The ‘unseen homeless’ of Bristol

Women’s’ rights activists disrupt a Bristol City Council meeting in protest of the council’s proposal to rehouse domestic violence survivors and demand an increase in social housing across the city.

The Bristol branch of Sisters Uncut attended a full council meeting on 13 December 2016 and revealed a banner whilst shouting and setting off rape alarms. The Sisters were protesting after the council failed to grant priority housing to all victims of domestic abuse in their draft proposal.

Watch the video:

The council’s draft proposal has suggested that they will prioritise high-risk victims of domestic abuse by awarding band 1 (the highest priority) to those who have been through a MARAC (multi-agency risk assessment conference). Bristol Sisters Uncut condemn the proposal as ‘totally inadequate to support victims of DV’.

Picture credit: Nina Napier
Charlotte Gage of Bristol Zero Tolerance Picture: Nina Napier

Charlotte Gage, who works for Bristol Zero Tolerance, a gender-based violence project, agrees with Sister’s Uncut that the proposal does not go far enough. “Only 10% of domestic abuse cases receive a MARAC assessment which means only 25 ‚Äď 50 women per year would receive priority banding in Bristol on the council’s current proposals”.

Gage says that some women choose to stay in abusive and violent relationships to avoid becoming homeless. She believes that there are fewer women on the streets because they are the ‘unseen homeless’ and when confronted with a lack of social housing to support them, this presents a stark choice for women facing abuse.

Charlotte Gage talks about women’s homelessness and the¬†housing crisis:

Bristol Sisters Uncut were escorted from the council chamber during their protest before they could read their full statement.  They later posted it on their Facebook Page.

Molly, a member of Bristol Sister’s Uncut who attended the action said:

‚ÄúWe believe the council is failing in their promise to support survivor‚Äôs of DV. When we started to read our statement the council started removing us. The security were quite aggressive, they bruised one member of the group and someone else was grabbed around their ribs.”

Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, promised in the run up to his election to prioritise social housing for domestic violence survivors living in safe houses in Bristol.

Picture credit: Steinsky Creative Commons licence

The Council declined to comment but released a statement in relation to the incident on 13 December:

‚ÄúDuring today’s council meeting a protest group unfurled a banner, started chanting and let off an alarm. The Mayor, Marvin Rees, offered to meet them after the meeting to discuss their protest and the action they want to see happen. When they continued shouting they were asked to leave and then escorted from the Chamber.”¬†

Mayor Marvin Rees added:

‚ÄúI have prioritised housing for women fleeing domestic violence and abuse. The proposal we have put out for consultation follows input from leading DVA and homelessness charities in the city. We have asked people to contribute to the consultation to make sure that the proposal that comes to Cabinet in the New Year ensures that Bristol is a place of safety for DVA victims, but in a context where 10,000 households are on the waiting list including 500 families in temporary accommodation.”¬†

‚ÄúI agree with Sisters Uncut Bristol when they say a major issue is the lack of available homes versus a very high demand. This leaves us in a difficult position because there are all sorts of vulnerable and at-risk groups of people who need housing. We have tried to find a workable solution based on assessing the risk to people.”

Sisters uncut screengrab

The council’s consultation¬†has been extended until the 6 January 2017, with the result expected on 13 January. Although the council has said that they would like to speak with Bristol Sisters Uncut, they have yet to have a meeting.

Molly from Bristol Sisters Uncut talks about the protest and why they felt it was important to act for victims of domestic abuse:

‘Homelessness Hotspot”

The social housing problem is not just limited to women in domestic abuse situations in Bristol. According to Shelter, the UK’s leading homelessness charity, one in 199 people live in Bristol without a home. They believe the situation has hit crisis point and the chief executive Campbell Robb said: “A modern day housing crisis is tightening its grip on our country. Decades in the making, this is the tragic result of a nation struggling under the weight of sky-high rents, a lack of affordable homes, and cuts to welfare support.” Shelter believe Bristol is one of the ‘homelessness hotspots’ of the UK alongside London and Brighton.

homelessness
Picture credit: Nina Napier

On 7 December 2016 Bristol City Council released the annual rough sleeper count figure. 74 people were sleeping rough in Bristol during the annual count, which is lower than the 97 recorded last year (although the 2015 figure was based on an estimate rather than an actual count). Marvin Rees acknowledges that there are unseen homeless people who also need support and are not included in that figure.

