As news of the violent clashes at the unauthorised squatters’ camp in Bournemouth hit the national headlines earlier this month, Green Party Councillor, Simon Bull, now asks the council to put in measures to support those that do not meet the council’s ‘homeless criteria’ but find themselves homeless and living on the streets none the less.
As many as 20 people had been living on the closed off piece of disused land opposite the Bournemouth International Centre since before Christmas. They were understood to be a mixture of homeless people and campaigners from the group Occupy Bournemouth.
Councillor Bull visited the controversial site on 26th December and commented: ‘No-one would have chosen to stay there on such a cold and windy day if they could have been warm and safe elsewhere. It was heart-warming to see that people had donated tents, sleeping bags, food and firewood to help these people. The council has in place a Homeless Strategy but no-one should be mistaken into thinking that that prevents homelessness or offers immediate support to everyone in need.’
Enforcement officers moved onto the camp on 2nd January to evict everyone who had been living on the site. The officers were met with resistance from protesters who attempted to barricade the front gates with wooden pallets and masonry.
Organisers who established the site have now slammed Bournemouth Council for their attitude towards homelessness, labelling their stance ‘disgusting’.
There are now plans for a 96-bed flat complex on the site with a group of developers gaining outline planning permission. The move has proved controversial but Bournemouth Council is adamant the decision to disband the camp is the right one. Robert Chapman, Bournemouth central councillor said: ‘It is totally unsuitable for people to be sleeping on this site. ‘There is no need in this day and age for people to be sleeping like that and I’m quite sure the majority are not genuinely homeless.’
Councillor Bull explains the flaws with the current system: ‘There is a local policy in place to discourage people from giving homeless people money, food, sleeping bags or anything that may make it easier to remain on the streets. This would make some sense if when a resident becomes homeless they are given the support they needed from the council. But that does not happen; they do not get offered a bed for the night except under very limited circumstances and therefore many have no other option but to remain on the streets.’