Hendon, London: Community centre occupied

Squatters have set up camp in an abandoned community centre as part of a mission to prove that “everyone deserves a place to call home”. [Click here and scroll down for video from the corporate press]

The 30-strong group made a name for themselves when they took over Friern Barnet Library and the Bohemia Pub – but now they are back to provide support to those living on the West Hendon Estate.

Tenants living on the estate are being evicted from their homes over the next six months to six years before they are torn down to make way for 2,000 new flats.

The squatters gained access to an unused building owned by the Parish of St Mary and Christ Church Hendon, opposite the Meritage Centre in Greyhound Hill, last Tuesday.

They have already posted a notice on the gate proclaiming the building theirs and warning that trespassers face six months imprisonment or a £5,000 fine.

Tammy, a 36-year-old squatter and mother-of-four, said: “The MP’s have one or even two houses to live in but these people are being left with none.

“Everyone deserves a safe and warm place to lay their heads, to call home. Housing is a basic human right. It’s going to be a tough fight but we’ll do all we can for these people.

“There is currently an exhibition on the estate about how it will look when it’s done. What a kick in the teeth.

“That’s a joke – they’re saying ‘look how lovely it will be when we throw you out’. They are shoving the fact that these people won’t be able to afford the new houses in their faces.”

Many people on the estate, some of whom are leaseholders, have been offered alternative properties in other boroughs smaller than their current flats.

The squatters have been meeting with the tenants every day to provide emotional and practical support and campaign on their behalf.

They are currently surviving on bread, butter and cups of tea but regularly go “skipping” in search of leftover food tossed into rubbish bins.

Many have not showered in more than a week as they say there are more important things on their agenda.

Kirstienia Elizabeth Mackinder, 41, said: “It’s nice to smell nice, but showering isn’t our top priority right now.”

They have clashed with Reverend Gwyn Clement, whose parish owns the building, and have promised to be out by Tuesday.

Although police have been called, they are powerless to evict them.

Squatter Danny G, 33, said: “The Father thinks we are causing havoc but we’re not drunken people looking to have a rave and take drugs.

“We’re looking after the place, nobody else is using it. We’ll probably leave it in a better state than how we found it, he is lucky.”

Father Clement told the Times Series: “How would you feel if people moved into your hall? We are trying to rebuild this for the community and refurbish it and they are disrupting us.

“They have promised me they will be out next Tuesday.”

Source – Corporate Press, November 20th

Times Series: