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(en) Britain, RESISTANCE BULLETIN #159 - On the Streets Solidarity and the Manchester Homeless Camp

Date Thu, 11 Feb 2016 15:05:03 +0200

April 2015 saw the start of a self organised homeless camp in the city of Manchester. A march against austerity culminated in 30-40 people gathering together for security. People who are homeless often sleep separately or in small groups. Individual homeless sleepers not only run the risk of violent assaults from members of the public, but also regular harassment from the police. Young women, who are the most vulnerable, face a terrible time. Living in this supportive atmosphere allowed many, who had previously felt isolated and vulnerable, to be able to tackle other issues. ---- The camp was a varied group. There were ex-military, exprisoners, minors, pregnant women, young single ladies and many who had issues with substance-abuser. One man with cancer was unable to access treatment because he was living on the streets. Older people in the camp took on a parental role.

During the first weeks, some anarchist activists joined the
rough sleepers and acted as advocates, dealing with the
police and the council. A good ethos was built up at the
camp, with sharing of resources. A local activist from the
group “Community Bandstand”, loaned a PA, and music
was played around the site of the first camp. This had a
positive influence both on the camp members and on the
other city users. It served to break down barriers between
the two groups and reduced the invisibility of the homeless
people. Food was donated by established street food

kitchens and local people. Those in the camp were no
longer always hungry and were able to begin to tackle
other issues, such as benefits, and health.
It is no surprise that there has not been a wonderful
response from the established charities, the council and
the police. Shelter, charity for the homeless, continued to
fundraise near the camp but did not in any way help those
who were actually in need of it. This paper has previously
criticised the role of charities, who often exist to provide
for their own, in the form of high salaries and expense
accounts, and who make it possible for the state to ignore
their responsibilities. The council has offered nothing but
temporary shared accommodation to those it deems are
not 'intentionally homeless'. As one of those camping put
it "Nobody wakes up and decides to sleep on the streets.
Many of the group haven't even been offered something
temporary. We want permanent housing for all." Those
who were offered somewhere with a roof said the offers
were divisive and did not account for their needs. They
were in hostels or group homes, lacking security and
privacy. In an act of brazen callousness some have been
put in hotels several miles from the camp area, places
which do not accept couples, visitors and which deny
people the right to take their dogs. For many, their animals
are their sole security and companionship. This tactic of
divide and rule almost beggars belief, forcing apart the
community which has been built.
The camp has been moved on twice and now exists in
three separate sites. One of the anarchists who has been
closely involved from the early days commented that this
venture has faced many problems. Firstly, it has been
impossible for the campers to establish a non-heirarchical,
horizontal way of organising and making decisions. This is a
result of people being used to being told what to do all
their lives, whether in the prisons, mental hospitals,
schools or army. Whilst the camp has had a safer spaces
policy, it hasn't been properly applied. There have not
been enough people there with an understanding of what
such a policy means. There is a great need for more
confident peacekeepers. Alcohol and drug use has led to
argumentative behaviour. The people who become loud
and aggressive can be, and have successfully been, asked
to leave; but, with only a few people there able to do this,
it has not always happened. This resulted in some
homeless people leaving the camp. While the activists have
been sleeping at the camp, the police have stayed away,
but as soon as they took a break the cops camp back,
arresting and harassing in their old style.
The early days of the camp show that, with the right
contributions, it is possible for such a camp to provide
relatively safe space for homeless people to live for the
duration of the protest; but without the input of more
active and confident people, it is difficult to break into the
socialisation suffered by many sleeping rough. With a safe
place, the camp can rebuild and be stronger, and the safe
place must come from outside support.

If you would like to help people are
needed to:
? Find information about those who have been
? Help new people integrate into the camp
? Give benefits advice
? Teach about horizontal organising
? Cook and provide healthy food.
? Develop understanding of safer spaces policy
? Create a sense of overnight security
? Set up a buddy scheme
? Get rid of bullies
? Deal with the council

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