Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Back On The Streets Of York

Well I haven't been able to write or post a York update for some time now, and that's because so much and I most say regrettably, has befallen me recently. Sadly the camp (a land squat) setup by myself and one other has come to an end, there is no mileage to be made in laying blame with anyone for this but only to say that my compatriot moved off camp after a  short lesion with a young lady who has a very serous drug addiction problem and which then backfired on him. I've been under no illusions about working with and trying to help others out who live on our sheets by encouraging them to do thing's for themselves, but this can be an uphill battle at the best of times.

End Of The Field Of Dreams

So our field of dreams has come to an end, for now that is, and can be reestablished next year all being well.  So I would like to take this opportunity,  and thank all of those who gave or offered us help in the three and a half months we stayed on the camp, a very big thank you to all of you!

Back On The Streets

So for the time being it's back on the streets for me, and for the last two weeks I've been sharing a basement doorway with one other friend, it offer's  or it did offer shelter form the elements and is quite safe which of course, is all important. However, on discovering that this is being used by others in the daytime to take drugs has meant that we have had to abandon this place as well and find an other location, this is only for a short while as we have been offered a garden outhouse for the coming winter for the two of us which comes as a relief having spent most of last winter on the street's,  something that we are both looking forward to, will post more information in the fullness of time.
Drugs Or Addictions Are Not The Problem But Poverty Is
We are one of the richest countries in the world, and there is absolutely no reason why anyone should have to live in poverty, or even to be homeless and have to live on our street's, which is the most extreme form of homelessness. Shelter the national housing campaign says that the average age of death of a homeless person is 47 years old and even lower for homeless women at jut 43 compared to 77 for the population in general, and by all accounts those now hitting the streets are getting younger.

Drug and alcohol abuse are particularly common causes of death amongst the homeless community and accounts for just over a third of all deaths. I can tell you that being homeless is incredibly difficult most of the time both physically and mentally and has a significant impact on peoples health and well being. Ultimately homelessness kills people. Not to put to finer a point on it, the link between durg and alcohol abuse and homelessness have been well established over the years, and drug's and alcohol are known to be both a cause and consequence of homelessness.
Four out of five people start using at least one new drug since becoming homeless.

Over the many years of living and campaigning for the homeless I've learnt not to judge others partially those who are homeless, but instead, to try to love them all and if I can to bring a little love into each homeless persons life.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

York Update: Police Harassment Of Street Homeless

Well comrades and friends all - this is my final week here in York and this will in all probability be my final update for this page and from such a  beautiful city - and although - I suspect, that if you was to ask one of the homeless people who “rough sleep”  on these here streets, what they thought of York, they may recant and withdraw from having any opinion either way, they are far too busy trying to survive, just to continue to live and exist takes up most of one's time and is a job of work in itself of that I can now vouch, assert and confirm for having experienced the daily struggle for myself.  

Although it's been very cold out especially at night with temperatures dropping to -1 or -2 it's been a very rewarding and revealing experience in many different ways.  

I have met many different people and from all walks of life, the street homeless of course, the North Yorkshire Police, the Salvation Army outreach team and other homeless agencies specialising so they claim in helping the street homeless here in York,and of course, there numbers are growing, you can see it daily and you can feel it all around you.

There Is Nothing Good To Say About York’s Homeless Agencies 

I have nothing good to say about those agencies and indeed there is nothing good to say about them. They work hand in glove with the police and the local Tory run council to try and eradicate, if not try to a-raise out of sight those of us who now call the streets our home here in the great tourist city of York. 

Police Crackdown On The Street  Homeless 

Currently the police are running an operation to stamp out Street Begging or as I like to call it by the American term of Panhandling which sounds more friendly, and as I partake in this activity myself as a means not only of support for I don't claim any state benefits, but it is also a way of reaching out to the greater community and to have a conversation that's very much needed that breaks downs the locked doors of prejudices and hostilities towards the the street homeless which is very much still prevalent in our society today.

Society’s Message 

Society's message to the homeless is abundantly clear: You don't matter, because you don't have money. 

There are so many ways to get down on your luck, or become homeless, and so few means to escape. 

Economic inequality and a system built to perpetuate it is the problem - homelessness is the result for people without a safety net and a safety net that is being taken away from everyone.

And a rising economic tide doesn't lift all boats - it merely drowns the poor.

It's understood that most people in life aren't going to be high-wage earners but that doesn't mean working people and human beings should have to live or exist on our streets like they do here in York and in many other towns and cities up and down the country.

