Photos: March for the Homeless Opposite 10 Downing Street, London, April 15, 2015


A photo from the "March for the Homeless" in London on April 15, 2015 (Photo: Andy Worthington).See my photo set on Flickr here!

On March 15, 2015, 22 events took place in the UK, Ireland, the US and Canada to raise awareness of homelessness, under the umbrella heading, “March for the Homeless.” I attended the protest in London, opposite 10 Downing Street, where campaigners had arranged for homeless voters to register for the General Election on May 7, and there was a free food kitchen.

Homelessness has increased by 55% since the Tory-led coalition government came to power, and, of course, has increased specifically because of the introduction of certain disgraceful policies — the benefit cap, which attempted to portray those receiving benefits as the problem, when the real problem is greedy landlords; and the bedroom tax, whereby a cabinet of millionaires, with more rooms than they can count, passed legislation forcing people on benefits living in social housing who are deemed to have a “spare room” to downsize, even though there are few smaller properties to move to, and many people, treated as worthless “units” by the government and kicked out of their homes, have had to be rehoused in the private sector, thereby increasing the overall housing benefit bill.

An article in the Guardian last June stated that, in 2013, “112,070 people declared themselves homeless in England — a 26% increase in four years. At the same time, the number of people sleeping rough in London grew by 75% to a staggering 6,437.” In addition, as the Streets of London website notes, there are also “around 400,000 ‘hidden homeless’ in the UK, living out of sight in hostels, B&Bs, ‘sofa-surfing’ or squatting.”

I was pleased to see that many hundreds of people turned up, including representatives of some of the many housing campaigns in London — campaigners fighting to save the Aylesbury Estate in Walworth, in south east London, residents from the West Hendon Estate, who are fighting to save their homes, the E15 Mothers from Stratford, who are campaigning for more social housing, and the Sweets Way tenants from Barnet, recently evicted by developers.

I was also delighted to bump into John McDonnell, the Labour MP for Hayes and Harlingdon, who is one of Parliament’s great fighters against all forms of injustice — and who had just been supporting fast food workers in their campaign for a decent living wage of £10 an hour. John and I know each other through working to free Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo, but at the March for the Homeless we spoke mainly about London’s housing woes. He showed me a depressing photo of a one-room, damp-infested shed rented to a family for £400 a month in his constituency that he had recently visited, and lamented that Gordon Brown never understood the importance of social housing, apparently trusting the private sector to provide for people’s needs — something that, of course, was a fundamentally groundless hope.

As Johnny Void described the March for the Homeless, “This march was exactly what needs to happen in a city where an entire generation of children are growing up who will not be able to afford to live here when they are older.  A housing movement that thinks creatively, takes no shit, does not ask permission and is fun to be a part of can only grow as ever more people see their homes come under threat.” Please also check out the article for further information about what the marchers did before ending up on Whitehall.

After the success of the “March for Homes” earlier this year, my feeling is that what we need, for the maximum impact, is for campaigns that unite all the people affected by the housing crisis, perhaps under the heading “The Housing Crisis and the Homeless” — focusing not just on the homeless, but also on others suffering from what is, for far too many people, the most pressing concern of their lives: the insecurity and/or exploitation of our housing need, which ought to be considered a human right.

So the others in  precarious housing position are those in the private rented sector who are seeing their rents spiralling out of control, and who have no protection against landlords ripping them off or renting out slums; those in social housing facing the destruction of their housing estates because councils cannot afford to repair them, and are making deals with developers who then move tenants out, knock down the estates and build unaffordable new ones: and, finally, new social tenants, who have no security of tenure, and are expected to pay what, laughably, are called “affordable rents,” set by London’s Mayor Boris Johnson at 80% of market rents — which are now regularly reaching £15,000 to £20,000 a year, comparable to the median income of working Londoners.

What we need, above all, are politicians prepared to invest in a huge social homebuilding programme, so that as many people as possible can be housed adequately and securely in properties that should cost no more than £100 a week. It is possible, and it needs to happen. All that is preventing it, to put it bluntly, is greed, the vile, dead-eyed greed that is such a disgraceful emblem of modern Britain.

See below for a video made to promote the “March for the Homeless,” featuring photos of homelessness and of the various housing protests in London:

A link to the photos is also below:

Cameron out, homeless in!

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, the co-director of “We Stand With Shaker,” calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

3 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my new article linking to and promoting my photo set on Flickr of the “March for the Homeless” in London on Wednesday, where homeless activists mixed with campaigners for social housing, inc. representatives of London’s current campaigns – the Aylesbury Estate, Focus E15, West Hendon and Sweets Way. More actions are desperately needed, as the housing crisis – largely driven by Tory policies – continues to make more and more people’s lives miserable.

  2. damo says...

    We need all the parts of the homeless crisis to unite for hopefully some mega marches rattleing the gates of downing street ,thousands everyone there causeing a stink ,lol the queen has loads of spare rooms in that pile in central London must be over a hundred at least….do she pay bedroom tax,lol.but on a sad a serious not Camden famouse LGBT venue the black cap has been bought by devolopers and closed down without warning last week ..the black cap has been a sancchuary and community hub for a lot of LGBT people for over 50 years .the developers want to…..enhance…..the…..value…..of the property with flats and a retail development….can you belive that ,the black cap won a community award last year.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    The greed of developers doesn’t surprise me at all, of course, Damo. “They know the price of everything, but the value of nothing,” as the saying goes. Recently we lost the legendary 12-Bar Club in Denmark Street for the same reasons.
    I see from the Ham & High that there’s a fight going on to save the Black Cap. I wish the campaigners all the best:

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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