Live: Scuffles break out as homeless evicted from The Ark camp in city centre – Manchester Evening News


Scuffles broke out as rough sleepers were evicted from their camp under the Mancunian Way.

The homeless clashed with university security guards as they were being removed from a ‘self-serving community’ – known as The Ark – on Friday morning.

The Ark was created for people sleeping rough in the city but Manchester Metropolitan University own the site and their staff began removing the vagrants at around 7am.

Officers from Greater Manchester Police were also at the scene.

via Live: Scuffles break out as homeless evicted from The Ark camp in city centre – Manchester Evening News.

Again they try to brush the problem under the carpet rather than coming up with a solution. There are many alternative solutions to dealing with homelessness, its about time Manchester City Council started trying some of them.

This is the fourth eviction this year for homeless camps in Manchester. Albert Einstein is often attributed to saying this quote “the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.” It is time to end this insanity and come up with a solution to the increasing levels of homelessness within Manchester  and the UK.

City wide injunction against Manchester homeless protest camps granted by judge

An unequal battle occurred in court on July 30th, resulting in a city wide injunction being ordered against homeless protest camps. Manchester City Council (MCC) were represented by their usual counsel, barrister Arron Walthall , the homeless protest camps were represented, without counsel, by solicitor Ben Taylor working pro bono as repeated appeals for legal aid had been turned down by the legal aid board. Due to the two named defendants in the case (Wesley Dove and Elizabeth Hodgkinson) being repeatedly denied legal aid Taylor planned to launch “a judicial review of the legal aid agency, and that is what I am going to be seeking to do if we adjourn this today”

The judgement of district judge Ranji Matheru is the culmination of a long running battle between MCC and the homeless protest camps (reported in the Manchester Mule here). The injunction bans the use of any tents or temporary and removable forms of accommodation within the defined limits of Manchester city centre (limits reported in the Mule here). The injunction initially sought by MCC was against “persons unknown” would apply to not only homeless protestors but to anyone using a temporary shelter; hence Taylor describing it in court as “an injunction against the whole world”. The criminal sanction of up to 2 years in jail is possible for anyone breaking the injunction. The judge ordered the terms of the injunction to be tightened up to aid clarity, possibly by a list of excluded structures and named defendants rather than persons unknown. The Injunction is to run for a set time limit, which could be up to two years, yet to be determined.

A solidarity sleep over protest was started on the previous day to the court case, with a small group of tents pitched in front of Manchester Civil Justice Courts. In the morning before the court case a number of people spoke to the gathered protestors in support of the homeless protest camps, including Rhetta Moran (RAPAR) and John Clegg (Unite Community Branch Grt Man.).

John Clegg (Unite Community Branch Grt. Man.) speaking at solidarity demo outside court.

John Clegg (Unite Community Branch Grt. Man.) speaking at solidarity demo outside court.

Scott Russell took part in the sleep over protest, and was a former member of the homeless protest camp, who was rehoused. He said he was there ‘supporting the homeless like I always have done, because it is so easy to slip into it, and its really hard to get out of it.’

the Exceptional Case Funding merit test is wholly unsatisfactory

Russell had also been part of the group (which included homeless people, activists and Unite Union members) in talks with the forward planning committee for homelessness of MCC. The aim of these fortnightly talks, which started on the 5 of June (reported here), was to come up with a new improved plan for the homelessness services of MCC. Scott said of the meetings “They ceased all talks with us last week and they were supposed to be making an appointment but they said ‘oh we’ve cancelled it’, they cancelled the meeting apparently three days before but no one told us about it.” A spokesperson from MCC said “It was felt that the Council needed to focus its efforts on direct discussion with homeless people, both those within the camp and also other rough sleepers who  wanted to share their experiences and views”

The “belt and braces” legal strategy adopted by MCCs counsel to acquire the city wide injunction, was to cite the Local Government act of 1972 section 222, trespass laws and planning laws. Walfall said, during the trial, that the injunction would not include “sleeping bags, benches or cardboard boxes”. He also informed the court that MCC had spent “in excess of £100k” in their dealings with the protest camps.

The defendants tents were their homes, they had no other.

