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Rough sleepers ‘Speak Out’

March 06 2012
Homeless people describe their experiences at an Occupy protest camp in front of St Paul’s Cathedral


Rough sleepers and other homeless people have described their experiences of living on the streets, as sofa-surfers or in squats at a “Speak Out” event held at the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest camp in front of St Paul’s Cathedral.

The event, held during Poverty and Homelessness Action Week in February, was intended to give a voice to the many homeless people who have become part of the capital’s Occupy camps since they began last autumn. More than 50 homeless people are staying at the St Paul’s camp, with more at the smaller Finsbury Square camp, organisers say.

Seven homeless speakers described how they became homeless. Experiences included landlords who had stolen deposits, problems with council housing departments and relationship breakdowns. Speakers also criticised major charities, which they described as being part of a “homelessness industry”. They said that homeless people “see very little of” the money given to such charities by the public and by the government.

One of the speakers, Kay Badibalga, who says he has found a home at Occupy London, talked about how he had chosen “freedom” instead of staying in hostels, which speakers described as violent and controlling. A female speaker said that single mothers had “occupied” before the Occupy movement existed by squatting homes with their children. She added that social services and neighbours were often prejudiced against alternative lifestyles, even though the children were being brought up in a caring environment.

Other speakers at the event examined the causes of homelessness. Reverend Paul Nicolson, chair of poverty charity Zacchaeus 2000, argued that deregulation of housing and finance during the 1980s, along with the sale of council housing, and current unemployment and benefit cuts, have combined to push people into debt and caused them to lose their homes.

The event could be one of the final ones at the St Paul’s camp, however. An eviction order against it was granted at the end of January, but lawyers acting for the protestors are asking for permission to appeal against the order, on the grounds that it was “more draconian than was necessary”.

A decision on whether or not the protesters can appeal against eviction is expected on 22 February.


• Stop press: bailiffs moved in to remove the camp on 28 February (pictured).