The Love Activists direct action group who had occupied the former Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) building near Trafalgar Square in December are currently occupying an empty commercial building in Rathbone Place.
The group who had set up a food bank and soup kitchen at the RBS building were evicted by bailiffs and the police on Christmas eve, but undeterred they returned the following day to serve a Christmas lunch for the homeless.
In an article for The Guardian Claire Pauling one of the activists explained why they were taking direct action:”There are 1.5 million empty commercial and residential buildings in the UK and 110,000 homeless people — that’s about 10 empty buildings per homeless person which is ridiculous. I would like to see a law passed where there is an obligation on owners of properties left vacant for a long time to allow homeless people to temporarily move in.”
In late December they occupied Arthur Stanley House a former hospital building in Tottenham Street which has been empty for several years. However they were evicted without warning by bailiffs and police on the morning of Monday 5 January.
From Tottenham Street they moved into and occupied another commercial premises, the former Nickelodeon studios in Rathbone Place. The building has been empty since the television company left in 2012 to move into new premises in Camden Town. There is planning permission to demolish the Rathbone Place building behind the facade and build new commercial premises.
So far they have kept a low profile with only a legal warning on the window saying this is a non-residential property and that it is now being occupied as a home. The law criminalising squatting does not include non-residential buildings so the Love Activists are protected until a court order forces them out.
Our reporter made contact with them at Rathbone Place and spoke to some of the group. They told Fitzrovia News that a representative of the owner of the building had come to the door and spoken to them so that eviction proceedings will be following shortly. In the meantime they want to make good use of the building and carry on their work raising the issue of homelessness and the cost of housing.
“We want more people to understand that house prices and rents are out of the reach of most people. If people spent just two days living on the streets they would have a better understanding of the plight of the homeless and have more empathy for those living on the streets,” they said.
They continue to operate a street kitchen outside the National Portrait Gallery on Trafalgar Square while using Rathbone Place as a base. The street kitchen provides food and community for those sleeping rough.
You can find out more about the Love Activists here and here. Information about squatting is available from the Advisory Service for Squatters and Squash Campaign.
Additional reporting by our special correspondent.
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