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The first ‘March for the Homeless’ took place in cities across the UK last month, calling for action to address homelessness across the globe. The Pavementteam was in London and Glasgow to talk to people about why it matters and what changes they want. Reporting by Carinya Sharples, and images by Alice Facchini and Ilisa Stack.
There were companions from Emmaus in their green T-shirts. Rough sleepers and hostel users with rucksacks and bags. Activists from the Aylesbury Estate protest and Focus E15 group, both determined to not go down without a struggle. A samba group and an amplified mobile protest band. Cardboard Citizens director Adrian Jackson holding a sound mic for a film crew. Centrepoint user Ben, with a giant ‘#IAmVisible’ sign, encouraged young homeless people to vote. Posters, leaflets and banners were emblazoned with messages from the TUSC (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) Against Cuts campaign, People Before Profit, the Eviction Resistance Network, the Socialist Worker and many others.
This is the March for the Homeless, held on April 15 and all are here with a message: it’s time to tackle homelessness.
Founded by Darren Bradley in Dublin, it’s aiming to be a global movement, held annually. “The campaign is here to stay,” promise organisers. Marches were held across the UK, with people taking to the streets in cities including Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester. Other protests and rallies took place in Ireland, the US and Canada.
But it was in London, that the largest UK presence was felt. “The homeless people have found a voice,” declares Jon Glackin of Streets Kitchen, which organised the London leg of the day of protest. “Our aim was to raise the issue of no more deaths on our streets. We want to get the homeless community organised.”
In London, participants gathered along Whitehall, directly opposite Downing Street, where protests are common. Then in a sudden surge everyone flooded out into the road: blocking traffic, sitting on the road, eating food from the Hari Krishna mobile stall, and raising their banners up high. The police attempted to persuade people to move onto the pavement, but they stayed put.
The issues of concern varied. John Xuevet, who is currently living in a housing cooperative that’s due to go back into council ownership, despaired at the ‘extortionate’ rents and housing prices: “I could work three lifetimes and save every penny and I still wouldn’t be able to afford to buy a place… In 1980, rent was £10 a week: now it’s £110–120 a week depending on the area. In the next five years, council rent will overtake my wages."
Michael was “pissed off” that despite having a deposit for a flat, he can’t find a landlord that will take DSS.
Justin Thyme, who set out outreach project Homeless Reach last year, called for “more Housing First options – getting people into homes first then dealing with other issues”.
A homeless couple on their first-ever march spoke of the difficulties of finding a place to stay together, the violence and intimidation many street homeless people face, and the high cost of spending a penny (or now, for public toilets in many London stations, 30p). After all, it’s the every day things that matter.
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