PRESS STATEMENT: Reaction to incorrect information about homeless death in #Worcester

PRESS RELEASE – 06/03/2018

Hugo’s Earthquake are incredibly concerned that information that a homeless man died in a tent in Worcester last week turns out to be inaccurate. A man had died, who used homeless services, but he lived in his own tenancy and died at home.

This unverified information was shared by homeless outreach group “Worcester Homeless Cafe” (formally called “Sharon’s Hope n Help”) on Facebook and got a very wide audience. This morning (6th March), this Campaign was notified by more than one source about the report of a tent death and before we put out any statement or comment, sought to get facts accurate by checking with other sources.

We are relieved that another street death hasn’t happened in Worcester, and the Campaign staff pass on our condolences for this man’s death. However, we are gravely concerned about the organisation that publicised this incorrect information. The repercussions of this mistake went as far as West Mercia Police and Worcestershire Ambulance Service both being called for clarification, wasting time and resources for members of the public who might have been in real danger at this time.

“After talking to Worcester Homeless Cafe, we have established that this organisation has no Safeguarding Policy or procedure to deal with any issues homeless people have – nor have they got an information sharing protocol with other agencies. After serious consideration, we urge Worcester Homeless Cafe to terminate all work with homeless people until a Safeguarding Policy, Designated Safeguarding Officer and Information Sharing Protocol have been created and shown to the Worcester Homelessness Forum which are meeting later this month for agreement.”

Our spokesperson continues: “Not having these places homeless people, volunteers and the general public in unnecessary danger. Any work by the community with the homeless should be done in conjuction with established and reputable organisations which work with this community.”

Working with the homeless is not an easy task, and we urge community groups in Worcestershire and beyond to act very carefully about how they go about their kind-natured work because it may have the opposite effect. Please contact local agencies to see how your volunteering can assist existing services, instead of duplicating and being independent.

For reference: Hugo’s Earthquake have learned this afternoon that Worcester Homeless Cafe founder Sharon Multani-Colebrook has independently resigned in light of this mistake.

-END-

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APOLOGY: @ArboretumRA apologises for “social problems” comment in @worcesternews

This evening, Worcester Arboretum Residents’ Association have apologised to Hugo’s Earthquake via social media about causing offence in regards to the comments posted in the Worcester News article published online last night and in press.

The full apology:

We are very grateful for the expansive apology, and we look forward to working with the Association to come together and tackle the issue of homelessness in Worcester and the County.

URGENT APOLOGY FROM @ArboretumRA NEEDED AFTER “SOCIAL PROBLEMS” COMMENT

Tonight, the Worcester News ran a story which mentioned how the YMCA building in Worcester has been sold off and may move to the site of the old leisure centre in Sansome Walk.
In this article, a comment was given by the Chair of the Arboretum Residents’ Association in which the proposed site is in the catchment area for, which we have immediately condemned.

Jane Moorhouse, Chair of the ARA, is quoted saying the following:

“The Arboretum is a very finely balanced area and I would be concerned about any project that would cause an imbalance.
“I’m not sure we can absorb people who perhaps have more social problems.”

Hugo’s Earthquake objects to the demonisation of the homeless in this statement. “Perhaps have more social problems” is a disgusting way of saying ‘you’re too difficult and you’re not our problem’. We demand an immediate apology Tweeted out by the official @ArboretumRA Twitter account and written in the Worcester News.

The homeless in Worcester, and the rest of the UK, are subjected to this subtle abuse and oppression by the same society that anyone can become homeless in and this Campaign will not tolerate it.

This Campaign has successfully fought against negative, crass, insensitive comments before and we will continue this fight, up until the homeless can get the help and support they need and not the stereotyping and prejudice they daily receive at the hands of people like Jane Moorhouse.

#JusticeForCardon gets NATIONAL COVERAGE: Direct call to @myworcester City Council | Press Office

Today the Worcester News published a Front Page headlined “OUR SORROW FOR CARDON” which continued as a full page spread on page 3 of the same paper. Along side this, they also published the article online. This has led to much attention bought to the Campaign, but more importantly – the family. It is vital for them to have the exposure they have because the search to find them obviously was not rigorous enough.

