Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

current issue

Jan-Feb : STREET FOOD READ ONLINE
London edition (PDF 2.5MB) DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Scottish edition (PDF 2.45MB) DOWNLOAD ISSUE

RECENT TWEETS

Anyone in?

January 01 2020
Line up: Screenshot from the film Changed Times showing "meanwhile use" of The Glass House, a former factory on Hornsey Road. Change was facilitated by Streets Kitchen, Islington Council and others, during winter 2018–19 © Nina B / Snack Productions Line up: Screenshot from the film Changed Times showing "meanwhile use" of The Glass House, a former factory on Hornsey Road. Change was facilitated by Streets Kitchen, Islington Council and others, during winter 2018–19 © Nina B / Snack Productions

The curse of empty homes by David Lawrence

I am often seeing empty homes when I am on my travels. I get so angry with many people sleeping rough and the massive shortage of Social Housing that I feel the need to do something.

After I calm down, I realise that on some occasions the properties are in need of repair or decoration. I have spent the last seven years volunteering in the homeless sector, and was homeless from October 2008 for five years. I have over this period of time tried to work out effective ways to solve this problem. I have asked many people who have experienced homelessness about it, and the first thing a lot of people said was “Why leave them empty? Does anyone care? What can be done?”

So I am not the only one who feels this way and that encourages me to find solutions. The main problem is some rough sleepers, or other homeless people, often believe that there is no housing for them so they carry on without changing their ways. This hits the economy as crime increases and they will not work. That’s a problem because it is essential that everyone feels that there is hope so everyone contributes to society.

Some councils offer a Housing First system. This is a very good idea and I hope will soon be offered by every council in the country. Housing First is a new idea which came from Finland. It is for rough sleepers who have complex needs and are not suited to hostels. Instead they are moved into their own home and the service provider provides support so the client is capable of paying the rent and make changes to their life.

If every Council was obliged by law to provide a Housing First service this would help to reduce the number of rough sleepers. Maybe empty homes could be used in this way as they have a shortage of social housing? I am pleased by the fact Council Tax on empty homes has increased because this will play a part in encouraging selfish owners to let them out.

I hope that after the December election there will be more effort in solving the curse of rough sleeping. Getting empty homes back into use is a start. I intend to bring this issue up on a national scale and hope that many people will join me in campaigning for an end to this blight on our society. The more people who take part and show their support would encourage Parliament to do something about this problem.


Ways to convert empty buildings

Here are a few ideas for anyone involved with a community-led building project, put together by Architecture for Humanity’s Arome Agamah & Alasdair Dixon.

Engage with your neighbours
Getting lots of people involved from the very start can go a long way in building trust and enthusiasm for a project. The more interactive the better, so things like exhibitions, co-design days and brief workshops may be good ways to go.

Ask for help
Converting or adapting existing buildings can be a challenging exercise. Older buildings in particular have a knack for hidden surprises that can affect plans. Having an expert to help you get your head round the various regulations and planning policies can be a massive bonus.

One size rarely fits all
Avoid having preconceived ideas. Also understand that every situation is a bit different; what works in one place, won’t automatically work everywhere else.

Have a good working relationship with local people
Keep local authority housing teams and homelessness charities in the loop. Always try to develop projects with their input.

Think carefully about the location
Ensure that location is appropriate, sufficiently serviced and is actually available. Be clear on the situation with ownerships, leaseholds. Discussing “meanwhile use” with site owners can also be an option for spaces that are only temporarily vacant.

BACK ISSUES