Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Bristol is one of the few councils stupid enough to oppose giving tents to homeless people

Bristol is one of the few councils stupid enough to oppose giving tents to homeless people -

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-36082945?post_id=10153581589642289_10154522615607289#_=_

Bristol City Council actually thinks it's OK to prevent homeless people from accessing tents because they might engage in antisocial behaviour.

"Bristol Council has warned that charities and organisations urging the donation of tents to rough sleepers are encouraging anti-social behaviour and might be delaying those in need from seeking help."

Bristol City council has never explained to me why people should stop seeking help with their health and housing just because they have a tent. Given that I am a mental health rep and activist who attends meetings with this council, they have had ample opportunity.

It seems their logic failure is that they believe people will only engage in antisocial behaviour if they own a tent. Here is the quote for their policy that is now open, which they previously kept secret.

"The average age of death for a rough sleeper in England is just 47. Bad weather and fear of attack make life difficult and uncertain."

Yet Bristol City council thinks it's more important to concentrate on stigmatising homeless people than trying to increase their life expectancy to be somewhere higher than 47 years. Something of a moral and ethical behaviour failing that indicates their policy makers don't understand the norms of social behaviour, and the law.

"Many of those living outdoors in towns and cities have addictions and mental health problems."

Given this problem you would think that all councils would want to ensure homeless people have somewhere to live so that they have an address where relevant services can contact them.

Some homeless shelters are only available at night, it can still be cold in the daytime.

Obviously a tent is no substitute for a home, but Bristol City council have built less than 100 social homes and sold many. There is also a complete lack of a common sense reciprocal housing provision agreement between Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire council. This results in people having access to housing lists for properties many miles away but not to those in the next road.

I'm a member of BIMHN - Bristol Independent Mental Health Network - http://bimhn.org.uk/ - this is both an organisation in itself and a network for other mental health service user groups to put across their views. Therefore no policy should be adopted without prior agreement from our members and allies.

The official UK policy of  No decision about me, without me - http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/making-shared-decision-making-reality and of Parity of esteem for Mental Health is breached by this council policy.

Of course it is not acceptable to discourage any charities from providing tents and/or shelter boxes, as has been proved during many crises abroad and in Brighton these options are better than doing nothing - http://www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2013/oct/24/brighton-housing-homeless-shipping-containers

I hope that people bear this policy in mind when they vote in the elections tomorrow in Bristol, or nationally and in future where and when politicians and officials have such an unethical housing policy.

Update

I hope the election of a new Mayor who understands homelessness, equalities, and mental health issues will lead to a change in Bristol City Council's 'Can't Do' attitudes and policies.

Labour's Marvin Rees has been elected as Bristol city's mayor http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-36236036

Second Update

This article shows which official is behind this policy, ironically he is also responsible for ensuring Bristol provides social housing.

Bristol's homeless campers could have their tents confiscated and face court action


The Service Director for Housing believes that Bristol City Council has the powers to make optional hostel and/or mental health services compulsory - 

'Anyone who refuses to work with the council-commissioned rough sleeping service provided by St Mungos Broadway, or is deemed to be acting antisocially, will also face legal action.

Nick Hooper, service director for housing solutions and crime reduction at Bristol City Council, said: "As with other cities and towns in the UK we are currently experiencing high levels of rough sleeping and there has been an increase in rough sleepers, including those sleeping in tents, in the city this year."

'Tent City' decision: Mayor admits city has housing problem - http://bbc.in/2cfURnu via @BBCNews

BBC News - Homeless too often given 'meaningless advice' by councils - MPs - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-37110607

BBC News - 'Tent City' community faces eviction from Bristol park - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-37194168

Creator of chatbot that beat 160,000 parking fines now tackling homelessness - https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/aug/11/chatbot-lawyer-beat-parking-fines-helping-homeless-do-not-pay?CMP=share_btn_tw

BBC News - Taking mental healthcare to the homeless - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37238599

BBC News - More rough sleepers 'in need of psychiatric support' - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37236035

BBC News - Abandoned Leeds Festival camping gear given to homeless - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-37254085

BBC News - Mentally-ill homeless discharged back to street -  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37249818

 I need to check what happens in Bristol to stored tents that aren't reclaimed



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