David Ingerslev,¬†co-chair of the Rough Sleeping Partnership said “between November 2015 and October 2016 1,100 individuals were supported by the Bristol Rough Sleeping Partnership, led by St Mungo’s and other partners. Around 150 people are being supported by the outreach team and the majority of people being supported will sleep rough only when they have no other option”¬†

Charlotte Gage says “we are not saying this is worse for one particular group. We are trying to ensure that the most vulnerable groups can access social housing and increase their support.”

The ‘unseen homeless’ of Bristol

Sky Kong Kong: a little Korea in Bristol

I live my life by following my tastebuds. I read about this place as the Chef had worked at Michellin star restaurants such as Nobu and Hakkasan. As a born-again postgrad student, the price tag of £12.50 a head for a 3 course meal seemed completely unbelievable*. So I just had to give it a try.

The restaurant doesn’t look like much from the outside. Most people I have mentioned it to have absolutely no idea where it is. Hidden on Haymarket Walk just off the Bearpit, it’s out of the way but well worth the search.

Those that want an extensive menu to pick from will not find it here. The set menu changes daily, with an option of meat and fish or vegetarian. They ask about allergies on booking, which I like a lot (not because I have any, but because it’s good to know they care.) The staff are very polite and smiley. Oh, and the restaurant is very intimate. All guests sit on one large table in the centre of the restaurant, this is cool but be prepared to apologise to numerous people on the way to the loo. The atmosphere is cosy yet intriguing – you are surrounded by pickling kimchi and exotic fruits to wonder at.

The service is excellent. The front of house staff explain each course with easy precision; the ingredients, where it came from and can even answer all your questions i.e. what the heck is a Rambutan?

Beetroot cured salmon, black sesame paste, rambutan, kiwi, yuzu, watermelon, purple potato and buckwheat noodles.

For starters, we’re brought beetroot cured salmon which was delightfully meaty and fresh. It was accompanied by a black sesame paste and an array of tropical wonders including the aforementioned rambutan, kiwi, yuzu infused watermelon, purple potato and buckwheat noodles. For me, this was literally the perfect way to start, the dish was fresh on the palate and the subtle sweetness of the fruit really left you wanting more. The unusual fruits really added to the experience and the presentation of the dish was outstanding.

Grilled mackerel, honey and mustard chicken and steamed rice with dates

For the main course, we were shocked at the sheer amount of food that came out to the table for us. I’m a big fan of interactive eating so it was nice to pick and choose from a bunch of different dishes and sides. My favourite was probably the honey and mustard chicken, the sauce light and tangy and the chicken very tender. The Chef also served grilled mackerel which had delicious crispy skin and a perfectly delicate white flesh.

Accompanying the main was a selection of sides including steamed rice with dates, pickled durdock in gochujang, Nori egg rolls, oyster mushrooms, baby anchovies and a kale salad with goji berries. My favourite was the salty and crunchy anchovies – unbelievably moreish. I didn’t love the steamed rice and I found it a bit bland. However, I do have a bit of an aversion to dates so that could have put me off it.

My one and only gripe is that we weren’t offered kimchi. As it’s an acquired taste, the front of house staff are meant to check to see if you want to try it but we seem to have been overlooked. We only know this because the Chef caught us after our meal and let slip that we should have been offered it. She promised to let us try as much as we liked next time.

Pickled burdock in gochujang sauce, pancake, nori egg rolls, oyster mushrooms, baby anchovies and kale salad.

The set menu is priced at £12.50 a head, so a ridiculously reasonable price. For an extra £2.50, you can order the dessert. Well, the chocolate mousse was unlike anything I have ever had before. Subtle chocolate cream with a hint of tart raspberry. Delectable.

Did I mention it was BYO? Rejoice.

If you fancy something a little different where the experience is on par with the standard of the cooking then you need to try Sky Kong Kong. It’s a well-kept secret and you’ll be glad you joined the club.

* disclaimer – the friends I went with are certainly not poor students and they agreed it was ridiculous value.

Sky Kong Kong: a little Korea in Bristol

Killer clown craze hits Bristol

The Police warn the public not to take matters into their own hands following reports of ¬†‚Äúkiller clowns‚ÄĚ in Bristol.

The phenomenon originated as a prank in the US. People dressing up in creepy clown masks and roaming the streets in an attempt to scare the public.

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Reports on social media said that some of the sinister clowns have been wielding knives and BB guns.

There have been sightings across Bristol and Somerset; Charlton Hayes, Bradley Stoke, Stapleton, Brent Knoll, Keynsham and Winterbourne.

