Police dismantle soup kitchen for London homeless, evict activists.

Social justice activists determined to feed the homeless have faced eviction for the second time following their attempts to open a soup kitchen in Westminster, in the heart of London. They were forcibly ousted by police Tuesday night.

Following their eviction from a listed Victorian building near Trafalgar Square they had been occupying in the run-up to Christmas, the group decided to set up a soup kitchen outside.

Since December 25, they had been distributing food, coffee and tea outside the vacant offices to people sleeping rough on the streets of London.

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, the group, who call themselves the ‘Love Activists’ said that the situation facing the homeless in central London has hit crisis point. Services to help the homeless in the area are woefully inadequate, they argued, with all dedicated centers due to remain closed until January 3.

Since charities like Shelter and Crisis have now finished their own Christmas campaigns that feed thousands of homeless ‘The Love Activists’ are one of the only groups protecting the vulnerable now the group warned saying it would not be moved on by the council,

But on Tuesday night, police officers and council staff forcibly ousted the activists from the area and forced them to dismantle their soup kitchen.

It is thought the authorities wanted to clear the street in preparation for New Year’s Eve festivities.

A member of the Love Activists described the standoff, which culminated in eventual eviction, as “class warfare.”

Prior to Christmas, the group occupied the building near Trafalgar Square with the intention of offering a free and nutritious festive meal to homeless Londoners on Christmas Day.

They made their way into the five-story building on the morning of December 20, having discovered a fire escape door that was open. Following their entry, the activists claimed on their Facebook page the building had been “taken by the people.”

The campaigners made the decision to occupy the premises and offer food to Londoners who have fallen on hard times in protest at rising levels of inequality in Britain, and an ever-growing housing crisis.

The protesters faced eviction from the building, however, on the morning of December 24. Nevertheless, a high court judge amended the eviction injunction that evening to allow the group to regain access to prepare a festive meal for local homeless people on December 25.

The Love Activists subsequently provided a simple lunch to homeless people who made their way to the office block on Christmas Day.

The building’s recent history resonates deeply with the focus of the group’s protest. It had previously been rented by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), a scandal-ridden bank which required an astronomical bailout at UK taxpayers’ expense.

One of the Love Activists, 22-year-old Danny Freeman, told The Guardian that the fact the building was previously leased by RBS made the group’s core message of “homes not banks” more profound.

In the aftermath of a 2008 banking crisis, which brought Britain’s economy to its knees, RBS was nationalized and bailed out by British taxpayers. It is currently 79 percent owned by the state.

Years later, a lawsuit against RBS remains ongoing. Former executives at the bank stand accused of deceiving its shareholders. In a climate of grueling austerity, characterized by relentless cuts to social services, the RBS bailout cost UK taxpayers £45 billion.

Earlier this month, it emerged that glaring failures by local authorities to protect vulnerable children and teenagers in Britain have reduced them to sleeping rough on the streets, on night buses, in police stations and in drug dens. Many are thought to be at high risk of abuse.

According to Crisis the leading homelessness charity in Britain, 2,414 people across the nation are estimated to be sleeping rough each night. This marks a 37 percent increase since 2010, when the current Conservative-led government came to power.

Despite Tuesday night’s eviction, the Love Activists are determined to continue providing food and clothing to homeless people in central London. The group reportedly re-erected their soup kitchen in Trafalgar Square on Wednesday morning in front of the National Portrait Gallery.

Homelessness in the UK reaches eight year high according to newly released statistics

We feature the capital with views from homeless charity Crisis

Some 912 families were declared homeless during the last financial year, the highest figure since 2004/05.

Homelessness increased 6.36 per cent last year and has risen 177.3 per cent in little under a decade.

Nearly 200 families are living in temporary bed and breakfast accommodation. One in four has been placed there longer than the legal limit of six weeks.

Croydon Council where I worked over the last bank holiday in the food bank has previously predicted the borough’s housing “crisis” would peak at 1,030 households being made homeless by 2014/15.

Its estimate of 897 acceptances in 2012/13 fell 9 per cent short of the government statistics published yesterday (Thursday).

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Only Waltham Forest (1,045) has more homeless families in London than Croydon.

Some progress appears to have been made in reducing the number of families in shared B&Bs, which dropped from 214 in March 2012 to 189 at the same point this year.

However, the number of households in all forms of temporary housing and the total amount of homeless decisions, including those rejected because they were deemed to be intentionally destitute, has hit a seven year high.

Across London homelessness increased 16 per cent in the last year with charity Crisis calling on the government to build more affordable houses.

