CORNWALL HOUSING CRISIS ACTION NOW
by Bev Haigh-Jones
Attending the above protest in Lemon Quay on Saturday 21st August generated a range of emotions for me – anger and despondency, of course, but also pride and hope.
The anger: Generated by the situation where Cornwall, along with other areas of the UK that are considered desirable holiday destinations, is suffering from the extreme lack of affordable housing for locals, as detailed in the accompanying report by Ann Higgins.
Hearing the heart-breaking stories of people who are homeless, or about to be made so, speaking through their tears of despair, it is very difficult not to feel anger and rage on their behalf. For example, one man has lived in Cornwall for fifteen years and raised his children here. He has been renting a property during that time, but earlier this year was given notice to leave. He and his family have nowhere else to go, the limited amount of property that does become available to rent is either far too expensive, or is being fought over by scores of potential tenants. At the time of the protest, he had three weeks before the bailiffs were due to arrive and, even though he had appealed through the courts, the landlord’s position was upheld. An organisation called Acorn offered him help on the day, I can only hope that they managed to halt the eviction, though his was just one of many such stories.
The despondency: That life-long residents, members of the electorate, apparently have no say in the matter, nor any power to change the situation. That only empty promises are received from government, where they are received at all. That local authorities appear almost powerless against the drive for ever more new houses that are beyond the means of most local people to buy, and certainly do not provide the much needed rental properties for locals, or seasonal workers.
The pride: That this event, Cornwall Housing Crisis Action Now, was organised and run by young people of the county, in particular Bella Smith. Bella spoke a with knowledge, passion and conviction and really captured the attention of the assembled crowd. She invited people to the microphone to speak and give their view on the situation, or tell their own personal story. She had invited all six Cornish MPs to attend the event, but predictably, none of them made an appearance. Senior councillors were also invited, and I am glad to say that several of them did attend and did address the crowd. Bella held the whole thing together for two hours of very worthwhile speeches, plus even a poem and a song.
The hope: Whilst we have young people like Bella, who really care for their community and want justice for local people, there is certainly hope and that was one of the positives to come from this gathering. Add that to the passion felt by most members of the crowd, which incidentally was comprised of many different groups, political and otherwise, brought together in a common cause and we can dare to think that change may be possible. Everyone from the Green Party to the Socialist Party, plus other groups such as Kernow Matters and Acorn, united with members of the general public, all with the same aim.
Add to that people like Tom, who wrote and read out a poem highlighting the issues that the county is facing and another young man, whose name I unfortunately don’t have, who sang his own version of Trelawney with appropriate changes to the words, and all this gives me hope. Hope that with sufficient pressure applied by the people who care for this county and its people, that things might be different eventually.
If anyone would like more information on Cornwall Community Housing Crisis Action Group, or would like to join the Facebook page, the link is as follows: https://www.facebook.com/groups/cornwallcommunityhousingaction/