Today the Campaign Press Office has been dealing with enquiries from news agencies and national publications. In the last hour, MailOnline have (independently of a news agency) published an article on their UK website, accessible internationally: You can view this by clicking here (opens a new window).

It has been confirmed that the Press Association have pushed this story out to national papers and may appear in national print tomorrow (Wednesday 18th October).

Keep up to date with the most recent developments via our Press Office Twitter which you can follow here – we recommend you turn on our Twitter notifications.


Press Office release
20.55 GMT 17/10/2017

http://www.hugosugg.wordpress.com | @EarthquakePress

Open Letter calling for dismissal of staff and Elected Members in Worcester City Council and other services due to failings

OPEN LETTER – 16/08/2016

After the appalling situation headlined on the Worcester News front page (14th August 2017), I am writing this letter to openly call for removal of staff and Elected Members responsible for service development and commissioning of community services in Worcester City Council. As well as the Local Authority – members of staff from organisations which are meant to be assisting in reducing vulnerable people from suffering on our streets.

Drug use is on the streets of Worcester, as evident by the three Worcester News articles over the past week. If services were adequate, there would be no need for people to be lying in a doorway in the City Centre begging for money or drugs, or allegedly with a needle sticking out of a limb in the middle of the day during the summer holidays.

Services like homelessness and substance misuse are commissioned (given to organisations via contracts) by the City or County Council.

In the first two months of 2016, the then-Conservative Cabinet Member of Housing of Worcester City Council Cllr Lucy Hodgson along with Council staff agreed to change the Homeless Service which included an Outreach service. By May 2016, Ben Bradley of Worcester City Council had drafted the “Single Person and Childless Couples Homeless Prevention Support Service” which changed the comprehensive Outreach Service seen under the Worcestershire Homelessness Intervention Team (WHIT) to a non-defined “Light Touch” service. This was approved by Nina Warrinton, Strategic Housing Manager – in the department overseen by current Managing Director of Worcester City Council: David Blake.

4.8 The Provider will ensure resources are to be targeted at those newly arrived to
the streets. Entrenched Rough Sleepers are to receive a “light touch” service until
ready to engage with more preventative services that will support them from the
streets and into long term accommodation.

But what does this Light Touch service mean? The winners of the Single Person and Childless Couples Contract, County Community Projects (CCP), refused to challenge the Council on the definition of the service they had to run – and waited until after the service was launched on April 1st 2016. The agreement between the Council and CCP as to what “Light Touch” Outreach meant is CCP staff walking around the streets every 4 weeks.

 

This all comes after a tragedy unfolded on the 5th July 2016. Cardon Banfield, a 74 year old gentleman born in St Vincent and the Grenadines was found meters away from Worcestershire Cricket Club in New Road in a tent – by a warden from the Cricket Club. Cardon’s body was that rotten and heavily decomposed when found that it was impossible to identify him until October.

Cardon Banfield was missed by the service responsible, because the Council reduced the very service that had known and worked with him previously.

Maggs Day Centre, based 10 minutes walk from the location Cardon was found admitted that Cardon had visited them, but they had FAILED to refer him onto CCP. Mel Kirk, CEO of Maggs has tried to abdicate responsibility but fails to understand that intervention into Cardon’s life in 2016 might have saved his life. We call on the Maggs Board of Trustees to cast a Vote of No Confidence in Mel Kirk’s leadership and for Mel Kirk to resign from Maggs Day Centre altogether.

The City Council stated in the press that they did not know of Cardon, however this is likely to be untrue – as Cardon was known on the Council ‘LinkUp’ database before it was commissioned in 2014, and made a Housing Benefit Claim when resident in Worcester YMCA which was processed by South Worcestershire Revenues and Benefits service.

An official investigation into Cardon’s death by the Worcestershire Safeguarding Adults Board which I called for in November got REJECTED just days before Christmas 2016 because Cardon was not known to enough services to warrant an investigation. The Police have not mentioned publicly if they carried out an investigation which is not good enough.

We believe that if there had been an Outreach service still in existence, Cardon might have been found before he rotted and decomposed by a commissioned service. As we won’t ever know the cause of his death because the Coroner recorded an Open Verdict, we cannot say he would still be alive if found earlier.

In fact, the Council’s own Worcestershire Homelessness Review 2016 acknowledges that there is a gap in provision for Outreach and recommends for an Outreach service to be created for entrenched rough sleepers.

