Socialist Worker

Homeless protesters occupy Chester council building after torrential rain

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2675

Homeless people occupying Hamilton House in Chester

Homeless people occupying Hamilton House in Chester (Pic: David Holmes/Cheshire Live on Twitter)


Homeless protesters who stormed a council building in Chester on Monday night were still inside on Wednesday demanding a place to live.

Around 20 rough sleepers took over the upper floors of Hamilton House in the city centre as torrential rain swept the city.

The occupiers said the cold and wet left them with no other option but to squat in the empty upper floors of the building. On the ground floor there is a homeless support hubrun by a council contractor.

Protesters unfurled a banner saying, “No to homelessness.”

The group, who have electricity but no running water, are calling themselves Topfutures mocking council contractors Forfutures managing the hub underneath them.

One protester told Cheshire Live, “I’ve been sleeping rough for five months. The support organisation is meant to be helping the homeless in the city in the basement of this place and they let a maximum of five or six people stay there.

“We just want more help. We feel let down, we feel misled and lied to.”

Another protester said, “We’ve been stuck outside in the rain for days. I keep trying to get help from the support hub, but am given excuse after excuse. I just want somewhere to live.”

He said the protesters had barricaded themselves over five floors and unlocked rooms so every individual had a different place to stay.

Peaceful

He added, “We’ve been perfectly peaceful about everything. There’s no damage at all. We just want some help.”

One homeless man said many of them had got soaking wet in the heavy rain over the past few days and could see no reason why the empty building, a former tax office earmarked for demolition, should not be used as a shelter.

Rough sleeper Kirsty said, “Forfutures are just letting all the homeless people down. They are barring people from the centre when they shouldn’t.

“They are advertising saying they are open 24 hours a day and every homeless person can get what they need, and that’s not true. We’re just standing our ground. It’s been raining for three days and we’ve not even been able to get dry or food or anything.”

The protest took place as official figures revealed that a record number of homeless people died last year.

Charities and MPs have said austerity and cuts to services are driving a worsening homelessness crisis, as figures from the Office for National Statistics show that an estimated 726 homeless people died in England and Wales in 2018.

This is a 22 percent rise from 2017 and the biggest increase since the data was first collected in 2013.

A crowdfunding page has been set up to provide supplies for the occupiers at bit.ly/ChesterProtest

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