“I feel like a fraud living in a flat”

In 2009, London Gypsies and Travellers (then the London Gypsy and Traveller Unit) encouraged people from the community to write to the London Mayor in response to the London plan, which included targets for new pitches. Their letters reveal the desperate situations facing many Gypsies and Travellers given the shortage of pitches. Plans for targets were withdrawn soon afterwards.

Why are Travellers forced into houses?

“I am lucky. I am an English Romany Gypsy and I have a pitch. Our council site was hard fought for 30 years ago and Travellers are still having to fight hard for sites even today. Even on our site there are 20 or more youngsters and they will all need pitches over the next years and too there are families in houses who can’t get on with being in houses. So 17 in Newham is not nearly enough.

Why are Travellers forced into houses? It’s either take it or get out of the area. But it’s no good for Travellers. It’s like putting a goldfish in a dog kennel. If anyone had a lick of sense they would see that it is something that will just cause trouble for Travellers and for the authorities.

I don’t understand why our way of life is not respected. Is there any other group of people in the country whose way of life is not respected? It’s right to show respect for different cultures and Travellers surely are part of that too.

We are Gypsy Travellers and we are proud of it. But the way it’s going in 50 years we will be extinct.”

 

“I feel I am losing my identity”

“I am an Irish Traveller and I live in Haringey. I grew up on a site in Hackney and I have always been used to living in caravans with my family. I got married and I couldn’t stay with my parents on their pitch because there wasn’t enough room to move another trailer onto their pitch. I went to the homeless but we weren’t in priority need so we ended up in a squat. We wanted to live in caravans either in a camp or on a site because that’s what we were used to but we had nowhere to go.

I am now living in a flat in Tottenham. I am grateful for a roof over my head but I really don’t want to live here. I feel like a fraud living in a flat because I feel I am going against my culture. It’s just not me to be in a flat but I have no choice. I want my children to grow up like Travellers, to have their culture, to know this way of living, to live the Traveller traditions and to know what their culture is all about. I feel that I am losing my identity by not living on a site and I feel my children are missing out a lot. I really want to live in Hackney and to have my family around me. I need the support of my family.

I want my children to have the same experience that I had – to live in caravans. This is our way of life. Thank you for reading my letter.”

 

“We have no water, toilets and showers”

“I am an Irish Traveller living in Haringey. I am 17 years old. I think it is very good that you are trying to get more pitches but there are just a few things I would you to consider when making your final decision.

I recently got married and am currently living on the side of the road as my husband has never lived in a house and feels he will never cope. He has type 1 diabetes and needs constant care. His family live on a site but have no room for us and my family live in a house and have no room for us. I recently found out I was pregnant and am scared about coping without the support from my family.

It’s very difficult living on the road side. We have no water, toilets and showers. We are abused daily by settled people because they don’t understand that we have nowhere else to go.

I need a site so that I can get registered at doctors, hospitals etc but more importantly so I can be around people to support me. I understand you have a lot to deal with but I hope you will see this a priority and ensure all council build these pitches, we really need them.”

You can find more letters from Gypsies and Travellers in the report Letters from Gypsies and Travellers: an analysis of written responses to the draft London Plan.

 

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