Posts Tagged ‘homeless’

Refugee Children, Dead Cyclists & A Squat

Friday, February 11th, 2022

Refugee Children, Dead Cyclists & A Squat – 11th February 2017

Dubs Now – Shame on May

Five years ago, on Saturday 11th February 2017, a crowd of supporters of Citizens UK and Safe Passage joined Lord Alf Dubs at Downing St to take a petition to Theresa May urging her to reverse the decision to stop offering legal sanctuary to unaccompanied refugee children.

The Tory government had been forced into an unusual humanitarian response when Parliment passed the Dubs amendment, and they were then given a list of over 800 eligible children – although there were known to be more whose details were not recorded. And because of Lord Dubs, around 300 have been allowed into the UK. But although twice that number remain in limbo, many in the Calais camps, Prime Minister Theresa May decided to end the scheme.

Lord Dubs speaks

Among those who spoke at the protest before an emergency petition with over 40,000 signatures was taken to Downing St were speakers from four London Labour councils who all said they had told the government they would take more children but their offers had not been taken up.

Dubs Now – Shame on May


Invest in Cycling – Stop Killing Cyclists

Cyclists and supporters met in Trafalgar Square to march to the Treasury on the edge of Parliament Square to call for a significant increase in spending on infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians on our streets.

That week five people were killed on London streets as a result of careless or dangerous driving – accidents are rare, but such deaths are made much more likely by a road system engineered around the needs of car and other vehicle drivers and cutting their journey times through the city. Facilities for cyclists and pedestrians have long been treated as secondary and chronically underfunded.

But these 5 killed, who were remembered in the protest and die-in are a small fraction of the numbers who die prematurely each week in London as a result of high and often illegal levels of air pollution – estimated at around 180 per week, as well as the much higher number of those whose lives are seriously affected by health problems – both figures including many who drive. Powerful lobbies for motorists and vehicle manufacturers have led to the domination of our cities by cars and lorries.

There are huge health benefits from cleaning the air by cutting down traffic and congestion, and also by encouraging healthy activities including walking and cycling. And the main factor discouraging people from taking to bikes for journeys to school, work and shopping etc is the danger from cars and lorries. Better public transport also helps, particularly in cutting pollution levels, and anything that cuts the use of petrol and diesel vehicles will reduce the major contribution this makes to global warming.

Invest in Cycling – Stop Killing Cyclists


ANAL squat in Belgravia

My final event that day was a visit to 4 Grosvenor Gardens, a rather grand house short distance from Buckingham Palace (and more relevant to me, from Victoria Station.) Squatting collective the Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians (ANAL) had taken over this house on February 1st after having been evicted from the Belgrave Square house owned by Russian oligarch Andrey Goncharenko which they occupied for a week.

I’d meant to go there a week earlier, but a domestic emergency had called me away earlier in the day from a protest at the US Embassy before a programme of workshops and seminars in the seven-storey squat had begun. There was nothing special happening on the afternoon I visited (though some things were happening in the evening) but I was welcomed by the occupiers, several of whom recognised me, and they were happy for me to wander around the building and take photographs.

Apart from being careful to respect the privacy of some of the occupiers who were sleeping or resting in a couple of the rooms I was able to go everywhere from the basement to the top floor, but the door leading onto the roof was locked, probably to stop any possible access from there by bailiffs. Like many other houses and hotels in the area it has a view into the grounds of Buckingham Palace, but I had to make do with the view from a rather dusty window, or the less interesting view from lower down where windows could be opened.

Few squats have blue plaques – this one for soldier and archaeologist Lieutenant General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers, but more recently it has been in use for offices, business meetings and conferences. The squatters have tried hard to cause no serious damage and had last week turned out some people who had come to make a mess of the place.

There are around 1.5 million empty buildings in the UK, many like this deliberately kept empty as investments, their value increasing year on year. The number is enough to enough to house the homeless many times over. ANAL say that properties like this should be used for short-term accommodation while they remain empty and they have opened it as a temporary homeless shelter for rough-sleepers.

It remained in use for almost month, with the squat finally evicted at 8am on 27th February. As I ended my post, “There clearly does need to be some way to bring empty properties back into use, and councils should have much greater powers than at present to do so. Until that happens, squatting seems to be the only possible solution.”

ANAL squat in Belgravia


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Property Vultures Self Awards

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

Outside the Housing Awards event at Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane

We suffer from a housing benefits system that actually benefits landlords rather than tenants and a housing policy that is led by the advice of estate agents and developers.

