Over the last week, I have spoken to and visited a number of people involved in the Kings Crescent Community Housing project - a squatted community just next to Clissold Park, a few hundred metres outside the boundaries of Clissold ward, where I am standing to be a councillor.
Kings Crescent Estate has been scheduled for large scale demolition and renovation for years, but the project has dragged on and on - and with the recession, seems to be going nowhere fast. Seeing that hundreds of perfectly sound flats remained unoccupied, the Kings Crescent Community Housing project moved in, and began to house a significant number of people who were rough sleeping or 'hidden homeless'. This included a young family who are currently being denied housing - to whom a baby was born just three days ago.
Hackney Council, of course, doesn't like this sort of thing. Far better for flats to stand idle and useless while people freeze on the streets than for the council to be embarassed by constructive squatting. So they have used legislation designed to close crack houses in an attempt to evict this constructive community - whose only 'anti social behaviour' appears to be the teaching of English and hosting CV writing workshops for the unemployed.
The closure order which Hackney Council has secured appears to be illegal - since they did not serve it properly and gave no opportunity for the squatters to defend themselves in court. Of course, they don't particularly care about that, because any appeal will be heard well after Thursday, when they are planning to evict everyone and (if past form is anything to go by) to smash up the flats so that no one can possibly live in them. They will then let them sit there, empty, probably for another few years....and certainly over the winter months.
I will be there on Thursday, doing what I can to try to ensure that these people are allowed to stay in the otherwise empty flats which they have made into a community. I'll keep you updated as to what happens.
Meanwhile, in their own words, the call-out from the squatters for help and assistance:
"I am involved in a squat in Stoke Newington that is currently housing about 20 -25 people. Some were sleeping rough before our squat opened, many have been unemployed since the recession, we have some students unable to access student loans and a family who had a baby on Friday whom the council won't assist with housing. We have quickly become a vibrant community offering free workshops (including English lessons as the majority of the people who live here have English as a second language).
***WE ARE BEING UNLAWFULLY EVICTED***
We were not advised of the court hearing and therefore could not attend or respond - this is unlawful.
They have used a different piece of legislation (The Anti Social Behaviour Act) which makes it a criminal (not a civil) matter and means they have stripped us of our rights to have notice etc
They only advised us on Monday that we are to be evicted at noon on Thursday. We have lodged an appeal to attempt to postpone the eviction but since we have deliberately been given such a short amount of notice it is unlikely this will be read by a magistrate prior to our Thursday deadline.
*** CAN YOU HELP US TO RESIST THIS UNLAWFUL EVICTION?!?!?!***
We need as many people as possible to assist
If you have concerns about being arrested there is still a role for you as most of the squatters will occupy the actual flats. Please come and surround the outside of the estate making it more difficult for police to come through or come and just take a video or photos of any inappropriate police behaviour
Address: Flats 32-39 Lemsford Court, Green Lanes, Stoke Newington N4 2XN (opposite Clissold Park gate)
Planning meeting 7p.m. Weds 2nd (and welcome to stay overnight - they could strike early)
Official resistance to be ready from 10a.m - eviction due at 12
***FINAL IMPORTANT INFORMATION***
Please forward this to as many friends, mailing lists, associations who will be supportive
Thank you for any way in which you are able to assist whether you can attend or spread the word!"