High Sheriff hears how Brighton housing charity helps people facing homelessness – plus the courts and council
The High Sheriff of East Sussex has heard first-hand how a Brighton housing charity helps not just people facing homelessness but the courts and council too.
She visited the Brighton Housing Trust (BHT) advice centre in Queen’s Road, Brighton, today (Thursday 26 November) and praised the dedication and professionalism of the charity’s staff.
High Sheriff Juliet Smith was joined by the former High Sheriff Hugh Burnett, now a BHT board member, and the charity’s chief executive Andy Winter.
The purpose of the visit was to familiarise the High Sheriff with the advice centre’s work, including the court duty scheme that BHT operates in Brighton, Eastbourne, Lewes and Hastings county courts.
The court duty scheme ensures that people attending court who face eviction can get proper representation.
BHT also operates an immigration legal service that provides publicly funded advice and representation in all areas of asylum law and immigration cases involving domestic violence and human trafficking for exploitation.
The High Sheriff also heard how a new webcam advice service operates, allowing those who can’t come in for face to face advice to seek advice using Skype.
She said: “I was fascinated to learn how multi-faceted BHT is, the value of that being there can be so much more valuable interaction between the various agencies.
“BHT covers not just Brighton and Hove but has centres in Eastbourne and Hastings ensuring consistency across our city and county.
“I was also enormously impressed by the professionalism and dedication of the staff who increasingly have to work under challenging circumstances. BHT has a real heart.”
Andy Winter said: “Our housing casework and advice is aimed at preventing homelessness and sustaining tenancies and owner occupation.
“We support households to manage their costs by alleviating debt and poverty and where possible maximising incomes.
“We assist clients to access social housing where possible but increasingly they are having to turn to the private rented sector.
“We also take action to see an improvement in housing conditions and wellbeing in all housing sectors.
“There are huge benefits from our work, not just to the individuals who we advise and represent.
“We help to reduce the costs to local authorities of housing homeless households and administering homelessness applications.
“We help to reduce the number of individuals representing themselves in court, thereby slowing down court time and putting unnecessary pressure on the judiciary.”