Wednesday 15th April in Hull city centre a Homeless awareness march took place, organised by non-profit organisation, Hull Homeless Outreach. The action was part of a wider day of protest, where similar events were taking place nationally, to raise the awareness of the lack of affordable housing and the increased number of the UK’s homeless.
What Do We Want? More Homes. When Do We Want Them? Now.
A simple enough message that I’m sure most in society would agree with. We’ve all seen swathes of boarded up houses, empty buildings waiting for tenants, areas being flattened, making way for new aspirational living complexes. It would seem to be something that this council could and should, do more about.
I have been homeless on a number of occasions. I have begged on the street to get enough money for a cheap bottle of sherry to knock me out overnight. I have slept beneath cardboard, in doorways. I’ve done the sofa surfing; slept on cold floors; I did sleep in a tent on a waste ground, until some bastards came and burnt it along with my few possessions. I have bounced around various homeless hostels, they can be very scary places for sure, for anyone, let alone someone vulnerable like I was. It is ten years since I was last in that precarious position. It would be reasonable to expect changes have been made, mistakes have been corrected, cracks filled. It would appear that is not the case.
The recent headline surrounding St Mary’s Church being told to desist from handing out hot drinks at soup kitchens due to not meeting stringent food hygiene regs, only lends credence to the idea that this council does not care. It adds fuel to the fires discontent that they are out of touch with the different communities in Hull: that they care more about themselves than they do the people they are paid to serve.
I have reflected on the march yesterday and I can see that to some eyes, it may have appeared unruly, disruptive and unnecessary. I sympathise with that viewpoint. There were a number of decisions that did the cause more harm than good.
The impromptu blocking of the road outside of the Guildhall, whilst not being a major artery of the city, it did cause some inconvenience and disruption to drivers. And all though I saw and heard none, if there had been an ambulance or fire engine trying to get through, that would have cast a different complexion on the temporary blockade.
The entering of the Guildhall building, was the result of hearing through social media, about fellow protestors doing so in Manchester, so Hull followed suit. Whilst inside there was chanting, disruption for twenty minutes, but no damage was caused and the core group, numbering fifty or so, did leave of their own accord, without trouble.
In between the commotion was a half hour of protest by way of performance, with Anarchy Dada and they did rally the by now depleted numbers, with punchy songs, punk attitude and an anti-establishment message. They also bizarrely handed out breakfast bars.
The move to the Wilson Centre – by now on lock down – was made mostly in jovial manner, possibly because of the mollifying effect of Eric the Police Liason officer’s presence.
The final move was not a great one, and did the cause and the possibility of media coverage no good. The moments of banging on the windows, of the BBC Building, was not a good move. BBC Radio Humberside Presenter James Hogarth had been willing to talk to the marchers, in the churchyard and give them airtime, but I suspect the building subsequently going on lockdown, did nothing to further either the cause, or the coverage.
Throughout yesterdays’ events the local constabulary were on hand to safeguard the public and the marchers. They numbered from fifteen to thirty officers and they maintained their presence for the most part, at a reasonable distance. They have stated that ‘a peaceful protest took place in Hull and no arrests were made.’
Any protest, any community action is now subject to hijack. The appearance of the Anonymous masks, scarves covering faces, other causes being chanted that muddies the original message, this is par for the course now and must be expected. Whose Streets? Our Streets, doesn’t seem to fit the homeless cause, neither does Bring Back The Guillotine. I’m quite sure it would be us facing the axe and not those in positions of power.
Hull Homeless Outreach were joining a national day of awareness. Thirty or more of their team and volunteers, did a sponsored sleep out in Queens Gardens last night, in a show of solidarity for the rough sleepers and they did achieve, in getting their message across.
Hull Homeless Outreach deserve recognition for the vital work they do and continue to do. The homeless figures they have collated deserve to be accepted by the council and for clear action to be taken by them, to reduce the instance of homelessness in Hull.
Read more about the work of Hull Homeless Outreach.