Guardian Letter: Squatting changes threat to homeless

A letter we co-ordinated was published in todays Guardian here

It reads…

Winter is a difficult time for the UK’s homeless population (Report, 29 November). We are concerned at both the effect of existing legislation, which has made squatting in residential properties a criminal offence, and the proposals being made by some within the government to extend the law to encompass commercial properties. We fear that any further criminalisation which removes the option of seeking shelter in abandoned and unused commercial property would have disastrous consequences. We wish to remind the government of the tragic death of one homeless person already this year. Daniel Gauntlett died from exposure after police prevented him from entering a derelict house. At the very least, a thorough impact assessment should be undertaken in conjunction with homeless charities before any further legislation is even considered.

There are record numbers of people in temporary accommodation. Street homeless figures have skyrocketed in recent months and the full extent of the bedroom tax and welfare cuts are yet to be felt. Austerity measures have slashed vital funding to homeless services, which are already operating at full stretch. Removing the option of squatting in abandoned commercial spaces would be a further blow to an already marginalised and at-risk segment of society. As the weather worsens, the risks street homeless people face are greater. The government must take the very real link between squatting and homelessness into consideration.

Alastair Murray Housing Justice

Bob Baker, Director Simon Community

Sarah Morris Housing Action Southwark & Lambeth

Jenny Hemmings Haringey Solidarity Group

Matt Kershaw Squatters Action for Secure Homes

Kate Hoey MP Labour, Vauxhall

Jeremy Corbyn MP Labour, Islington North

John McDonnell MP Labour, Hayes & Harlington