In York the authority's have been clever so they think, they don't allow or encourage any move to provide  facilities for rough sleepers to take a shower or to look after personal hygiene and change clothing 

Having said that there is one place where a cooked breakfast of sorts is provided and has a clothing store open 6 mornings for under 3 hours, however this establishment is often visited by the police who I've seen take down notes of who is present, this all amounts to harassment in my book and what I call a contrived policy of containment.

Plainclothes Officers Deployed 

Last night plainclothes officers were wondering the streets trying to catch out those of us who panhandle and on Saturday last I was told by sitting on the step to the shop where I sleep it is conducive to Begging and the officer's words were: “that I was “making a certain situation or outcome likely or possible.”

Last year the police took 20 people to court for sitting on the steps of shops, they were all thrown out of court

There is I realise much more to say and record about the situation here in York, so maybe another post will be up before the weekend when I return to London briefly for the march against the Tory Housing and Planning Bill.

So until then comrades and friends all - I send you all my best wishes from the city of York.

Norbert Lawrie - And you can follow Homeless London on facebook

Thursday, 25 February 2016

The Archbishop of York Sleeps In A Palace Whilst The Street Homeless Are Harassed By The Police.

Well comrades and friends all - my fourth week in this charming city of York, is now rapidly drawing to a close, with only 2 weeks remaining before my return journey back to London, I must say and without any exaggeration, what a revelation it has been and from a street point of view of course.

I’ve made many new friends and acquaintances, some good and some not so good, in particular, and I’m thinking about the local city centre police. They the North Yorkshire Police are the constabulary that runs this neck of the woods and the city centre.

My first contact with them came almost immediately and instantly on arrival when I decided because of the lateness of the evening and because I did not know or was I familiar with the city, to set up my skip (get my head down) across the road from the railway station.

As if and by magic, a police car pulled up and outstep a female PSO who preceded to ask me for my details, name, date of birth and so on, at first I refused politely to furnish her with anything, as I know from experience that it is my right to say ‘No’.

However this enthusiastic officer then threatened me to my complete horror with a full police search and said she would send for assistance a proper police officer to assist in a search, being somewhat tired I thought it better to give her my details so as to get my head down, which I did after they had left.

Saying ‘No’ to a police officer is still a right, and of course ‘No’ does not mean that you have anything to hide, I had the right to leave always, as she or any officer for that matter could not hold or detain me unless they said what it was for and why, and I knew if detained that I had the right to speak to a lawyer privately and without any delay, but because I had just got off the train and was as I say tired I thought it was just best to appease, placate and accede to their demands on this occasion only.

It has become over the course of my stay in York, quite apparent to me now, that a great deal of harassment and aggressive pressure is applied upon those who are unfortunately street homeless, and amid a growing sense of ‘crisis’ in street homelessness that is taking place and now unneeded intimidation being perpetrated by a team of PSOs including this young officer who I see regularly on the street.

I am convinced that this is a deliberate policy of containment of the homeless crisis in York and indeed in North Yorkshire. We know that HUNDREDS of Yorkshire families are living in temporary accommodation, and housing campaigners have warned that England is “sleepwalking into a homelessness crisis”, which to a certain extent is manifesting itself onto the streets and amongst the single homeless population which is more visible to all.   

High private-sector rents and cuts to housing benefits are large to blame, it’s almost the same story as I left behind in London and with a degree but not quite the same gentrification thrown in that’s still taking place and having preceded that of London.

It’s obvious that the local council and previous administrations have pandered to accommodate the local business community, the tourism and service sector.  They have assisted and presided over the decline of working class communities, this has been perpetuated by the decline also of the confectionery, railway and engineering industries and left in its place a university and tourist industry.

Hard To Survive On York’s Streets

It’s hard enough to survive on the streets of York without the added burden of the police constantly on one's back day and night.

In most major cities and towns around the country as winter applies its bitter bite, winter shelters for the homeless are organised and opened up providing safe warm shelter as from the elements, but here in York, nothing is on offer, it’s not even thought about, not even by the establishment clergy of the great York Cathedral with its so-called radical John Sentamu the Archbishop of York, and a senior bishop in the Church of England, second only to the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The one thing I do know is that the Archbishop has a nice home that comes with the job, Bishopthorpe Palace is a stately home sometimes called by the locals as “ the Archbishop’s Palace.

It is then astonishing and astounding that the numbers of those forced to sleep rough is going up in the UK and in this the 21 Century - and this is not yet I fear the tip of the iceberg.