Initially Taylor asked for another adjournment to the case for the reason that legal aid had been refused to the defendant by the legal aid board after repeated appeals to them; because they did not pass the merit tests for Exceptional Case Funding (ECF). Taylor cited a report a recent report by Lord Chancellor J. Collins, which stated that “the Exceptional Case Funding merit test is wholly unsatisfactory” and that it was “apparent the ECF fund is to complex”. Taylor wished to launch a judicial review on the ECF funding criteria. The judge refused the adjournment, stating the decision to go ahead with case whether funding was available or not in the last court appearance(reported in the Mule here).

Defending the homeless Taylor raised there Article 8 rights of the ECHR which states ‘Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence’. He told the court that “The defendants tents were their homes, they had no other.”

The judge ordered the eviction of the camps in Castlefield and St Ann’s square on the grounds of trespass. She granted the injunction sought by MCC under the Local Government act of 1972, section 222. Summing up her decision she said the Article 8 rights of the defendants were not engaged in this case and highlighted the costs already incurred and the prospect of further costs if the protest camps continue.

I mean how many people die on the streets, you know its so dangerous

Nicola Moore is a voluntary worker who helps the homeless people of Manchester. Moore has been a long time supporter of the protest camps and came today “because what Manchester Council is doing is absolutely criminal. I mean how many people die on the streets, you know its so dangerous. We have had people who have been gang raped on the streets.” After the decision of the court had been reached Moore was further outraged “ it was absolutely disgusting, I cant believe just how disgusting it was.” and added “They didn’t get legal aid after three attempts at it. He [Taylor] didn’t have counsel, there was no one to help him research.”

Nicola Moore outside court after case

Nicola Moore outside court after case

The courtroom was packed with supporters of the homeless protest camps when the Judge announced her decision, many supporters left the courtroom visibly and audibly upset and angry at the decision made. A sombre Taylor said after the case “I am disappointed with the outcome and will now consider whether there are any prospects on appeal”

Cllr Nigel Murphy, Executive Member for Neighbourhoods for Manchester City Council, on the 31st July said: “We are pleased that the courts have granted the exclusion order we asked for, which is specifically designed to prevent the recurrence of camps and not targeted at individual rough sleepers.” He went on to add “”We will now be working with Greater Manchester Police and court bailiffs to regain possession of the site as soon as possible. Our homeless team will also be visiting the camps … to offer support, guidance and accommodation to anyone who requires it.”

The finalised injunction order was reported on by RAPAR on the 5th of August. It was an ameliorated version of the injunction initially sought by MCC. No longer “an injunction against the whole world” instead it was only serviceable against people “erecting and/or occupying tents or other moveable temporary forms of accommodation for the purposes of or in connection with protests or similar events arising from or connected with the Claimant’s [Manchester City Council’s] homeless policy on land”. The order also provides a list of what is not considered temporary forms of accomodation:

a. Sleeping bags / blankets
b. Cardboard boxes
c. Benches
d. Doorways
e. Bus shelters
f. Hostel accommodation
g. Overnight charity accommodation

The injunction order issued is much weaker than the one MCC inititally sought, in the words of Taylor “It would be for the Claimant [MCC] to prove that the contemnor [person in contempt of injunction] is in breach, NOT for the individual to prove that he/she has not breached. This is a very high hurdle for Manchester City Council to get over. In particular, how could Manchester City Council prove that someone is protesting about its Homeless Policy short of the individual holding a placard stating as much?”

The homeless protest camps have not yet been served with orders for eviction from their current sites in St Ann’s Square and Castlefield. If they move to another site after being evicted MCC will find it very hard to serve the injunction on them and make it stick. Could this be a turning point leading to MCC changing their strategy? Maybe council officials are wondering if they could actually prevent homlessness occuring in the first place and improve homelessness services within the city, rather than chasing homeless people through the courts?


Solidarity demo protestors outside court before case

Manchester homeless fight for justice

The homeless people of Manchester have formed a protest camp within the city centre and are demanding their right to housing. Manchester City Council is chasing them through the courts to destroy the protest. Who would you like to win?

