LGT sets housing agenda for new government

July 5, 2024

London Gypsies and Travellers is calling on the new Labour Government to address the housing crisis immediately and invest in social housing including specialist housing for Gypsies and Travellers.

“The homelessness crisis needs to be fixed now,” says Tom Margetson, LGT’s Community Development Worker. “The lack of Gypsy and Traveller caravan sites is making people homeless, as they are driven from pillar to post.”

“To stop discriminatory and unjustified evictions, the authorities should ensure that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 complies with human rights legislation, and repeal those sections which criminalise the nomadic way of life.”

The call for action from the new government follows a letter to party leaders from nearly 50 campaigning organisations, led by housing charity Shelter and including LGT, condemning inflammatory and racist narratives blaming migrants and minority communities for the country’s shortage of homes.

Around 25% of Gypsies and Travellers in the UK live in caravans on specialised sites, but these are often dangerously overcrowded, polluted and neglected by the authorities. Additionally, Gypsies and Travellers face openly racist targeting as they look for places to stop in their caravans.

“Summer should be the season of sun-seeking, but for nomadic Gypsies and Travellers it’s the season of evictions and homelessness,” says Nancy Hawker, LGT’s Policy and Research Officer. “Gypsies and Travellers who seasonally journey to community fairs and festivals to make a living and express their nomadic culture are faced with hostility and no-go areas at every turn.”

“Political leaders should take a stance against racism in the housing sector, rather than blame Gypsies and Travellers for looking for space for their way of life and a parking space for their caravan.”

The housing crisis: Joe’s story

Joe (not his real name), moved out of his parents’ overcrowded site and lived in his caravan on an unauthorised pitch for 15 months. He was evicted, which made him homeless. The threat of criminal justice compelled him to sell his caravan and resign himself to “bricks and mortar” temporary accommodation.

Eighteen months later, Joe and his wife Mary, who is pregnant, are still in the “temporary” bedsit accommodation. They rely on their families on a nearby Traveller site for support with cooking, hygiene and other necessities.

Others are not so lucky. LGT supports hundreds of households in temporary accommodation: all report overcrowding, and most lack basic amenities such as cooking and laundry facilities and a place to wash their children in privacy.

Joe and Mary are on the waiting list for a caravan pitch on a site that has yet to be built. The planned site will accommodate eight households, but around 92 households need pitches in this one local authority. Joe and Mary – and thousands like them – do not have a realistic chance of moving into the family caravan they need for their nomadic culture unless something changes in housing policy.

Photo © slippy (cc-by-sa/2.0)

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