I have no idea if the Archbishop has any idea or is he aware that there are homeless people sleeping in and around the Cathedral at night and it's quite cold (-2 for the last two evenings) in the open where I was able to capture two images that accompany this post, one at the back of the Cathedral and the other taken in the park at the war memorial across the way.

Well, I think I will leave my update here for the time being comrades and friends, with more to come soon thanks for following us on Homeless London.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A Portrait Of York With A View From The Street

If there is one city in England capable of demanding our attention, pulling our thoughts in different directions, stimulating our moods and thrilling our senses, then the ancient city of York must surely be it.

With its almost intact medieval walls surrounding its ancient heart, York is a city on a human scale, which somehow wraps itself around you. The straddling River Ouse, which made the news most recently when it’s banks burst and flowed and drifted uninhibited into parts of the city just like the invading Vikings, Romans, and Anglo-Saxons of old.

I’ve been in York for almost 3 weeks now, for no particular reason I decided to get off a train from Kings Cross, London and take a look around the city to find out for myself how the street homeless are managing and to try to capture a mental understanding and picture of what it's like to be homeless in York, and if you like rootless in modern 21st century Britain and particularly in this time of austerity.

I have resolved some time ago to become a modern day George Orwell or indeed even like my own favorite writer Jack London - for those of you who are not familiar with London’s works he wrote a first-hand account of poverty and homelessness by living in the East End of London in 1902. London’s account came about by living in the East End amongst the very poor and homeless for several months, sometimes staying in workhouses or sleeping on the streets. The conditions he experienced and wrote about were the same as those endured by an estimated 500,000 of the contemporary London poor.

Living In The 21st Century

I am of course living in the modern 21st century and indeed a great deal has changed since Orwell and London lived, moved and mingled with the poor and homeless of their respective times. Both were very talented writers and recorders of historical facts and indeed were able to bring to the attention of the world the suffering of the poor, dispossessed and deprived in what many may feel were far harsher times.

We may not be drenched as of yet in such a harsh white neon light of such poverty, but arguably, it may only be a question of time and such an onslaught has been gathering apace especially under this government and its obsession with austerity.

Homelessness And People Of The Streets

I have always taken a very keen interest in homelessness and its victims and its modern trajectory. I’ve worked in paid employment in the past and I’ve campaigned over many years to try and bring an end to the misery and distress that it (having no abode) inflicts on many a life both for the young and old alike.

I’ve lived on the street for many years now and have become streetwise whilst trying to reach out to others, sometimes in vain and sometimes with limited successes over the last 34 years.

They have been limited in success and accomplishment as I can see that homelessness is still a blight on lives and which is getting worse, a disease on and of our society.
Often I find myself asking one question over and over again, why do we in this so-called civilized society in the fifth richest nation in the world allow people to be thrown out onto the streets like the rubbish of the early 19th century when sewage ran through the streets and polluted the wells of drinking water?

Questions that reside in the far corners of my mind, then ever so often, reverberate, repeated and echo off in my head.

The Streets Have Become An Increasingly Dangerous Place To Be Homeless

I’ve been quite quick to establish a relationship with the street homeless here in York, mostly situated in the center of the city, their life and existence, the fact or state of living is an extremely hard one, many survive and continue to live or exist, especially in spite of danger or hardship by making a living from begging, and it is dangerous no exaggeration here.
During the daytime this lovely picturesque and the visually attractive streets are full of shoppers, day-trippers, and tourists, then in midweek an evening transformation takes place as the city becomes a swinging drinking giant nightclub, pubs and bars fill up and music fills the cobbled, wobbly streets and soon the first drunks start to appear sometimes quite early, young girls with next to nothing on struggling with their stilettos on the cobbles, a window is smashed a fight is taken place between two young men who know no better and the police arrive to make the arrests.

This drunken ritual is played out every weekend and in and amongst it all is this hard working community of homeless people trying as they do to make a shilling or two just to get by.
I am reminded that homeless people are 13 times more likely to be the victims of some violent crimes than the general public.

I also concur with what Orwell said about the homeless when he wrote: “When one has consorted with them and found that they are ordinary human beings, one cannot help being struck by the curious attitude that society takes towards them,” George Orwell in his 1933 memoir, Down and Out in Paris and London.

With only three weeks remaining before I return to London I will be updating my reports from York on a regular basis, I have only started to scratch the surface more to come comrades.

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