much of his life, apart from occasions when he travelled and lived abroad. When Terry first came to First Base he was sleeping rough in Brighton and moving around different sleep sites in the surrounding area.
Terry has always been independent and during his visits to First Base often showed resistance to the idea of accessing accommodation, saying that his priority was to travel and spend time in places where the weather was warmer.
After a period abroad, Terry was repatriated to the UK due to Covid-19 and arrived in the midst of the pandemic with no money, struggling to adjust to all the new regulations. He went again to First Base. The staff there let him know that the Local Authority had provided a considerable amount of emergency accommodation during the pandemic and that they could make a simple referral with a strong chance of him being offered somewhere to stay. Terry was still apprehensive and spoke of trying to travel again when he received his pension.
A month later Terry was admitted to hospital following an accident. Staff at First Base took the opportunity to ask him again about accepting a referral to accommodation and this time he accepted. Terry said that he really appreciated the persistence of staff at First Base in trying to get him accommodated, particularly as he realised that travel would not be easy following his accident. After he was housed, staff at First Base continued to support him, helping him to set up an e-mail account, have a mobile phone and apply for benefits. They also supported him to apply for an Older Person’s free bus pass, so that he could retain his independence.
Terry’s case is an example of how the Covid-19 pandemic presented a window of opportunity to help someone who had been long-term homeless to access life-changing accommodation and support.
I still visit First Base after 11 for a coffee and a chat with the staff.