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News in Brief 141: Dec 2022 – Jan 2023

December 01 2022

Our bi-monthly round-up of what‘s been happening...
By Bronagh Sheridan


Home office shame

In late October 2022, the news erupted with reports of a racially motivated attack on Manston, a detention centre in Kent. Two were injured and the assailant killed themselves shortly after staging their attack. Instead of inspiring hate, this attack brought focus to the inhumane experience many of those seeking asylum in the UK have endured since arriving. Many have been detained in Manston immigration centre, a prison-style centre surrounded by barbed wire. Reports from the inside speak of widespread diseases caused by poor sanitation, and it is estimated that 4,000 people have been held in a space built for just 1,600.


Award season

© Stephen Pover
This year’s Koestler Awards Southbank Centre show marks the 60th anniversary of Koestler Arts, with the annual exhibition this year curated by multimedia artist Ai Weiwei. The show, titled Freedom, runs from 27 October to 18 December 2022 and features artworks created by people in criminal justice settings. Freedom is free to visit. Koestler Arts is a prison arts charity encouraging people in criminal justice settings, including immigration detention centres and prison, to explore creativity and new skills. If you’d like to visit the Koestler Awards exhibition, make your way to the Royal Festival Hall, London. The exhibition is open Monday to Tuesday 10am-5:30pm; and Wednesday to Sunday 10am-8pm.
- Learn more about Koestler Arts on its website: koestlerarts.org.uk


Home office shame II

Amid growing criticism, hundreds of people staying at Manston have been moved, with some of these people let go with no secure accommodation, money, warm clothing or food. One of the people left stranded told the Guardian they were informed that they would be moved to London, and to contact friends and family to stay with them. A group of 11 asylum seekers, many of them without coats and some even wearing flip flops, were released from Manston and dropped at Victoria station on a Tuesday night in November 2022, they didn’t have any contacts in London. It was only after charities helping them contacted the Home Office did the reply arrive claiming an “operational error”. Enver Solomon, chief executive of Refugee Council said that “people are not being supported with dignity, humanity and compassion.”


3D Home

A £6m housing project will develop 46 eco-friendly homes for homeless veterans and low-income families in Accrington, Lancashire. The project, run by not-for-profit Building for Humanity, will build the UK’s first 3D printed houses. Many of the homeless veterans included in the project will be given the opportunity to work on their new homes, receiving training in the printing of the houses. The Big Issue reported in November 2022 that Building for Humanity is hopeful of starting construction in 2023.


Far from home

More than 6,000 homeless households were moved more than 20 miles outside of their local area in England in out-of-area placements in the past four years, according to figures obtained by the Guardian in a freedom of information request. The practice sees councils rehouse homeless families outside of the local area, often forcing people to change jobs and children to change schools. One family caught up in the practice, a mother and three children, has been experiencing homelessness since July 2022. Originally from Nottingham, by late October 2022 they had been placed in 20 B&B rooms across the Midlands. Another homeless household from London was relocated to Blackpool, a staggering 233 miles from their local area.


No dogs


© Dogs Trust
Dogs Trust is working to make it easier for people to keep their dogs with them when accessing homelessness services in the UK. Through the charity’s Hope Project, homelessness service providers were surveyed to assess the experiences their service users with dogs have when applying for accommodation. A startling 70% of the service providers surveyed say their clients face barriers to accessing homelessness services because they have a dog. On top of this, 84% knew of people who had refused temporary or emergency accommodation because they couldn’t bring their dog.
- Learn more: www.dogstrusthopeproject.org.uk


Chain mail

Research by Combined Homelessness and Information Network (Chain) put the number of people sleeping rough in London between July and September 2022 at 3,628, a 25% rise on the network’s figures from the same period in 2021. Chain relies on frontline workers from numerous services to provide data. Chain figures are generally considered more reliable than other counts, as the network doesn’t rely on one-night counts and estimates. However, the discrepancy between Chain figures and City Hall figures (see Capital gains story) points towards the difficulty in identifying the true number of people sleeping rough in London.