The police received several reports of people dressed as the clowns who were behaving in an ‚Äėanti-social and threatening manner‚Äô and have urged the public to report any sightings or behaviour that they are worried about.

In a statement released by¬†Avon and Somerset Police, inspector Julie Knight warned: ‚ÄúAnyone involved in intimidating or threatening behaviour may end up committing an offence, being arrested and having a criminal record and we‚Äôd urge them to think carefully about the consequences of their actions.‚ÄĚ

The craze has attracted a following by local people on social media with many reports of sightings in the past week. The police have asked people to refrain from taking matters into their own hands.

Facebook
Facebook group monitoring clown sitings

‚ÄúNo need to panic‚ÄĚ

Shops selling clown masks say they haven’t seen a rise in sales due to the craze.

Dave Gaze, owner of Chaplin‚Äôs fancy dress shop in Bristol City Centre said: ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt think there is any need to panic. I think it is just a bunch of idiots who have just decided to use clown outfits as a disguise when trying to intimidate people. They could’ve just as readily used something else.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúClowns feature every year because people try to imitate the Pennywise character in Stephen King‚Äôs book and film ‚ÄėIt‚Äô. Some years are more popular than others. It is just this time of year that people dress up stupid for fun but some people have taken it too far this year‚ÄĚ said Mr Gaze.

Follow the killer clown craze further:

 

Killer clown craze hits Bristol

Restorative Justice campaign brings together victims of crime and offenders

Restorative Justice week kicks off in Bristol. The aim: to repair the harm done by crime and help victims get closure. 

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Picture credit: jeanbaptisteparis Creative Commons licence

November 21-25 2016 saw a number of events across Bristol to raise awareness about the campaign which organised by Restorative Bristol Рan umbrella organisation that includes Bristol City Council, Avon & Somerset Police and Bristol Lighthouse Victim care.

The aim of the partnership is to promote the campaign and make restorative approaches the first option for dealing with disputes.  They provide Bristol’s communities with advocates and champions who are well informed of the availability of restorative approaches.

“It is really important that people don’t see restorative justice as an alternative to a conviction – ¬†that’s really not the case” Stephanie Todd, Lighthouse and Avon and Somerset Police.

Within the criminal justice system, restorative processes are completely voluntary and give victims the chance to communicate with their perpetrators to explain the real impact of their crime.

It aims to empower victims by giving them a voice and it also holds perpetrators to account for what they have done and helps them to take responsibility and make amends.

The scheme, launched in December 2012,  is available to all victims of crime across Avon and Somerset.

Stephanie Todd, Restorative Justice Coordinator for Bristol said: “It can work for low-level offences and it can work for more serious crimes as well”

restorative-justiceOn Tuesday 22 November representatives from Restorative Bristol held a special information stall at the Citizens Service Point at 100 Temple Street and there was an evening talk at the Watershed on Wednesday 23 November.

Guest speakers included PC Mark Brain of Avon and Somerset Police, Marian Liebmann of the Road Sharing Scheme, Dr Nikki McKenzie of UWE Bristol, Stephanie Todd of Lighthouse and Avon and Somerset Police, and Michelle Windle of The Green House.

Listen to more about Restorative Justice from Stephanie Todd:

In a recent survey by the Restorative Justice Council only 28% of people had heard of Restorative Justice. The survey showed 80% of the public believe that victims of crime should have the right to meet their offender and the figure rose to 85% when victims of crime were asked.

Interested? Follow for more info on Restorative Justice:

Restorative Justice campaign brings together victims of crime and offenders

Stoptober: Free ‘quit smoking’ support for hospital staff

Hospital staff in Bristol are getting free one-to-one support to help them quit smoking.

smoking1

The University Hospital Bristol NHS Foundation Trust (UH Bristol) has appointed smoke-free expert Nichola Woodacre to encourage staff to quit and run 12 weeks of one to one sessions.

Employees working in a high pressured environment and those who have smoked for a long time may find it harder to quit, according to Nichola.

She said:¬†“It is important staff can set an example to patients and visitors, to promote healthier living and good practice at our hospitals.”

The work¬†coincides with the Stoptober campaign for October which is spreading the message that if you¬†stop for 28 days you’re five times more likely to quit for good.

The response to the sessions have seen some success from staff including Rachel Hartles, a reception and print supervisor at UH Bristol, who said:¬†“I was given a wealth of information about the health benefits of quitting, financial savings and methods to achieve my goal without having to go cold turkey.”

“It’s been two weeks, I’ve smoked one and a half cigarettes, used and inhaler and patches and I can already notice a difference in myself.”

