Drums beat for Autonomous Winter Shelter in eviction battle

One Housing says continued occupation in Gray's Inn Road is illegal

Friday, 25th February — By Isabelle Stanley

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Hugh Vivian sings at the protest

DRUMMERS, artists and homeless people gathered outside a housing association’s offices to protest against the eviction of a homeless shelter based in a squat.

Supporters of the Autonomous Winter Shelter in Gray’s Inn Road – a refuge for rough sleepers in Camden run by people who used to be homeless themselves – are appealing to property owners One Housing to make it permanent.

Since the New Journal visited the shelter last month, volunteers have continued to provide food, beds and clothes to 25 rough sleepers.


Sunday, who volunteers at the Autonomous Winter Shelter, said: “We have two demands for One Housing: they should either make the shelter permanent, and not evict us in the height of winter, or provide us with flats.

For the people in the shelter this is a life or death situation. Twenty-five flats sounds like a lot but for them it’s nothing.”

One Housing owns more than 17,000 homes in London, including the building the shelter is squatting in. Sunday added: “It would be best for the shelter to keep going.

It lets people be autonomous, have a community and friends and support each other, which makes such a difference – they aren’t trapped alone in flats.”

A group of drummers played for a few hours outside the One Housing offices in Pratt Street, Camden Town before musician Hugh Vivian arrived to play his songs including Middle Class Enablers.

There was also a clothes share, printing station and a food station with hot soup and tea.

No one from the One Housing came out to address the protesters, and an attempt to speak with the chief executive was refused.

Alex, who runs the homeless shelter, said: “We need to keep the heat up. We went and asked to speak to Richard Hill [the CEO of One Housing] but they said they wouldn’t let anyone in, but we gave them a flier for him.

We’re going to say to them we can do more and this is just the beginning.”

Martin D’Mello, a group director at One Housing, said: “We have been clear that the continued occupation of this building is illegal, potentially dangerous and risks delaying the redevelopment of the site, and therefore preventing the creation of a vital mental health service that will serve hundreds of vulnerable people.

“We are working with the police to ensure the eviction proceeds quickly, safely and with the minimum amount of disruption.

“We continue to work with Camden Council to redevelop the site on Gray’s Inn Road to support people with mental health needs, it will help people live well in the community and avoid unnecessary stays in hospital.”

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