Many of you may have seen the news last week, and most of you would probably have been angry by reading it.
Headlines such as “LAWMAKER WANT BEGGARS REMOVED BEFORE ROYAL WEDDING” and “WINDSOR COUNCIL LEADER CALLS FOR REMOVAL OF HOMELESS BEFORE ROYAL WEDDING”.
It certainly had an effect on me, as a Trustee of a homeless charity in the Royal Borough, especially when I know so many of those ‘homeless’ that need tidying away before the big day. I was angry and upset that a professional beggar (or an aggressive beggar) was being tarred with the same brush as a vulnerable homeless person, who is just looking for a place to sleep for the night.
We see it every single day. It’s what I do in my spare time, and Councillor Dudley’s letter was shocking to read. But I wanted to use this news to create positive change.
The Trustees (Susan Brett, Katie Brett and I) saw this as an opportunity. With my PR experience, my third sector experience and with a team at Nobull full of media training savvies, I felt prepared to start talking.
We released a statement in The Guardian, which is where the story first broke out nationally. Then came a tweet from BBC Radio 2 producer for the Jeremy Vine show.
Next thing I know, I’m on the Jeremy Vine show, discussing the work that The Brett Foundation do on a daily basis, with a spokesperson from Crisis and the Councillor of Newmarket. You can listen here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09js4v3
Radio work isn’t easy, but I had my colleagues keeping me calm along the way, and even pin pricking me when I repeatedly used the words, ‘you know’ to make time for myself.
Next was Talk Radio – a much more relaxed and light hearted interview with the presenter, where we discussed the issues surrounding Dudley’s statement, but also invited Harry and Meghan to open up Buckingham Palace for the homeless people in the Royal Borough. You can listen at 2pm here http://talkradio.co.uk/radio/listen-again/1515070800#
I was then interviewed by Buzzfeed News, with our article trending for hours. This is because our drop in centre is being taken away from us to be turned into a new car park in the town centre. https://www.buzzfeed.com/hannahalothman/windsor-council-could-be-about-to-close-its-only-daily?utm_term=.dcal50ZzWV#.ec2lMkQ0NE
Last but not least, was BBC Berkshire, our invested local radio station who interviewed me at length about the problem. It is also the only radio station that Simon Dudley went on to defend his comments. I was then interviewed straight after to provide my thoughts. (He’s apologised for making a dangerous statement). http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05r3jfk#play
A busy week, to say the least. But the most positive start to 2018 that I could have asked for. Not only for my own personal reasons, but for the fact that this media storm has put the issue in the spotlight. An issue close to our hearts, an issue that we live with and try to tackle for our service users every single day. For once, we have a voice, and we are using it at the top of our lungs.
We met with the councillor Simon Dudley on Monday, and we really believe we can work with him to make positive steps to help the issue in the borough. Simon has promised us his full attention to dealing with the issues at hand. He has extended the use of our drop in centre, and promised us a new premises totally rent free when the time comes to leave our current one. We don’t want to be at war with anyone – as a small local charity, we are so grateful to have open communication with the council, the police and the people who need us most to work together to tackle this problem and come up with long term solutions.
Katie has written to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to invite them to come and visit our centre. We think it’d make a fantastic statement, and shine a very positive light on Windsor.
Last week’s news will be forgotten, but we will continue to fight and make a real difference until we see change.