Homelessness charity, Brighton Housing Trust, is celebrating its 50th anniversary at an event attended by the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Peter Field, the Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Cllr Dee Simson, tenants and other clients, current and former members of staff, Board members, and supporters of BHT.
Peter Field was a founding member of BHT and is believed to be the only surviving founder.
BHT started as the Brighton Hostel in 1968 in one house in Islingword Road, off Elm Grove. Over the years it has grown to become one of the largest charities in Sussex, with services in Brighton and Hove, Eastbourne, Hastings and elsewhere.
BHT owns almost 500 homes in Brighton and Hastings, and leases a further 150 from private landlords including the iconic shipping container homes project in Brighton.
In addition, BHT provides support and advice services covering issues such as mental ill health, addictions, homelessness and rough sleeping, work and learning, and immigration and asylum.
The 50th anniversary event is the start of a year-long calendar of events. BHT will be publishing reports, launching appeals, and providing information to the public about homelessness and other issues that lead to homelessness, exclusion and poverty.
BHT chief executive, Andy Winter, said: “From humble beginnings in a single house in central Brighton, BHT now has a reach and impact that nobody would have envisaged in those early days, combating homelessness, creating opportunities for people, and promoting change.
“BHT is all about changing lives, 50 years of changing lives. It was wrong that in 1968 there were people sleeping on our streets. It is more so today, in one of the richest countries in the world.
“The average life expectancy of a homeless man is 47, for a homeless woman it is just 43. Homeless people are 35 times more likely to commit suicide than the rest of the population, four times more likely to die from an unnatural cause, and 13 times more likely to be the victim of crime.
“But the situation would be far, far worse if it wasn’t for charities like BHT. What we do would not be possible without partnerships with other organisations, or without the support of local and national government, or without the generosity of supporters and the general public.
“Most of all, we couldn’t make the contribution we make without the courage and determination of our clients to make use of the opportunities that we can create so that they can combat homelessness, mental ill health, addictions and poverty.
“I wish that organisations like BHT were no longer needed. Sadly, after 50 years, our services are needed more than ever before.”
Last year BHT worked with 7,946 clients and tenants. It accommodated 514 households and individuals in Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings in its community housing, 126 people in its specialist mental health services and 115 in the Addiction Services. 53 people under 25 years were in the Hastings Young People’s Service and 155 in homeless hostels and other residential services.
4,430 men and women received advice and legal representation from BHT’s three advice centres, in Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings. 1,113 clients made use of the services provided at First Base Centre, 1,089 of whom were rough sleepers. 498 of these clients took part in a programme of structured support which resulted in 222 people being helped in accommodation.
432 people used the range of services provided by or from the Whitehawk Inn. 431 people benefited from our Mental Health and Wellbeing Services, including 151 women who used the Threshold Women’s Counselling Service.
BHT worked with 577 individuals in a range of support services and services helping people to secure accommodation in the private rented sector. Sadly, funding for all these services ended during the year.
Across all of BHT’s services, there were 1,471 clients who were rough sleepers, sofa surfing, staying with friends, living in cars or caravans, or in other short-term temporary accommodation.
Find out more: www.bht.org.uk