Two weeks ago, two homeless Salford people, Stuart and John, took up residence in an empty Peel Holdings office building on Barton Road in Eccles*. Peel, which today got a Government public money grant of £4million for its Trafford Waters development (see here), promptly obtained a possession order at court on Monday and the occupiers had to leave.
Photos posted on social media show that they left the place in immaculate condition, cleaner than it was when they moved in.
Now Stuart and John and their three dogs have set up a new 'home' in the empty Nur Malaysia Community Café - formerly the Devonshire Arms pub - on Liverpool Road in Eccles, to avoid sleeping rough on some of the coldest nights of the winter.
The Land Registry shows that the building is owned by Mahboob Hussain, Matloob Hussain and Jawad Zadar, and, before being closed, operated as a friendly cafe that hosted many community events.
"I was walking past this building, noticed it was empty, went around the back and the fire door was open, so I secured the building, put a Section 144 notice up* and we've moved our stuff in" says Stuart "We scrubbed the place from top to bottom and made it our home. These are commercial premises, and always have been, so we have rights."
Once in, they were soon visited by three men who put Stuart on the phone to the owner...
"He asked about my situation, and I told him about my life and how I'd got to this point" Stuart recalls "He said he was on holiday and would talk when he got back. Meanwhile, the other guys were locking everything up at the front of the building, barricading us in the back, then took the Section 144 notice down and said they wanted us out...
"I said 'I've got nowhere to go, I'm homeless and it's freezing out there...What are you going to do, throw us out onto the streets?'. He said 'It's not my problem' and at one point threatened to send in a 'team' to get us out." he adds.
Stuart, John, their dogs and supporters are hoping that this doesn't happen, as a poster they found now takes pride of place on their 'living room' wall. On it is a quote by former Malaysian spiritual leader, Abuya Ustaz Ashaari Muhammad, or Abuya... 'Love and Care is the key to universal unity...'
The Salford Star made contact today with a representative of the owner but he didn't want to comment on the issue.
*A 'Section 144 Notice' is actually a notice that Section 144 of the Legal Aid,
Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 that made squatting in a residential building an offence does not apply. What does apply is The Criminal Law Act 1977 which made it an offence to threaten or use violence to enter a property where someone is present and opposes the entry, even if they are squatters.
Landlords or owners have to go to court to obtain a possession order for an eviction to take place. On occupying commercial buildings, homeless people have been posting these notices to protect themselves (see photo).
* Peel Holdings Building Squatted By Homeless - click here