Had there been a comprehensive Outreach service still similar to the one pre-April 2016, there would be a team of people walking around daily which would reduce the amount of drug dealers settling on Worcester’s streets begging, injecting or sleeping rough. They would be being referred onto agencies which are there to support them. I have been a vocal opponent to the eradication of Outreach since March 2016.

Due to incompetence shown by the following names, we are calling for the resignation or dismissal from their positions with immediate effect.

Worcester City Council Staff: Nina Warrington (nina.warrington@worcester.gov.uk),
Ben Bradley (ben.bradley@worcester.gov.uk),
David Blake (david.blake@worcester.gov.uk) and
Elected Member Cllr Lucy Hodgson (lucy.hodgson@worcestercity.net).
Maggs Day Centre: Mel Kirk (mkirk@maggsdaycentre.co.uk)
CCP: Adrian Warburton (adrian.warburton@ccprojects.org.uk)

The above names have made or signed off decisions which have meant the most vulnerable in Worcestershire are at greater risk of not receiving help and support for their needs. I call on every one who shares the sentiments in this open letter to write an email to the above people calling for their resignation.

Until these people leave their positions, the lives of the homeless and drug users will be made worse by the impact of past decisions taken.

 

Hugo Sugg
Founder of Hugo’s Earthquake Campaign
hugo@hugosearthquake.org
http://www.hugosugg.wordpress.com

PRESS RELEASE: Response to fierce reaction on @worcesternews from public about closure of night shelter in Worcester tonight (30th Dec 2016)

PRESS RELEASE ON WEBSITE – 18.45 BST 30/12/16

It has been reported in the Worcester News today that the emergency night shelter which has been activated since Boxing Day is closing tonight, due to the temperature rising above 0 degrees.

Since the Worcester News announced this (on Facebook), we have been watching extremely closely the reaction from the public about this issue. It is clear that the public are angry and upset about why rough sleepers should be subjected to the cold weather when they have been sheltered from it previously. We’d like to side with the public on this matter, however also educate them in why it is not activated tonight;

The temperature is not forecast low enough to deem the Local Authority (Worcester City Council) to open the emergency provision tonight. Since 2015, the Council has moved to a ‘pop-up’ homeless shelter option over the winter months instead of the 14 week sustained night assessment centre. Hugo’s Earthquake feel like this is not the best option for rough sleepers, however as the money for homeless services has been reducing since before 2015, this is now the option we are left with.

A Campaign spokesperson stated the following:

“We understand the frustration from the public about this closure and to some extent we share this frustration. However we would like to reassure the public that shelter for the homeless will be pushed heavily by the Campaign at the new Worcester Homeless Forum being set up in January. Hugo’s Earthquake doesn’t want any rough sleeper to risk their life on the street if they have a safer option, and we will be working towards this goal in the coming months.”

It has been announced that the Night Shelter WILL BE OPEN on the evening of New Year’s Day (01/01/17) at Magg’s Day Centre.


RELEASED BY PRESS OFFICE – press@hugosearthquake.org

#TentDeath Update: FOI Request to @myworcester to look over @CCProjects / @CCPWorcs Contract.

The Freedom of Information Act comes in handy to a Campaigning organisation, because we can use it to challenge and argue our point.

Hugo’s Earthquake believes that Worcester City Council has written a bad Tender Contract for the homeless in Worcester, at the expense of £500,000 (over 2 years) of which County Community Projects (Gloucester) bidded and was awarded. As we have previously revealed, the Single Person and Childless Couples Homeless Prevention Support Service Tender Document the City Council produced near the beginning of 2016 practically decimates the Homeless Outreach Service which was existent under the previous WHIT Contract.

We believe that due of the lack of a comprehensive Outreach Service or communication system, Cardon Banfield was not known to Worcester City Council Housing Team or CCP in the weeks and months leading up to his death. Maggs Day Centre admit that they did know of him, but did not pass this information on or indeed signpost Mr Banfield to other agencies which could have assisted him.

FACT: There is now no comprehensive, dedicated outreach service for rough sleepers in any district in Worcestershire.
The Tender to which CCP was awarded states in black and white:

“The Provider will ensure resources are to be targeted at those newly arrived to the streets. Entrenched Rough Sleepers are to receive a “light touch” service until ready to engage with more preventative services that will support them from the streets and into long term accommodation.”

