As winter creeps in a handful of locals decided that the councils apathy regarding the homeless simply isn’t acceptable and set about doing something about it. That something is called the “Manchester Winter Shelter“. Their aim is to provide a safe and secure space for the cities homeless from the 18th of December until the end of February.
On the 15th they let word out that they had squatted the old Jobcentre on Clarence road in Longsight and were preparing it to house people. Donations came pouring in and they set to work not only preparing the place for it’s would be residents but heading out onto the streets to help with the regular outreach of Manchester Homeless Group and started to talking to people in need of a roof. They faced a difficult task indeed but were instantly inundated with support from folk from across Manchester as well as with the mutual aid of other Homeless support organisations.
Such a space couldn’t come at a more important time. We started the year with the revelation that in 2017, 21 homeless people died in Manchester, the highest of any Local Authority Area in the country. The usual platitudes were given by various councillors and MPs as too the promises to increase funding. In September, 377 families and 715 single people in Manchester turned to the council for support. This figure, even with conservative estimates, equals more than double the monthly rate last year. Like every single council across the country they talk about compassion while neglecting the vunerable and only moving to act when they are forced into action by some news piece and even then it is almost always just to move on “problem groups”. Their only move is to keep the crisis out of the public view, where it can’t hurt the revenue of local buisnesses, from Cardiff’s Queens Street to the parks of Bristol, hiding the homeless is the default response. 254 homeless encampments were cleared by councils last year, 182 more than in 2014 and as an added insult many councils place a charge as high as £50 for the return of the items they have stolen in these clearances.
The result of this is a homeless community without even the loosest form of regular bunk. Charitable services are finding it increasingly hard to keep track of people in need and vunerable adults and children alike slip through the gaps all to often never to be seen again. The war on homelessness and the lack of services mean that – according the Shelter – some 280,000 people (1 in 200 people in the UK) will be sleeping rough on Christmas day.
Not really a suprise then that by the 18th the Manchester Winter Shelter team were taken to court facing a possension order and summarily given their marching orders. The courts as ever, quite happy to turf people back out into the cold. The council remaining silent, no doubt readily with some additional thoughts and prayers come the first few deaths. The crew took a second building the same day but faced and extreme response from the Landlord (given a rather dramatic video of some fellas putting the boot to the door) and are currently inbetween homes, albeit not for long one would hope.
Maybe you’d called it a social centre, maybe you wouldn’t but these community organised shelters need our solidarity and support. If you have a crew and the capacity, take their actions and let it plant a seed. Take a building and open it up, even if you only manage to keep the rain of someones heads for a few nights, it makes a difference. Share your knowledge and help take back what the parasitic landlords and council officers are so keen to keep empty. Whether you make press about it or not, squat buildings, donate what you can to those in need and whoever takes a angle grinder to the utterly vile metal grilles they’ve put up in at Black Rock in Brighton, you’re a legend to be sure.
From that glum note to something a bit more chipper for my last note, a much loved New Years Bash!. While no doubt a few places will be having private shindigs (and check in wwith your local social centre for their schedule over the holidays) a few spaces will be rocking a full on party for the NYE and you are invited! I’ll add a wee list below, so if you’re feeling social and fancy a boogie get your fancy gear on, round up the squad and head on out. Big events like NYE can often be vital in keeping centres afloat so head on down and support your local by having a blast and dancing in the New Year. If you’re not able to make to one of these, it’s always worth checking your local prison too. NYE makes a grand evening for a bit of solidarity noise making after all. Pentonville will once again be a bit of a rave and I hear maybe Bristol will be out again too? Check in with your local trouble for more info.
As we head into the depths of the holiday season I hope you all stay warm, stay safe and remember to check in on your comrades prone to SAD and what not, eh? Have ayourselves a kewl yule and I hope you have yourselves a happy new year whatever you get up too.
That’s me signing off for the year. See you in 2020.
Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!
Peter Ó Máille
DIY Space for London – DIY Space X The Family Jewels: y2k New Years Eve Houseparty
Partisan – NYE Party
The Cowley Club – Brighton Punx New Year’s Eve Picnic