Star date: 15th January 2018


As the Manchester squat above BetFred in the city centre was evicted this morning, homeless people in Salford have occupied an office building owned by Peel Holdings near Eccles.

Peel recently received a cheap public money loan of over £8million for its Lightbox apartments in MediaCityUK, where flats cost up to £400,000... "This was our only option" says John who has been homeless for almost five years.

Full details here...

Eccles Squat Salford Eccles Squat Salford Eccles Squat Salford
Eccles Squat Salford Eccles Squat Salford Eccles Squat Salford
click image to enlarge

This morning, around 4:30am, police and bailiffs evicted homeless people from an empty building above BetFred where a night shelter had been set up over Christmas for those sleeping rough in Manchester city centre (see here).

17 people were taking shelter in the building at the time and, after the eviction, one volunteer who was helping out overnight wrote on social media..."Throwing vulnerable people on the streets? Well done Greater Manchester Police; well done Andy Burnham..."

Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham. has pledged to sort all street homeless people out by 2020 but the problem is getting worse and is not confined to Manchester city centre. As the Manchester squat was being evicted, two homeless Salford people were settling into their fourth night at empty offices on Barton Road near Eccles.

The office building is owned by Peel Investments (North) Ltd, part of the Peel Group empire, which, in 2016, got a cheap loan of £8,302,984 from the £300million Greater Manchester Housing Fund (now controlled by Andy Burnham) for its Lightbox apartment block on MediaCityUK, where flats cost up to almost £400,000 (see here).

While Peel were getting public subsidies, one of their latest residents in Eccles, 61 year old John, has been homeless in Salford for around five years, staying in derelict buildings or on the streets...

"I've just finished another course of antibiotics as I keep getting chest infections through this situation" he says "Sometimes I don't know how I've had the courage to endure it, it's been one arduous journey. It has affected me but I've had to be strong and resilient for my babies..."

John's 'babies' are his three dogs, and once word spread of the Eccles squat, donations have poured in from Salford people of dog beds, food and blankets. It's because John wouldn't be parted with his 'babies' that Salford Council's homeless service wouldn't re-house him when he originally lost his City West tenancy.

John, a regular church goer who is looking for work, was evicted after helping what he calls 'the wrong type of people' - addicts and alcoholics – and says he became a victim after he invited them into his home and subsequently lost it.

"I feel privileged that I was around them, to have seen things and experienced things on a different level that would probably shock a lot of people" he says "What goes amiss are the children, the suffering, it's horrible."

After being evicted, John ended up couch surfing, sleeping under a canal bridge and staying at the empty Cross Keys pub in Eccles for four years before new owners took it over. Since then, he's squatted in various places, the latest an empty building almost next to the block of flats from where he was evicted. Bulldozers have now demolished that 'shelter'. 

Last week, he was passing the empty Peel offices on Barton Road, noticed the door was open so took shelter there where he was joined by Stuart, who has been homeless since last year, evicted by a private landlord after, again, helping a person in need.

"I brought a homeless man into my home who had been kicked out of his house by Rochdale Council after his mum had passed away" he recalls "He wasn't entitled to live there because it was a four bed house and so he was thrown on the streets with all his possessions, and ended up outside Tesco on Market Street in Manchester.

"He was on drugs and stuff, and I said he couldn't do that in my house as I'd been through drugs issues myself" he adds "I got him off drugs but one of the neighbours phoned up and said I was bringing unsavoury characters back to my house, so the landlord came and kicked me and my friend out."

From there, after a few more episodes, Stuart ended up living on the side of the canal in Eccles last summer, which hit the national press, and then couch surfing or staying at his girlfriend's flat before hooking up with John, firstly in the soon-to-be-demolished building, and now at the Peel Holdings building. He's had a total of just under £150 in benefit payments since last June.

Now the pair and the three dogs have been resident in the Barton Road building since last week, have changed the electricity and gas bills into their names, and regard themselves as guardians of the building, which was open and subject to vandalism before they moved in.