The article is based on my personal experience of the homeless camp since its inception in Albert Square up till the day before the case for the city wide injunction. Read the full article in Contributoria

Council pursues blanket ban on homeless protest camps in city centre

The third eviction attempt of the homeless protest camp was heard at the Manchester Civil Justice Centre on Monday. The council sought an eviction order for the protest camps in St Ann’s Square and Castlefield and a districtwide injunction banning all further homeless protest camps from the city centre. The main argument of the prosecution, as set out in the eviction papers served to the campaigners, is that the camp has been the site of anti-social behaviour and criminal activity… read rest of the article at the link below.

Wesley Dove with map of proposed exclusion zone

Wesley Dove with map of proposed exclusion zone

Map of proposed exclusion zone in Manchester City centre

Map of proposed exclusion zone in Manchester City centre

A Poem by George

I met George Watt in St Peter’s Square, Manchester. We were both there to support the Homeless Rights of Justice Manchester protest camp. He is originally from an Irish traveller family and told me he had previously been homeless himself. When he had seen the protest on the evening news he had to come down to help them.

George was one of the first people to sell the Big Issue in Manchester in the early 90s.He was full of praise for the Big Issue and said that it had ‘turned his life around’ and helped him into accomodation after a long spell of homelessness. The big Issue had originally been set up in Swan St Manchester, by Ruth Turner and her partner, but has now moved to a new site.

George also mentioned having a chat with Prince Phillip of Spain when he came looking round the Big Issue office with the Prince of Wales. He had a poem to recite, I have included a transcribed version and the audio version can be heard below along with a montage of photos from the various protest sites .

I Cried on a Sunday

‘I cried on a Sunday the salt in my tears was stinging my eyes
We moan about the weather the snow and the rain
It helps us forget about the sorrow and pain
We seem to be content within our own bubble
Turn a blind eye to others and all of their troubles

I have spent sixty years looking for the meaning of life
Is it a job, a home, two children and a wife?
There is a time in our lives to take off our blinkers
To take notice of others become more of a thinker
We all have a duty to look out for others
Fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers

Just try to do a good deed a day
Inside your heart you will find your own pay
A good deed can be fleeting, you might miss it if you blink
Most people are kind hearted but seldom stop to think
And it’s the thought that counts.’

George Watt

‘End the Housing Crisis, End Homelessness’ meeting held by Unite Community Branch

A meeting organised by Unite Community Branch (Greater Manchester), to discuss the homelessness and housing crisis was held on Saturday the 6th of June at the Friends Meeting House; which was built in 1795 and has played an important role in the political evolution of Manchester. The meeting was attended by union members, charities concerned with homelessness and members of the public.

John Clegg who is the Secretary for the GM Unite Community Branch spoke during the meeting explaining their support for the protest and the increasing problem of homelessness of which the housing crisis plays a major part in. He explained that members of the homeless community, who were campaigning, had become members of Unite Community Branch and this had allowed Unite to take a more active role in supporting the campaign. Unite also have plans to open up a bank account to support the campaign, to aid in collecting donations to the campaign.

Dean a spokesman from the Homeless Rights Of Justice Mcr campaign gave an account of life in the protest camp, and what the members of the protest hoped to achieve. When asked what people in the camp needed most Dean replied “what the people in the camp need most is respect”. He also mentioned the meeting between the campaigners the previous day and mentioned that Manchester City Council had agreed to waive the ‘intentionally homeless’ designation when considering homeless people for housing. Ben Taylor, the solicitor supporting the homeless rights campaign, also commented on the legal side of the campaign so far.

Len Taylor, a member of the Bolton Anti Bedroom Tax campaign spoke of their extensive campaigning on the matter. He also brought to the attention of the meeting cases of suicide that have occurred by people sanctioned by social security. Len plans to take a coffin down to the ‘End Austerity Now’ demo in London on the 20th of June to highlight the fact that some people have payed the ultimate price under austerity. Mark Krantz from the Anti Bedroom Tax Federation for Greater Manchester also spoke about their work, and of the demo ‘End Evictions No More Bedroom Tax’. The demo will occur between 12 till 2pm on the 25th of June outside the GMEX, where Tory housing minister Brandon Lewis will address the CIH housing conference.

