Over 20 homeless people and activists challenge council to provide permanent accommodation
A CAMP OF HOMELESS PROTESTERS will resist any attempt to shut down their Glasgow city centre protest against inequality and a lack of housing support.
Around twenty tents have built up in Glasgow’s George Square since Sunday 20 March, with homeless people and protestors desperate to secure extra social services support.
The council pressed for an eviction order from the sheriff court, which they claim can be enforced despite an appeal from the campers and an attempt to find legal loopholes.
“We don’t want to be here. Why would anyone want to sleep outside in the cold? We have nowhere else to go.” Stephen, a camper
CommonSpace witnessed the heated confrontation between campers and council officials, during which the group called for an immediate humanitarian intervention to help the people with nowhere else to go.
“Is that a PR stunt or is it real?”, one camper said, exacerbated, pointing up at the ‘People Make Glasgow’ slogan emblazoned around the square.
“Are they [the council] willing to come down today with keys for secure accommodation? Or just hostels? They’re sitting up there doing nothing,” another camper added. “Glasgow City Council is the most corrupt government we’ve had. What is it going to take?”
Eric Steel, speaking to the camp on behalf of the council, said: “That won’t happen. We can’t magic up places that don’t exist.”
“We urge those occupying the square to observe this eviction order” Glasgow City Council
Council budgets in Glasgow have slashed as part of the ongoing austerity drive – placing pressure on services for the vulnerable. Homeless case workers went on strike in 2013 over pressure on their work.
Those involved in the protest – some of whom had to leave the temporary Glasgow City Mission Centre when it closed – are keen to maintain anonymity to avoid legal repercussions for the protest.
Initially, the camp was incorrectly reported as a being a pro-independence protest.
The group has sent a list of 15 political requests to a city councillor , including calls for extra support for housing, drink and drug addiction services, and providing extra public sports services.
“This is going to be here as long as there is a necessity for it. And sadly there is a necessity.” Craig, a camper
The statement criticised the reliance on private sector homelessness services: “For too long many private individuals have been profiteering of the back of homelessness. In the form of owning the supported accommodation/emergency accommodation buildings, receiving vast amounts of money from the council, plus in the rents that they charge.”
One supporter, activist Charles Haggerty, questioned council support service staff on whether the camp would have security from any sheriff officer raid whle its legal appeal was in progress.
Campers explained to CommonSpace that they were there – half-sheltered under a makeshift gazebo in the pouring rain – out of desperation.
“We don’t want to be here. Why would anyone want to sleep outside in the cold? We have nowhere else to go,” a camper called Stephen told CommonSpace.
Homeless members of the camp are cynical of being placed back in temporary bed and breakfast or hotels – which they state fail to provide the necessary stability for people to get their lives on track.
The group has sent a list of 15 political requests to a city councillor .
The protest in George Square, which has brought otherwise dispersed, isolated people together, has created a self-regulating community of people who previously felt hopeless and powerless, according to those involved.
The camp has been receiving free food donations and hot water from a nearby pub to provide a central hub for the city’s transient homeless community.
Another camper, Craig, added: “This is going to be here as long as there is a necessity for it. And sadly there is a necessity.”
The protestors claimed a minor victory on the group’s facebook page after a demonstration within the city chambers led to support from the council in the form of 25 accommodation places and travel costs for six homeless people.
Glasgow City Council gave a 48-hour warning for the campers to leave George Square, which has now expired. The council stated that the next stage is to proceed with an eviction. However, it is unclear whether sheriff officers and the council would be willing to risk a confrontation with the protest.
A council spokesperson told CommonSpace: “The council has secured an eviction order against those currently occupying George Square without permission. We urge those occupying the square to observe this eviction order and quit the square as soon as possible.
“We fully support the right to protest, but the sheriff court found that those camping in George Square have no right to occupy a publicly-owned space on a permanent or indefinite basis.
“George Square is owned and maintained by the council for the benefit of the whole community.”
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Pictures courtesy of Tent Town