Bristol Housing Action Movement

Independent squatters and homeless group

Monday, 25 January 2016

Bristol Council v. Unhappy Campers

Increasing numbers of people are living long term in tents in Bristol's parks.  You don't do that over winter for the fucking fun of it.  You do it because you have absolutely no choice.  So Bristol Council's latest pronouncements about arresting homeless people camping and taking their tents from them is sickening.

Bristol's homeless campers could have their tents confiscated and face court action

There's always been a few rough sleepers living in improvised camps in Leigh Woods and similar places on the outskirts of town.  People living in tents in parks in the city is a new phenomenon.

Shortage of social and private rented accommodation combined with benefits cuts is pushing increasing numbers of people into homelessness.

And for homeless people their options are shrinking.  Residential squatting was banned in 2012.  Austerity means support for homeless people has been cut.  There are fewer hostel spaces and these are becoming tougher to live in as only the most desperate will face it.  'Move-on' is to a private tenancy run by violent slum lords.

And if you are totally fucked and have no other option putting up a tent and doing your desperate best is all there is left.

Bristol Council are currently in the process of passing bylaws making it a criminal offence to camp in parks.  They're now talking about using anti-social behaviour laws to criminalise homeless people and take their possessions off them.

And, sinisterly, "Enforcement action will also be taken if people are camping in public places and parks and they are not engaging with the rough sleeping service to move into accommodation."

What is "public space" in this context - are Council staff going to go charging onto land owned by other public bodies trashing tents?

What does "not engaging" with the rough sleeping service mean?  The rough sleeping service can't help everybody - if you haven't been in Bristol for six months for example.  And most people don't want to end up in a hostel so the rough sleepers service can do the square root of fuck all for them.

The 'problem' of people living in tents in the city isn't going to go away.  All the Council's threats will mean is that people gather together in larger groups.


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