John Clegg said after the meeting “it went very well, a lot of ground was covered … the contributions from Dean were excellent and reflected in a very strong way the views of the people on the camp. It seems clear now that after yesterday’s meeting with the city council there may be some progress in general, but we should not take our foot of the pedal.”

When asked what was the next step for Unite Community in regards to the campaign John said “We will provide whatever support we can for the campaign…a number of people in the campaign are Unite community members, and we will do everything we can to maintain and strengthen that link. Through Unite internal processes we also plan to approach members of MCC who are Unite Councillors, we understand there is in the region of 28 to 30.” He went on to explain that Unite officers would try to engage the Unite councillors within MCC into a discussion regarding the homelessness issue in Manchester.

Progress Made in Meeting Between Homeless Rights Campaigners and Manchester City Council

A meeting, on the 5th of June, between members of the Homeless Rights of Justice Manchester campaign and Manchester City Council (MCC) was a “positive” one according to Danny Jones a founding member of the campaign. Previous discussions with the council, early in the protest had made no progress and had led to a period with no discussion between the two sides when the litigious side of the conflict dominated (see previous story in Manchester Mule). Danny described MCC agreeing to drop its intentionally homeless designation when considering people for housing a “mini victory” for the campaign.

The meeting took place at the Booth Centre and included two members from MCC; Beth Knowles (Labour Councillor, City Centre) and Hazel Summers (Director of Families, Health and Wellbeing); five members from the protest camp; Danny Jones, Adam Whelan, Scott Russell, Jamie and Joe; and two members of the Greater Manchester Unite Community Branch; John Clegg and Chris Mcbride.

Placard at protest camp in St Ann's Square.

Placard at protest camp in St Ann’s Square.

During the meeting homeless members of the group described their background and the reasons why they became homeless so the council members could have a greater understanding of their issues. The setting up of a steering group was also agreed upon that will meet fortnightly to discuss ways to improve the homelessness services in Manchester.

Danny Jones said of the future steering group meetings “We are going to discuss all the issues, everything in regards to being homeless; so from the moment you walk in for assessment to all the way through, all the paperwork is going to be looked at.” He went on to add “The council have said they are looking to implement the new strategy by October, which is pretty quick … seeing as they have not developed their strategy yet. This is hopefully why they have asked for help.”

Danny Jones also explained that each meeting will have a specific agenda and homeless/recently re-housed members of the community with the most experience in that particular subject would be included in the meetings. In the interim till October the homeless outreach team will come down to the camp, meet with people on an individual basis and find suitable accommodation for them. “To allow them to do that we have asked them to drop the title of intentionally homeless, so that no longer applies” said Danny who thinks the title of intentionally homeless is ridiculous as “nobody makes themselves intentionally homeless”. The term intentionally homeless means that the person has left accommodation that they could have stayed in, which means they are not entitled to an offer of accommodation from MCC.

Placard at protest camp in St Ann's Square.

Placard at protest camp in St Ann’s Square.

When asked to comment on the meeting Councillor Paul Andrews, executive member for adult health and wellbeing, said: “We listened to concerns from representatives of the protest camp and invited them to work with us as we devise a new strategy for tackling homelessness. We have also committed to holding regular meetings with homeless people, including those who have been on the camp, as we take this strategy forward.” He went on to add “We also gave assurances that we would continue to engage with members of the camp, and our outreach workers will try to get vulnerable people off the street… During the last year we have provided emergency accommodation to 1700 people including both homeless families and single people.”

During the interview Danny Jones announced he would be leaving the camp, currently in St Anne’s Square “we hit the two month mark on Wednesday, I think the camp is pretty much running itself now… I am going to pull out as of Wednesday [10th June]”. Danny who has been with the camp since day one assured me that he would still be supporting the campaign but not as a full time resident of the camp, he added initially the protest camp “was just an awareness raising exercise, and it has turned into one of the longest running camps in the UK…The camp has done what it set out to do and that is to raise homelessness to the top of the agenda.”

Danny Jones (centre) handing in 38 Degrees petiton, in support of HROJMcr campaign

Danny Jones (centre) handing in 38 Degrees petiton, in support of HROJMcr campaign