Pressure on Hackney Council to shelter homeless in empty buildings

FEATURED homeless

Petitioners want to use empty buildings to house the homeless. Pic: Duncan C

Residents in Hackney have launched an online petition calling for the council to open empty buildings to create shelters for homeless people during the winter.

The petition follows the work of non-profit organisation The Hive Dalston, which transforms empty properties into spaces for public good, benefiting both communities and landlords.

In June this year, Hackney council reversed proposals to ban begging and rough sleeping after heavy criticism from the public.

The author of the petition, Jane Clendon, said: “Open your empty buildings and our homeless can have privacy to sleep, a proper bed at night and support to move forward.”

The petition, which had 95 signatures on Monday, called the work of The Hive an example of “what our community can do when we work together.”

A spokesperson from Hackney Council said in the Hackney Citizen that the council has taken the petition on board: “We’re currently exploring the opportunities to use empty space for accommodation as part of an ongoing piece of work.”

However, neither Hackney Homes nor Hackney Council have provided any answers on what this means in practice or explained whether shelters will be made available in order to support the homeless in the borough.

Gee Sinha, a co-founder of The Hive said: “We’re in it for the long run, we want to put a new system in place so that people don’t put up the same barriers [to use empty properties] every year.”

The Hive is in contact with key decision makers such as Hackney’s director of housing Philip Glanville and director of regeneration Guy Nicholson. Both of who attended and spoke at the first conference of three, on redefining the use of space organised by ReSpace Projects.

Sinha is optimistic that new legislation could be on its way, he said: “Hackney is the most forward thinking of the London boroughs that I’ve been in touch with, they have community-thinking.”

The Hive Dalston is located in a formerly empty office block on Kingsland Road and is run by ReSpace Projects, a non-profit organisation which aims to change legislation in order to make it easier to use empty buildings for social good.

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