After their midnight eviction on 22 Feb this year, protestors of the Occupy London group have turned their attentions to the Government’s housing policy, beginning to draft proposals as well as taking matters in to their own hands.
In a practical application of their beliefs, protestors have offered vulnerable homeless people places in squats in an attempt to keep them off the streets.
The camp was a magnet for the local homeless population, many of whom camped with the protestors during their long vigil. Another less publicised camp does exist at Finsbury Square, but it has limited space and protestors are reported to be worrying about the estimated 67 homeless, mentally ill or addicted occupants without a place to stay.
One of the protestors, Ronan McNern, commented:
‘We have a number of squats that people can go to as a temporary measure.’
But the news comes as proposed legislation to criminalise squatting is expected to be debated in the House of Lords next week.
Howard Sinclair, chief executive of homelessness charity Broadway, warned against the move to encourage squatting: ‘I think this is well intentioned but could harm some [people],’ he said. ‘I would counsel against them doing that.
‘They [vulnerable people] need somewhere that’s stable and supports meeting their needs; and the nature of camps makes these harmful environments for people who will exacerbate their own situations.’
On the political front, the Occupy London movement has established a think tank with a view to creating a set of proposals to present to the Government later this year. In particular, they will be focusing on house prices, housing supply and homelessness.
Chris Fursdon-Davis, a retired doctor who leads the housing think tank, said:
‘The agenda is to explore a programme of social housing provision of high quality and at affordable rent. It is a big ask, but nothing is impossible.’
As part of their plans, the movement has been petitioning housing providers and professional bodies to participate in a seminar on the problems facing Britain’s housing sector. Meanwhile, commentators await with interest the potentially radical contents of the proposals.