“My chest feels more open and I feel much more alert. I am now at the same level as someone who doesn’t smoke and I couldn’t be more proud.”

26 of the 50 employees seen in the sessions by UH Bristol are now smoke-free.

Stoptober: Free ‘quit smoking’ support for hospital staff

How to survive your Quarter Life Crisis

October 2014

It‚Äôs no secret that today‚Äôs 20 something‚Äôs face a social reality more shocking than an episode of Geordie Shore. In fact, in my opinion, the¬†conundrum encountered by this age group¬†is enough to¬†create an entire generation of borderline schizophrenics. I feel like one of them. We live in the limbo between the giant pressure cooker that claims to be ‚Äėreal life‚Äô and the online, fancy version which is susceptible to making yourself (and of course others) both paranoid and jealous.

My New Home. Playa Samara at Sunset, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
My New Home. Playa Samara at Sunset, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

A Quarter Life Crisis is a genuine and frightening phenomenon. It must be, there’s a whole website and a bunch of self-help books out there. There also seems to be a common consensus that this generation has it worse than former ones. Excellent news. It‚Äôs¬†very encouraging to hear that the most daunting and challenging years between 20 and now 30 are even worse than they were¬†before.¬†Even my dear mother, faced with an unwashed and frantically pacing daughter, cut out a newspaper article on the subject¬†and felt the need to present it to me at dinner. I know it¬†was an attempt to make me feel better but¬†I just¬†reacted in my usual dramatic way and asked why she was implying my breakdown was just like everyone else’s? Wasn’t it just me that felt this way? How many other recent graduates felt as if their¬†lives¬†were already teetering over the edge of despair? See, I told you; I’m dramatic. The odds are¬†that¬†if you fit the age bracket and the constant pressure and expectation hasn‚Äôt got to you yet it probably will at some point soon. Buenos¬†Suerte.

This first entry is an account of my own mental pile up and how it led to my life rummaging around on beaches in Central America making things out of driftwood and pretty shells. Driftwood is a good descriptive term for many people in this generation. I drifted into this little beach town in Costa Rica just as the many others have drifted through the first quarter of their lives, ready and waiting to wash up and see what happens.

So the lowdown on my life before I started pretending to be a¬†beached mermaid? I was a recent¬†law graduate from a prestigious University in the North of England. I then worked as a Paralegal for 10 months, which¬†I know was lucky as many people never¬†even get that far straight off the back of their undergraduate law degree.¬†However, for me, the process of becoming a lawyer in England was like slowly pulling each individual hair out of my head and assigning it¬†over to someone who might¬†want to make it into a wig someday.¬†It’s long, painful and expensive.

I know that if you truly want something then pain¬†and competition shouldn’t put you off.¬†I guess it should drive you, but there is no way I can say that I was¬†even remotely passionate¬†about sitting in the same office seat¬†for 60 hours a week. Forcing information into my brain that just did not interest or stimulate me. Working in the law firm made me the most paranoid I have ever been. ¬†I was miserable. I did anything and everything to distract myself and I worried obsessively that I wasn’t good enough.

My peers at University were (and still are) exceptional, driven people who are so intelligent I often felt l like a rigid sack of potatoes when sat in lectures with them. Many of my friends will go far, many of them are already the most successful people I know. But for me, I always felt like a bit of an oddball, a bit lacking somewhere along the line.¬†I once had a seminar where we were asked ‘what do you want¬†to be in¬†the future?’ The replies from the others were exactly what you would expect a group of highly intelligent¬†practising¬†lawyers to say: ‘I’m interested in Corporate law”I want to be in politics’ ‘I want to be a top Barrister’ ‘a Judge’. However, my reply was a little more unorthodox… ‘I want to live in a house by the sea and grow my own vegetables.’

Yes, you can just¬†imagine the faces. Paying thousands and thousands of pounds for my education and I’d said that. I know now that¬†I said it because I had no idea. I was terrified. I loved my degree, filling my brain with that sawdust of knowledge and experience. I did well in my exams, was annoyingly into extra-curricular activities and I still managed to rave. I knew I wasn’t going to fail by any means, but I didn’t actually have any clue what to do with myself.

And anyway, everything ‘sensible’ thing I applied to do in law rejected me from doing it and¬†anything that seemed like a fun thing to do appeared to harm my future¬†as a serious lawyer. How could I justify travelling? Doing a season? I needed to work, be successful. Buy shit.

