Gentrify This! Homeless Action in Bristol City Centre

Gerrard Winstanley news at
Fri Apr 11 09:35:25 BST 2008

PRESS RELEASE: Gentrify this!

Bristolians take part in International homelessness action day

A vacant city centre building, the Little Theatre in Colston Street, was
occupied this morning by homeless Bristolians as part of a co-ordinated
day of action round the world.

Hundreds of thousands of square feet of vacant property stands idle in the
city whilst Bristol’s housing register listed over 20,000 people and
rising when it was scrapped last year. Whilst most people don’t want to
live in property not originally built as housing any roof over your head
is better than none. The absurdity of fast rising homelessness figures
whilst large buildings lie empty, sometimes for years, has not escaped the
notice of Bristol’s homeless people.

The government has also decided to drop proposals in the last budget to
scrap business rate relief for vacant properties. Many owners of the
largest vacant properties in the city will continue to pay little or no
tax on their empty buildings and have no incentive to let them. Police and
Fire Brigade both recognise these increasing numbers of ‘voids’ create
fire hazards, ‘crack houses’ and attract other crime.

Last year’s Northern Rock crisis and increasing banking jitters should
only serve to remind people how, by handing responsibility for economic
decisions over to the private sector, Gordon Brown has left one of the
most important responsibilities of government to a failing market. The
council’s appalling new ‘choice based lettings’ scheme, introduced this
year, which relies on the disabled, poor, mentally ill and elderly to
‘house themselves’ has effectively scrapped their statutory responsibility
over the last 60 years to house the most vulnerable in society.

The occupation will continue over the next few days with public events and
will continue beyond to remind the council, public, Shelter and other
agencies that homeless people will continue to assert their right to house
themselves where the government has failed. Bristol squatters believe the
council and homeless charities have shrugged off the desperate plight of
tens of thousands of homeless people in the city because they have little
economic clout.

For more info call: Sven on 07786 166477, Miriam on 07964 292775, Jake on
07910 077111 or others on 07528 953230 or 07591 631230.

With the Broadmead Expansion and its spillover into St Pauls and Old
Market that is displacing our local communities, the time is now to take
matters into our own hands and reclaim our public spaces.

REPAIR NOT REDEVELOP - Yuppie flats are not part of a sustainable future
and are pushing social housing out of the city centre. Resist the
displacement of local people and join the parade!

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