Combined with governments dedicated to austerity and cuts this has led to a record level of evictions, doubling of rough sleeping in London and the worst shortage of truly affordable housing in history, while property developers cash in by building luxury flats for largely overseas investors who have made profits from rapidly rising market prices for flats which are often left empty for all or most of the year.

Protesters pay a brief visit to Foxtons on Park Lane

The attack on social housing was largely begun by Margaret Thatcher, who forced councils to sell off housing stock under her ‘right to buy’ scheme, and stopped councils from using the funds to replace them. Many or most of these properties were later sold to private landlords and became ‘buy to let’ properties at high market rents.

Housing Action Trusts, set up under the 1988 Housing Act took many council estates out of council control, eventually handing them on to housing associations, many of which have become hard to distinguish from commercial landlords.

New Labour ratcheted up the crisis with their emphasis on estate regeneration – whether the tenants wanted it or not. Though possibly begun with good intentions it became a tool used by many councils to demolish social housing and replace it by mixed developments in cooperation with private developers or housing associations which often contain only small amounts of genuinely social housing at ‘council rents’ (though with much less security of tenure) along with various shared ownership and so-called ‘affordable’ rent schemes and a large proportion of properties at market prices.

Often the original tenants and leaseholders of such regenerated estates have been ‘socially cleansed’, forced to move out of the area to lower cost fringe areas. Over 50,000 families have been forced to move out of London, where many more properties remain empty, thanks to housing policies that serve greed rather than need.

Protesters held their own award ceremony outside the hotel

I’m not a fan of awards ceremonies, industry events to pat each other on the back and make effusive speeches. Too often the awards go to the wrong people, but in the case of property developers there are perhaps only wrong people involved. But the protesters held their own, with large cardboard cups going for the Placard Making Award, Demonstration of the Year, Occupation of the Year and Young Protester Personalities of the Year.

Those who turned up to protest outside the plush hotel where the awards event was taking place included many who have been affected by the greed of developers and are fighting against the demolition of their estate or their eviction so that property owners can replace them by wealthier occupiers at market rents.

More pictures on My London Diary: Property Awards at Mayfair Hotel

London life

Tuesday, February 11th, 2020

Possibly the only real weather pictures I took in 2019 were a couple during a short but torrential downpour in central London. I was travelling between protests and had stopped to change buses, and was fortunately standing under a bus shelter when what had been the occasional drop of rain suddenly went rogue. When a woman walked past under a pink umbrella I saw there was a picture and manged a couple of frames with a short telephoto before she walked out of frame and, more or less at the same time my bus arrived.

By the time the bus had gone along most of the Strand the rain had stopped and the pavements were beginning to dry. I looked down from the top deck of the bus and saw this group of three men sheltering in front of a print shop with bedding and belongings beside them. It’s a sight that is unfortunately far too common in London now, though virtually unknown in my younger days when I started taking pictures.

Under both New Labour, Tory Lib-Dem coalition and Tory governments we have seen increasing inequalities and a change in government policies, increasingly moving away from an attitude of care for the welfare of the poorest and towards a criminalisation of poverty, with councils bringing in bylaws that regard people living on the streets simply as an incovenient eyesore, fining people who feed those on the streets and also those sleeping rough. We used to say that Britain was a Christian country, but it’s hard to see that in practice now.

I was in Brixton for a protest against the continuing persecution of Windrush family members and other migrants and the increasing levels of hate crime encouraged by government policies and actions. Places like this are suffering from the Home Office’s ‘hostile environment’ and immigration removal squads. But I’m always impressed by the colour and vibrancy of the place – and so are all those wealthy young people who are moving in and leading its gentrification.

One of those things that you obviously see when travelling by bus – at least if you have the energy to climb the stairs to the upper deck of London’s many double-deckers is the roofs of the cars. I’m always rather disappointed if the bus I’m taking turns out only to be a single decker, as the views from the top deck are so much more interesting.

This month the various traffic jams around Trafalgar Square gave me plenty of time to contemplate the reflections in car roofs and to photogrpah a few of them. It’s rather tricky angling the camera down at an angle and often the glass is too dirty to make it worthwhile; reflections also often spoil the images, though I use my arms and coat to try to cut them out. I do have the solution to this in a giant floppy lens hood, but that sits protecting a little dust on my desk at home whenever I need it.

The line of hexagons at the bottom of this image rather adds to it, and is on the window of the bus. I think this is the full frame as I made the picture and would perhaps benefit from a slight crop at top and right. Although the sun was out, you can see a sky pretty full of clouds reflected in the roof.

See more pictures from my September travels around London on My London Diary at London Images .


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