Where the Mojito was made. Rejoice! Havana, Cuba.In part, Facebook is to blame to my QLC. Those of us that have an addiction to it, which let’s face it,¬†seems to be¬†the majority of the world, know that the more you use it¬†the worse it gets. Every day some online friend gets married,¬†buys a house or a dog, meets a famous person, goes to an¬†exclusive gig or, the worst in my opinion, travels to somewhere incredible. The real twist of the¬†knife¬†is if they have pictures¬†of themselves surfing in water temperatures above 15 degrees. That really breaks my heart.

Cut to me after an awful day at work combined with my third training contract rejection of the week. I scrolled through my timeline to see two facebook friends smiling from Bali. Mascara dripping down my face, wine in hand, I stared at a flight on Sky Scanner.  I just did it. I booked a flight and I downed my wine.

It makes me laugh now to think that the bravest thing I had ever done in my life up to that point was to book a one-way ticket to Mexico. Why? I have done so many things since; jumped off bridges, volcano boarding, caving, surfing in an area home to crocodiles, fallen in love in paradise, riding horses through the jungle. Hell, I lived and worked in one of the most dangerous countries in the world (El Salvador has the most homicides of any country not at war Рplease go though!! The people have the strongest will for their country to overcome this, the land is beautiful) I guess what I am saying is: life cannot be experienced until you get out of your comfort zone and stop worrying about where you will end up. Try something a little different.

I’d been travelling since May 2014 throughout all of Central America and I came to the rather scary decision to¬†settle for a while in Costa Rica, in¬†a small but¬†wonderful town called Samara.¬†Lonely Planet describes this place as ‘The Black Hole of Happiness’ and I can attest to that. I was not shy about showing off my new home to the online world.

I lived in a town with no more than 3,000 people. Mainly local Costa Ricans lived there but there were Europeans and Americans too. I think the reason I loved it so much was that I was one of only 3 British people not just passing through. On the Central American surf loop it’s hard to find a spot that’s not overrun with a) gap yah kids b) Australians/North Americans who are far too good at surfing c) locals who are far too good at surfing who don’t want to kill you whilst you attempt to get better at surfing. Samara had bad waves on the main strip but better, secret spots just 15 minutes cycle away. Nothing huge but consistent and there was often no-one in the lineup. I knew I had found my paradise. Where I could surf and think and get away from the pressure cooker.

People from home posted that they missed me and they wanted my life. My life? Sure, it was beautiful but my life¬†felt no more real than it was before. I was just happier and knew how to relax. So when you’re happy I guess that’s how life plays out on the internet; it almost¬†appears unattainable regardless if other people are also doing cool shit.

Millions of people have all seen the YouTube Clip of the Alan Watts‚Äô ‘What if Money Didn‚Äôt Matter‚Äô. It’s inspiring. ¬†However, most humans cannot help but worry. All I know is, once¬†you stop thinking about money or career success, come to think of it anything that worries you, it’s like a weight has been lifted.

Survive your quarter life crisis by embracing it. It will work out.

In May 2014 I travelled to Cuba, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica. In total, I didn’t return to the UK for over a year. As my mum will certainly tell you: I was not supposed to be away that long.

I learnt another language, lived in a beach shack with no roof, got barrelled and caught Dengue fever. I also volunteered countless hours of my time to help some amazing causes. To say the experience was unforgettable would be an understatement.

Here are a few snaps along the way.

Sliding down an active Volcano on a piece of wood in Leon, Nicaragua. I got up to 62km.
Sliding down an active Volcano on a piece of wood in Leon, Nicaragua. I got up to 62km.
Gran Cenote, Mexico.
Gran Cenote, Mexico.
Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
Snorkelling with Turtles in Tulum, Mexico.
Snorkelling with Turtles in Tulum, Mexico.
The Unbelizeable Caye Caulker, Belize.
The Unbelizeable Caye Caulker, Belize.
Mayan Ruins in the jungle. Tikal, Guatemala.
Mayan Ruins in the jungle. Tikal, Guatemala.
River Tubing. Semuc Champey, Guatemala.
River Tubing. Semuc Champey, Guatemala.
Up the Indian's Nose for Sunrise, Santa Clara, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.
Up the Indian’s Nose for Sunrise, Santa Clara, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.
First stop for surfing was El Tunco, El Salvador.
First stop for surfing was El Tunco, El Salvador.
Facing fears. Semuc Champey, Guatemala.
Facing fears. Semuc Champey, Guatemala. Photo credit goes to the ridiculously talented Andy Flynn.
How to survive your Quarter Life Crisis