They have legal Section 144 notices on the door warning potential bailiffs that any attempt to enter by violence is a criminal act. Squatting is a civil matter and owners have to get a court order before any eviction can take place.

They have already had a visit from Peel's representatives... "One said to me 'Do you know who you are messing with? The big boys; the billionaire who owns the property?'" Stuart recalls "I said 'I am aware who owns the property; we have rights to stay here, if the landlord is a billionaire why can't he help us out with a property?'"

Peel certainly won't be offering them one of their luxury, publicly-subsidised apartments at MediaCityUK. Meanwhile, Stuart is currently 25th down on the Salford housing waiting list.

"I think it's ridiculous" he says "And it's only going to get worse. Through no fault of their own, people are getting into arrears and they are going to end up on the street as well, with families. It can't carry on like this.

"Being homeless affects your physical health, mental wellbeing, everything really" he adds "Something's got to give. They can't keep doing this to everybody. The general public will eventually end up turning around at some point and saying 'This is a problem'..."

...And, as that problem gets worse, councils have to open up their empty buildings, or more and more people are just going to take over private empty buildings.
It's that or the streets.

See also previous Salford Star article – 5 Empty Buildings that Salford City Council Should Open For the Homeless – click here

Eddie Carroll wrote
at 10:27:26 on 18 January 2018
I have known John for many years and he is probably one of the most polite people you could meet. People often judge him because of his appearance but if they just stopped and spoke to him you would understand him better. He is probably in this situation as he would have been discyfrom the secondary services due mainly to his love of his dogs. He has been one of a large number of people ‘abandoned’ by the mental health service due to budget cuts and efficiency drives. Their are large numbers of people who have been let down by so called professionals who deemed it right to remove community group services which were a great way of keeping people stable and compliant. However as soon as somebody showed any initiative or signs of improvement they would be discharged to the primary service ie GP. Consequently this would put pressure on the GP services as in my opinion they do not have all the expertise within mental health services.
Dawn Pragnall wrote
at 15:42:30 on 17 January 2018
Squats conjure up all sorts of images in peoples minds and generally people tend to think of them as scruffy, needle ridden and filthy with damage to the building and no care taken. I know for a fact that corner house 2 above Betfred was nothing like this at all from what I witnessed...What I saw was a well laid out sleeping area which was calm and peaceful. And so much stuff all sorted out into designated areas and the public's generosity is beyond actual words. Everything from food, drinks, electrical equipment and so much more was there and none of it was rubbish none of it was worthless! It was structured in a way that was made to be like a real home with furniture and beds set out and they were working at getting it even better daily. It was clean because people provided them with things to maintain standards and people who resided there saw to it to keep it tidy and care for their environment. This is not a case of abuse of a building it is a case of the government abusing people and their trust. The stuff was heartlessly tossed into a skip a member of the 'cleaner / security' squad on video said stuff in there wasn't worth anything and gave their name as SAS security 9the latter was said several times) and BOTH were LIES!! A member of the police did not even ask to see verification from the 'cleaners / security ' to check their authenticity had they done so they would have found that they were lying.. This needs sorting out fast its an utter disgrace how these people have been treated!!
Salford Star wrote
at 15:36:00 on 16 January 2018
See Bob The Regular One's comment below - no, we haven't forgotten, it's just getting someone to talk on the record. We know exactly what's happening
Bob the regular one wrote
at 15:32:49 on 16 January 2018
Debi is right, It seems to me she knows what she is talking about. Something must be done. This homeless thing has just got worse and worse.At one time,we had Bloom street in Salford. Also the Sally army place on Oldfield road. nothing posh but a roof and a bit of warmth for those in need. Both places done away with, luxury housing for yuppies now.Our rulers are so stupid. do they not think for one minute that people who pay over 300 grand for a house or flat might not be what is called "core labour voters". The problem for this homeless situation is Burnham and Dennet. Dennet is the GM housing supremo. he will not answer questions about what he is going to do about it though in relation to those on the street. So he must be replaced. By the way, the editor of this journal said he was going to tell us what Salix did with that £1.3milion for the homeless. I have not forgot. Has he?
