UK: The Social Centre Bulletin. The Ups and Downs of the Cwtch

Eight years ago, near enough to the day, a handful of activists and homeless had some plans. The rain was chucking it down as we were stood outside our goal sizing the building up. It had been sitting empty for years, neglected and falling apart, a local icon left to fade. It was a suitable candidate for a pop up social centre, with a dozen large rooms, kitchen space, a welcoming atrium and, like I say, it was bloody pouring it down. Three of the crew would be sleeping on the streets that night, the city centre location was ideal and we were wet. So we jumped the gun. On finding a way in, we left out plans to the wayside and squatted the old Odeon cinema in Manchester and named it the “Cwtch Centre”.

It would be our home for a few hours tho, as after a very exciting urban exploration we discovered that it was asbestos ridden. While we started to gather the crew together, the place echoed with the banging of the police on our fire escape entry. We informed them of our squatters rights, they smashed the huge steel doors out of their frame. I had to kick the doors open to eventually let them in and was greeted with a pistol in my face, several armed men from S019, a couple of TAU vans, dog unit and a night kip in Swindon police station. [Read More]

UK: Chester’s homeless have had enough!

726 people died on the UK’s streets last year.

Well in excess of 120,000 people applied to their local councils to be recognised as homeless in the hopes of having access to meagre support.

Meanwhile 200,000 houses sit empty. Then there are all the commercial and industrial units lying dormant and decaying.

Chester, like most places during this latest wave of austerity, has seen a sharp rise in homelessness and rough sleeping with a piss poor response from the local council, with services and social support provided in as mild and cost-effective manner possible. During the tail end of last year when the council had an official tally of 17 “street-homeless people”, the local homeless support project “ForFutures”, itself ran on a council contract, would see over a hundred different people request refuge over a couple of months.

Earlier this year, ForFutures opened up a “Homeless Assessment Centre” on the ground floor of a large, empty, and council-owned office block called Hamilton House. Opened to great fanfare, this centre was going to be a one-stop-shop to help manage and limit the swelling crisis of homelessness Chester was facing. It was supposed to be an accessible 24/7 secure space for the most vulnerable in our community, the contact point for the homeless to a council which like the rest of them across the UK constrains its support behind a register of “unintentionally homeless”.
[Read More]

Groningen: Statement by Akerkstraat squatters to the council

Dear Councillors,

As the people who live in Akerkstraat 16a we are pleased to be able to speak at this needed debate about the housing shortage among students, mostly internationals, in Groningen. It is clear to us that this is a matter of urgency. Every year thousands of international students are lured to the city to come and study here. What should have been a wonderful time in a beautiful city turns out to be a tragedy for many of them, just as this year. There are not enough houses, especially ones that are affordable, in the city to accommodate all those students. At this moment hundreds of students are in the emergency shelter they are expected to leave at the end of this month. Most of them have not yet found alternative housing. [Read More]

Utrecht: Derelict buildings squatted out of housing shortage and protest against vacancy

Since last weekend, a group of young people have been living in the long since vacant houses at the Burgemeester Reigerstraat 48-53 in Utrecht.

The occupation is both a direct approach to a need for life – the young people are looking for housing – and a protest against the current housing policy. The action, part of a national wave, criticized Squatting and Vacancy Act from 2010 and the intention to tackle squatting even harder. “The residents are of the opinion that not squatting, but vacancy and housing shortage must be tackled”, according to a spokesman. The buildings on Burgemeester Reigerstraat have been vacant for more than five years. Owner Marcel Paping plans to demolish the four buildings and build four new buildings and retail space in their place. A parking garage is to be built under the buildings. He has the permits for his plan, except for the entrance to the basement. Many neighbours are of the opinion that a large underground car park will seriously disturb the peace and quiet in the street. Paping plans to nail up the empty buildings if the Municipality does not grant him all the permits. Half a year ago, the buildings were also squatted. Then the police went on a wrongful eviction. “Hopefully this time the police will be wise enough not to go for the owner’s trolley and go the right way”, says one of the squatters. [Read More]

Amsterdam: Oops we did again! Amstel 45 squatted.

Sunday, 22-09-19 we successfully squatted the building at Amstel 45. The owner of this building is the biggest real-estate owner of Amsterdam and an speculator. There have been buildings owned by Veldhuijzen squatted before, Amstelkade 20 (2016), Admiraal de Ruijterweg 76 (2008). Johannes Cornelis Martinus Veldhuijzen is the owner of 512 properties in Amsterdam, he has more buildings on his name than Prince Bernhard van Oranje Nassau! (see for details the Parool article mentioned below). We know the building has been empty for 2 years and currently there is a building stop, which means the owner is prohibited to work on the building any further and he also doesn’t have any plans for the building at this moment.
We are against vacancy, leaving buildings empty and left to rot, and we squat because of vacancy! During the first week of occupation, we didn’t have any contact with the owner. Wednesday the 26 of September, we received the court papers for a fast civil procedure. His story had a lot of inconsistency and no concrete plans and because of this and the new squatting law that is coming, we decided it’s a good time to fight back! We went to court on the 1st of October and now we are waiting for the verdict, the 15th of October. The owner himself did not show up in court and he still has shown no willingness to communicate with us in any way. Will keep you guys updated!
[Read More]