But we see that there are many faults in this tiny section of the Tender:

  • Why is this just ‘new to the street’, and not the more entrenched rough sleepers which arguably need the service more?
  • What does this term “light touch” ACTUALLY  mean, and can either the Council or CCP publicly define it?
  • The idea that rough sleepers should be given ‘light touch’ service, “until ready to engage”? It is a fact that rough sleepers are the least trustworthy when it comes to engaging with services. The very fact the Council’s view on the rising rough sleeper problem is to give minimal help and assume they will come for help is disgusting, because these humans deserve the help and support which will ensure they have a semi-recognisable quality of life. Rough sleepers will tend to only engage with services when a strong, trusting relationship is developed with the support worker.
  • “From the streets into long term accommodation” – but without a comprehensive Outreach Service, how can CCP work with other agencies to get these homeless from the streets into beds?
  • In the article about #TentDeath, it was reported in the Worcester News that “if members of the general public are concerned about someone sleeping rough then they can report them via Streetlink – call 0300 500 0914 or log on to http://www.streetlink.org.uk. A support worker will attend the reported spot within 24 hours of referral.“, however there is ZERO mention of an out of hours service in the Tender – so we’re asking the following uncomfortable question to be answered immediately:

    If a rough sleeper is reported in Worcestershire via Streetlink on a Friday or Saturday, when will a support worker from CCP attend?

All of these questions and statements need addressing quickly, because this is £500,000 of Worcester taxpayers money which is being spent. To try and help answer some of these ourselves, the Founder of Hugo’s Earthquake this morning (1st November 2016) submitted a Freedom of Information Request into Worcester City Council’s FOI department. This FOI is asking for the very agreement that CCP wrote and won against the Tender to deliver the new service. Hugo Sugg explains why this request has been submitted:

“Rest assured that if the Council decide not to release this document because of ‘commercial confidentiality’ or other legal reason, we will use the death of Mr Banfield to gain the truth as to what CCP promised and is delivering. This is NOT, I repeat not, because we are using this man’s tragic death as a scapegoat for our Campaign – but rather making sure Cardon did not die in vain, and there remains a high risk that someone else could die on our streets before the winter of 2016 is over.

It is my ambition to ensure our most vulnerable on the streets are properly looked after and that their lives aren’t put in danger because of a political ideology which sees ‘open market competition’ decrease a service just to save money. These are human beings, and it is a very sad fact that Mr Banfield might not have died in the circumstances he did (left to decompose) if there had been a comprehensive outreach service which knew of his whereabouts. I, personally, are campaigning for justice to be delivered in the name of Cardon, an immediate review of the Single Person and Childless Couples Homeless Prevention Support Service and Worcester City Council to change its stance that rough sleepers should not have to approach services just to receive assistance.

There is a toxic cultural position which Worcester City Council Homelessness Department has which puts the blame on the very people they are paid to assist by Worcester residents. This organisational cultural position was exposed in its glory last December over the Scarfgate row which saw the Council Housing Manager state that “rough sleeping was a lifestyle choice that people make” (hear the organic soundclip at the bottom of the article or click here), and then backtrack days later. Although a public apology was given, even on the Authority’s own website, the sentiment of own choice lives on in Council Officers’ work
Both CCP, Worcester City Council and all other agencies paid for by public money must remember to be transparent and accountable to their bosses – which are NOT the Local Authority, politicians or charities but instead the person who pays their taxes every month from their hard-earned wage packet.”

Whilst #TentDeath has been extremely tragic and really hit the public and services of Worcester hard, it is only right that people are held accountable as to what services are available to help our residents – any of whom could be homeless or rough sleeping at any point in time.

 

Pictured at the top of this article is the Freedom of Information Act request to Worcester City Council which Hugo Sugg submitted about the Tender.

#HugosEarthquake press release: Worcester YMCA up for sale – response.

#HugosEarthquake Press Release: WORCESTER YMCA UP FOR SALE – RESPONSE, 14 SEPTEMBER 2016 | press@hugosearthquake.org

Hugo Sugg, founder of #HugosEarthquake and ex-resident of Worcester YMCA in 2012, has expressed his ‘concern’ at the sale of the 60-bed homeless hostel.

Worcester News have reported today that the building which used to be an orphanage is going up for sale at a price tag of £1,450,000 and the YMCA plan to sell, then lease it back until they find a home for the 60 residents who currently live there.

Through the Worcester News website, YMCA Worcestershire released this statement:

“It is our vision that YMCA moves forward in Worcestershire, providing modern facilities needed by the local community as well as accommodation better suited to the needs of the young people we support.

Part of this involves creating modern ‘campus-style’ housing that encourages our residents to take on training, education and employment opportunities available to them as they seek to move into independent living.”

Founder Hugo Sugg who lived there for 3 months in 2012 when he needed accommodation between his private rent and University accommodation responded to this news: “I am concerned to see the sale of a homeless hostel in Worcester, where homelessness is rising and services are increasingly under pressure with resources and numbers. It would have been my recommendation that they sourced options to move to before putting the building up for sale. I would be interested to know where they think they can ‘just house’ 60 people in a City Centre building…”

The organisation claims they will not make the 60 residents living there homeless and on the streets. For the Worcester News article, please click here.

-END-

Published on 14th September 2016 at 17.20.


If you have any comments, questions or queries about this Press Release, please email our Press Team at press@hugosearthquake.org.

#SomewhereInSummer – from an idea, to petition, to headline news!

So tonight the #SomewhereInSummer Campaign goes REGIONAL in the Midlands on ITV Central News! This is an amazing achievement for a campaign idea which started off as a little idea, a petition started (which you can sign) to a big commercial broadcaster coming to Worcester and filming myself and others for a news story.

Homelessness happens every hour of every day, of every week, of every year – and it doesn’t discriminate. Statistics from a local hostel have shown that the highest number referrals for the service have been in July so far… July being the start of summer, and a hot month. It is a fact that rough sleeping happens all the time but it is normally broadcast around winter-time when media and charities pick up the pace on it.

Last week I was in the Worcester News, yesterday I was on BBC Hereford and Worcester’s Breakfast Show and this morning I was filming for a news piece going out at 6pm! #SomewhereInSummer has grown to immense proportions and am very proud to have worked alongside St. Paul’s Hostel in Worcester and its very supportive Chief Executive, Jonathan Sutton.

There are many things #SomewhereInSummer is trying to do, and one of those has already happened – to help catapult the wider #HugosEarthquake Campaign into a more public spotlight!

I’m not going to say much more about what was said this morning, as I’m going to let the TV do the work! Any feedback about the Campaign or website is welcome – just drop me an email or Tweet.

If you would like to be involved in the Campaign in anyway or share your own experiences of helping homeless people during the summer, please do get in contact using the form below, it would be great to hear from you!

 

Thanks for reading the post – check out the ‘category’ tab on the left hand side for more blog posts from #HugosEarthquake!

See you soon,
Hugo

#SomewhereInSummer: Media plea for summer rough sleep count

More media coverage has come out publicising my #SomewhereInSummer Campaign.
Worcester News reporter James Connell wrote an article which echoes my question ‘why don’t we do a summer rough sleep count?’. Homelessness is ever-changing and this isn’t reflected in compulsory Autumn counts the Local Authority has to do.

Official statistics show that homelessness is rising in the country, and Worcester:

“The Rough Sleeping Statistics for Autumn 2015, published by the Department for Communities and Local Government, recorded that rough sleeping was up, rising in England from 2,744 cases in 2014 to 3,569 in 2015.

Estimates therefore suggest that around 825 more people were rough sleeping in 2015 than 2014 in England, a rise of 30 per cent.

In Worcester there were 27 rough sleepers identified in 2015 (up from 22 the previous year)”

A good friend and key supporter of #HugosEarthquake, CEO of St Paul’s Hostel Jonathan Sutton, confirmed to myself and the newspaper that he would fully support the idea. Worcester City Council have also publicly declared they would be willing to assist anyone planning another count.

I would like to call on supporters of this idea to sign the following official petition launched by this Campaign: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/SomewhereInSummer.

Read the full Worcester News article here

Thank you for supporting #SomewhereInSummer! We are changing lives every day, together.

Hugo
Follow me on TwitterLike the Facebook Page or drop me an email.