debi blanchard wrote
at 08:25:22 on 16 January 2018
organised squats run by experienced squat crews are safer than some hostels. crack smack and spice are banned from organised squats. many experienced squat crews would like to work with local authorities but all there attempts at dialogue with councilors have been met with a wall of ignorance.as for being hidden from the mythical 'support' thats all that is, a myth, councils just give you a list of landlords.mostly out of date. try being single ,homeless, not legal priority, with no address to get ID or apply for housing or a job from. only someone who has never been homeless and experienced that catch 22 could have such nieve belief in the magic support faries. thay dont exist. you try being homeless. you will soon agree squatting is a preferable solution to freezing outside and is a moraly right, positive and admarable use of empty buildings. its the owners that leave buildings empty for years you should be calling 'wrong'
Bogdanovich wrote
at 08:25:05 on 16 January 2018
So what is the alternative to squatting, Alternative Opinion? I mean, it's not as if they are doing it as a lifestyle choice, is it? I'm sure that John and his friend would much rather have an abode of their own with a tenancy agreement. But like you say, squatting is dangerous. There again, maybe you have spacious garden shed or an unused garage that you could let them stay in. If you did, that would be very public spirited of you, and I'm sure that they would appreciate it. But if not then I suppose that kipping in some super rich conglomerates vacant building would be far better for them than sleeping rough in the park or in the badlands of Piccadilly Gardens or Market Street.
Stuart Potts wrote
at 08:24:34 on 16 January 2018
Squatting is the only option that I have I we are looking after the building and are paying for the bills I do not take drugs and don't have a drink 🍻 🍷 problem we are protecting the building 🏢 from vandalism and are keeping the place secured 🔐 from damage if anyone has another solution that does not involve a hostel where my belongings get stolen and people bully you on pay day as they want drugs or alcohol then please 😌 do tell X
bob wrote
at 08:23:27 on 16 January 2018
Peel had an £8m load, peel are one of the richest landowners why do they need a load?.
Marie wrote
at 08:22:18 on 16 January 2018
Definitely be backing these all the way theye have rights like every human haha love it 😊
Amy McKinnon wrote
at 16:48:35 on 15 January 2018
Not all squatters are drug users and alcoholics and squatting is the only solution sometimes or it means living on the streets. If you are trying to say needles will be lying around in squats then surely it would be worse to have them lying around on the streets! The council can make it near enough impossible to rehouse people and it's a huge problem. I myself am facing eviction as the landlord wants to sell the house and because of rent arrears I cannot be put on salford housing list yet. There are far to many buildings empty which can provide homes for so many families. Affordable housing is now a thing of the past and councils and government officials need to open their eyes and make a whole lot of changes because this problem is getting worse and if squatting means having a roof over your head and more safety and security than.the streets can provide then I ddon'tsee a problem. Maybe billionaire Peel Holdings could be kind enough to sacrifice one building to home the homeless and the 'babies' . Amen.
Tracy Barnes wrote
at 14:51:07 on 15 January 2018
This needs sorting out ASAP
Alternative Opinion wrote
at 14:51:04 on 15 January 2018
Squatting is often dangerous for the squatters as they are hidden from view and can't get the support they need. There are also fire/gas safety risks to be taken into account as it is totally unregulated, many squatters also have drug addictions which require interventions as opposed to letting them shoot up in empty buildings, leaving needles lying around. In short homelessness is a terrible problem for Salford and these people have been let down by society, but squatting isn't the solution. In many cases it makes things worse. Yes a great tale of David versus Goliath when Peel is involved, but ultimately squatting is still wrong and shouldn't be encouraged. My $0.02
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