Figures released by the Department for Communities and Local Government show that 14,812 households were accepted as homeless by councils in 2012/13.

Croydon families make up 15.7 per cent of London’s homeless families.

There are around 40,230 households in temporary accommodation in the capital, an increase of 9.5 per cent, including 2,290 families living in B&Bs.

Private tenancies coming to an end is one of the biggest causes of homelessness in London, with a 75 per cent increase in this factor last year.

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In January Jon Rouse, then council chief executive, admitted that Croydon faced a housing crisis which would “get worse before it got better”.

He added that the benefits cap, introduced in April, would affect 800 families and increase homelessness.

In response the council launched a housing task force, focused on reducing the number of households in B&Bs for more than six weeks.

It also plans to build 42 new homes, convert redundant council buildings, such as former children’s homes, into flats and bring empty properties back into use.

In total 2,879 households declared themselves homeless to Croydon Council last year, of which 186 were in priority need but were not housed because their situation was deemed “intentional”.

Leslie Morphy, chief executive of the homeless charity Crisis, called for more investment in building new homes.

“This rising tide of homelessness is a direct result of cuts to housing benefit at a time when there is chronic lack of affordable housing and rents are rising, nowhere more so than London.

“Ministers can and must do more,” she said.

“Their immediate priorities should be to use the spending review to rein in the destructive welfare cuts they have made and focus on building the genuinely more affordable homes Britain needs.

“With more cuts to housing benefit kicking in, we can sadly only expect things to get worse.”

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Last year I did my own walk to bring awareness for homelessness for Crisis. This is the view from Crisis on todays stats released from Government.

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A 16 per cent increase in homelessness in London over the last year, means the government must use this month’s Spending Review to build more affordable houses and stop and reverse cuts, particularly to housing benefit, warns Crisis, the national charity for single homeless people.

Figures released by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) show that 14,812 households in the capital were accepted as homeless by their local council in the 2012/2013 financial year – an increase of 16 per cent on last year, substantially higher than the 6 per cent rise across England. It is the third consecutive year that homelessness has risen in London and over the three years homelessness acceptances have increased by 57 per cent.

Also in London in 2012/13:

  • There are 40,230 households in temporary accommodation, 9.5 per cent more than at the same point last year
  • There are 2,290 homeless households living in B&Bs, a 22 per cent increase on the same time last year. 51 per cent of all households placed in B&Bs in England are in London.
  • One of the biggest drivers of the increase in homelessness has been private tenancies coming to an end, as rents rise and cuts to housing benefit come in. Since last year there has been a 75 per cent increase in those made homeless because of the ending of a private tenancy in London
  • The ending of a private tenancy is now the leading cause of homelessness in the capital, accounting for 28 per cent of all those accepted as homeless.
  • In some outer London boroughs the rises in homelessness have been severe:
  • In Barking and Dagenham 664 households were accepted as homeless in 2012/13, up 234 per cent on the year before
  • In Newham 720 households were accepted as homeless in 2012/13, up 190 per cent on the year before
  • In Enfield 551 households were accepted as homeless in 2012/13, up 115 per cent on the year before

The homelessness figures follow statistics last week from the government’s Valuation Office Agency2 showing that London rents for 2012/13 are up 8.6 per cent on the year before, with relatively cheaper properties rising faster. Across the capital the lower quartile of rents rose by 10.4 per cent and in inner London the price of renting the cheapest properties went up by 16.3 per cent.

Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, said: “This rising tide of homelessness is a direct result of cuts to housing benefit at a time when there is a chronic lack of affordable housing and rents are rising, nowhere more so than London. Ministers can and must do more. Their immediate priorities should be to use the spending review to rein in the destructive welfare cuts they have made and focus instead on building the genuinely affordable homes Britain needs.

“These figures are a tragedy for the tens of thousands of people made homeless during the last year, but they are bad for us all. It makes more sense and is more cost-effective to help people stay in their homes than spend far more money on temporary accommodation or support once people become homeless. With more cuts to housing benefit kicking in we can sadly only expect things to get worse”

Independent research clearly showed that cuts to housing benefit3 would cause homelessness and today’s statistics reflect this. Temporary accommodation costs far more to the taxpayer than keeping a family in their own home. Recent reports from London include the story of a family receiving £700 a week in housing benefit made homeless due to cuts, only to be put in £2,500 a week temporary accommodation.

DCLG’s figures only cover households that have met strict criteria for help. Many single homeless people will not be recorded in these figures, nor people who have not gone to their local council for help. People living on the streets, in squats or on friends’ or families’ floors will likewise not be included in today’s statistics.