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.