Cost of giving

Before the graffiti artist Opake, aka Ed Worley, rose to fame within the art scene, he struggled with homelessness and addiction. Speaking to the BBC on his recent east London exhibition Sanity Through Repetition, Worley talked about how his hardships informed his art. His work, which he describes as “urban, chaotic, pop art”, explores the realities of his repetitive day-to-day existence with drug abuse and rough sleeping. Despite being offered a contract at a prestigious gallery, he decided to exhibit his work at Quantus Gallery, where he was able to work with homeless charity Centrepoint and inspire others who have similar experiences to him. Sanity Through Repetition ran from October to late November 2022.
- Follow Opake on Instagram at @opake_lwi


Capital gains

The number of people sleeping rough in London between April and September 2022 marked a 21% increase on figures from last year over the same period. City Hall figures show 5,712 people people slept rough between April and September. Quoted in the Evening Standard, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said that the cost of living crisis has meant that we are seeing a “revolving door of people ending up homeless.” Rising levels of rent and energy prices has driven people into further vulnerable positions. Khan is calling for an end to Section 21 notices, commonly referred to as ‘no fault’ evictions, a leading cause for homelessness that allows landlords to kick tenants out without reasonable cause. Khan also announced his £36.6 million annual budget to tackle homelessness and called on the Government to freeze private sector rents to prevent further instances of homelessness.


University challenge

University students in the UK are finding themselves vulnerable to homelessness, as the housing crisis continues to spiral out of control. The situation has become so bad that some universities advise students to remain at their family homes instead of returning after the summer holidays. One student at the University of Glasgow, who spoke to the Big Issue, said they had spent the first term of university between hotels and friends’ sofas. Alongside other University of Glasgow students, the student speaking to the Big Issue founded the group Unhoused Students, a collection of students without access to secure housing. At the University of Glasgow alone, Unhoused Students connected with 25 fellow students who are also sofa-surfing. Across other universities, such as Durham, students have held protests against unaffordable housing in the city, and their universities' inaction in increasing the amount of university-owned accommodation. For students coming from low-income backgrounds, this issue is increasingly worrying and may serve as a further barrier to higher education.


Long stay

The Pavement sends its deepest condolences to the family, friends and everybody fortunate enough to have known Maya Nager, who passed away in late October. Nager, from Glasgow, passed after collapsing at Terminal V festival. She was 19-years-old. An avid volunteer and friend of the homeless community, Nager has had a fundraiser created in her memory. All proceeds will go to the charities Homeless Project Scotland, animal charity the SSPCA and Refuweegee, a refugee charity. By mid-November 2022, more than £12,000 had been raised for the charities.
- You can visit Maya Nager’s fundraiser here: www.justgiving.com/team/maya


Going south

Shelter Scotland has warned homelessness services in Scotland are “on the brink of failure”, as an increasing number of councils ask homeless people to move hundreds of miles to England. STV News understands people are being asked by their local authority in Scotland to move as far afield as England, due to a lack of suitable accommodation. A Scottish Government spokesperson said they were “concerned” by the reports, adding “this year [2022] we’re providing councils with £23.5 million for homelessness prevention and response measures, on top of £8 million to help them reduce use of temporary accommodation by moving people into settled homes as quickly as possible.”


Kitted out

Football clubs in Scotland have signed up to Shelter Scotland’s #NoHomeKit project for December 2022, which will see home teams wear their away or third kits to raise awareness for the Shelter Scotland project. Teams in the men’s leagues will wear their alternative kits for the fixtures on 23 and 24 December. Teams in the Scottish Women’s Premier League will wear away or third kits on 4 December, reports the BBC. Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Neil Doncaster said: "We are delighted to support Shelter Scotland's #NoHomeKit this season and are committed to helping this worsening problem in Scotland.”

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