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How Brighton’s ‘Why Not?’ club was born

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Date Published: 
Thursday, November 15, 2018 - 16:45

Brighton has a large number of homeless people and at times you can’t walk down Queens Road without seeing at least 10 people who are begging for money, food or a drink.

We spoke to Diana Saine, Operations Director for Agincare's Staff Now, about how she went about helping the homeless people feel part of the local community:

"We had a small encampment outside our Staff Now office and the guys had unfortunately allotted our doorway as their urinal. This meant that every morning we would have to wash the doorstep with bleach or antibacterial wash and hot water." 

This became increasingly frustrating, so one day having witnessed one of them doing it in broad daylight, Diana decided to tackle the issue head-on:

"I had a chat with him about it. At first, Scotty was very defensive saying there was not a public toilet nearby. Flippantly I replied suggesting he move his home closer to one. We had a bit of a laugh and some banter ensued."

Diana continued; "The next morning, with the doorway free of wee, Scotty popped his head round the door and asked if he could borrow a broom as he wanted to tidy up outside the front of the office. I put the kettle on and we started an understanding that he could always have a cup of tea so long as he returned the cup." 

And so it continued. Sometimes Scotty brought a friend or two, so it would be a few cups of tea and maybe a packet of biscuits. Slowly but surely, Diana and her staff got to know a few of the homeless people in Queens Road, enough not to be asked for money or cigarettes anymore. They would regularly have a brief chat, nothing major just a bit of banter.

"Later that month, Noel, the manager of the Brighton Agincare AUK branch, wanted to take the rubbish out to the bins at the back of the office", Diana continued, "but he was a little wary as there were about five homeless people out there. I grabbed half the rubbish and said these guys are lovely, I will introduce you. As soon as I arrived at the bins, we had a friendly chat and the lads opened the lid for me. My colleague was surprised at how friendly they were!"

Diana then described how Noel came to her later that week to discuss the homeless neighbours and soon after the Why Not? club was born with a camping gas stove, a fold-away table and some bread, bacon, sauce, tea, butter and milk. The Why Not? club was set up on 12 September 2018 at 7.15am. Four people came on the first day and now the numbers vary from 4 to 16. It runs every Wednesday morning from 7.30am until 8.30am.

We asked Diana what the response has been like from the local homeless community;

"Stephen, a regular at our Why Not? club, dropped a lovely box of chocolates in to us one morning to say thank you. He said that the ladies and lads are so grateful and love it because they know we are doing it because we care. We now really look forward to Wednesday mornings and the crazy conversations we have!"

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