Stop the IPO
Let the squatters stay
Stop criminalising homeless people
Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth are calling for support for the squatters currently living in the former Charles Edward Brooke school in Camberwell/Myatts Fields. Two long term HASL members live in the school, and many others in the squat crew have supported HASL actions and events. Now we want to show our support back to them. See below for quick online action!
The headmaster of St Gabriel’s college – which holds the lease for the former Charles Edward Brooke school which has been left empty and unused for over 2 years – along with Lambeth council’s legal services team, have served an Interim Possession Order on the squatters who moved into the empty building just before Christmas. An Interim Possession Order is one of the quickest and most brutal ways that someone can reclaim possession of their unused and neglected property. Once the IPO is served by the court (which is practically an automatic process), then it becomes a criminal offence to remain in the building 24 hours after it is served. Anyone remaining in the building can face a fine and / or prison. An IPO literally criminalises homeless people.
Why is a Christian school using such a punitive method to evict the squatters? The IPO’s quick eviction process means that many will struggle to find somewhere else to live and could end up street homeless. The IPO will cause deep hardship and distress to people who are simply trying to house themselves. Finally, why is the headmaster willing to pursue this costly procedure when he could come to a fair agreement?
We are appalled that a local school is treating fellow community members in housing need in such a way – that they are so cruelly making people homeless in order to keep their building empty.
We are calling on the headmaster of St Gabriel’s college and Lambeth council to stop the IPO and come to a fair agreement with the squatters. From the start, the squatters have attempted to make contact and an agreement with the headmaster. The headmaster failed to respond to a letter sent by HASL and London Coalition Against Poverty in support of the squatters and offering to work with St Gabriel’s school to organise together on housing and poverty issues that the school’s community face.
Squatters, tenants, and others in housing need – stick together! Homes Not Jails.
Please take two minutes to send an email to the headmaster expressing your support for the squatters and raising concern at the use of an IPO. You can use our template email below but feel free to write your own or add to the template. The IPO court hearing is the morning of Tuesday 12th January (we’re thinking of maybe organising court support so keep a look out!) so please contact him urgently so he can see all the support there is. Let him know that Lambeth residents hate homelessness and evictions! Please cc in HASL’s email too if you are happy to list your name in support at the bottom of this blog!
Lambeth council’s legal services helped to draft the IPO so don’t forget to send @lambeth_council and @cllr_peck at tweet or two.
St Gabriel’s school headmaster – nbutler[at]saintgabrielscollege.org
HASL – haslemail[at]gmail.com
I am writing to express my support for the people currently occupying the former Charles Edward Brooke secondary school. I am deeply concerned that you are pursuing the use of an Interim Possession Order which means that the occupiers will have very little time to find somewhere else to live, risking street homelessness; the quick eviction time is likely to cause significant distress and hardship to these people in housing need. An IPO criminalises and jails homeless people if they remain beyond the 24 hour deadline.
This is not an appropriate, fair or just way to treat homeless people. It must be stopped.
Please stop the IPO and come to a fair agreement with the occupiers and allow them to remain in the school until the school is being used again. We hope you will engage with the occupiers and make a formal response to Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (part of the London Coalition Against Poverty).
Thanks to all those who have written in support so far, including:
Fiona Vera Grey
Lambeth Housing Activists
People’s Republic of Southwark
Squatters Action for Secure Homes
*** Update ***
Against hundreds of messages in support of the squatters, a courtroom packed full of supporters and calls for St Gabriel’s school to engage and work towards a better solution, the court issued an IPO on 12th January, 2016. In the lead-up to the day in court, the headmaster of the school had been sending responses to supporters that were misleading. In the interest of maintaining the record on this case, some facts are as follows:
- The headmaster chose to go to court to get an IPO to threaten homeless people with jail instead of speaking to the squatters and coming to an agreement to arrange a suitable time for them to leave on their own terms. With regards to access to the site, the squatters had been willing to negotiate for the school’s staff and building contractors to access the site when they needed to. The school did not require an empty building in order to apply for planning permission, so the squatters presence was in no way slowing down their plans. The school had been empty for over two years – it’s quite a coincidence that as soon as people move in to use the building as a home, that the school’s plans are suddenly ready to launch.
- There was asbestos in the school, but one of the first things the squatters did upon entering was locate any disturbed asbestos and seal these rooms off. Lots of the school had been safe to live in as there is no disturbed asbestos. If the headmaster was so concerned for their health, surely he would have made more efforts to communicate with the squatters about the asbestos. Everyone needs and deserves safe, secure homes. Even the possibility of the presence of asbestos is deeply concerning for anyone, but the reality is often that people have no other option. In this case, we were confident that the building was indeed safe at the time it was occupied given the precautions that were being taken.
- Finally, the headmaster stated that the squatters could get help from Lambeth Housing Office. This seems to suggest that by forcibly evicting the squatters he was actually helping them to get higher priority for accommodation. Of course, this is totally incorrect. If it were so simple to get help and housing from the council there wouldn’t be rising homelessness in the borough and people stuck in poor quality housing. The council have no legal obligation to provide any housing for the squatters because many of them would not be considered in ‘priority need’. This is exactly why people are forced to squat because there are few other options. They could try and join the housing waiting list of 20,000 other Lambeth households and maybe get social housing (if there’s any left) in 2030. HASL and LCAP did offer to provide housing support to the school’s community as the headmaster’s understanding of homelessness and the housing help available was clearly not so good.
It is appalled that a local school is treating fellow community members in housing need in such a way – that they are so cruelly making people homeless in order to keep their building empty. Agreed. The eviction need be stop.