THE Department of the Environment has forbidden a homeless family to squat in a stable in Trafalgar Square on Christmas Eve to draw attention to the problem of homelessness in Britain.
A number of organisations including the Shelter Housing Aid Society, asked permission to erect a stable for a homeless mother to sit in with her two children.
A letter from the Department of the Environment refusing permission said: "This in no way indicates any lack of sympathy for the homeless ... but it is contrary to the Department's policy to permit Trafalgar Square to be used for more than one event at a time, and the Norwegian Christmas Tree, the Crib and carols are together regarded as Christmas."
Fr Paul Byrne, OMI, the Director of SHAC, said he was very disappointed at the Department's decision. The organisers now hope to use Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park on Christmas Eve, but this site will not have as much impact as Trafalgar Square.
"Christmas must emphasise homelessness and the homelessness is emphasised by Christmas, by Christ's own homelessness," Fr Byrne said, "hut we must make people realise that it exists all the year round."
In a less concrete but no less
dramatic way, SHAC stresses the growing homelessness crisis in and around London in its annual report published on Wednesday.
SHAC, which celebrates its sixth birthday this week, says that the major problem is "hidden homelessness;" individuals and families who are forced to live with relatives and friends or in short-term accommodation or to suuat.
These people, often newly married couples, are not bothering to put their names on the housing waiting lists because they know that they have no chance of ever getting a council house. Under the law at present, local councils are urged, but not bound, to house the homeless.
Mr Anthony Crosland, Minister of Housing, said recently that legislation would be introduced to make it mandatory for councils to house the homeless.
In the private sector of housing SHAC "strongly opposes any attempts to reduce or withdraw security of tenure."