The Trust owned the house in Colville Terrace and agreed to let the gays move in and squat while it didn’t need the house. The Trust had other homes to upgrade before getting round to Colville Terrace.
The Trust gave the 12 gays four months to live in the house. Now it is to be modernised.
The Housing Trust’s deadline ran out at 11 am one day, and workmen immediately started to force their way into the house, whose doors and windows had been barricaded by bedding and planks. Signs outside the commune’s house said: ‘We are 12 men. We are gay. We are a family.’
One of the commune’s members was Tim, who said: “We want the housing trust to give us a home because we think we are representative of a section of the community in this area. The house was unoccupied for six months before we moved in.”
A spokesman for the housing trust said: “It’s against the feeling of all the members of the trust to put people out in the street, homeless, but when there’s so much at risk, you have to act. The house will make five units of accommodation for families we are geared up to re-house.
“It’s another case of the desparate housing need in this area. Squatting is endemic in an area like this where there are no available homes and it is particularly sad in this case because they are a minority group who are being discriminated against because of who they are.”
While members of the commune were talking to the spokesman and her fellow members of the Trust, the Trust’s workmen forced their way into the house to start work on converting it.
While they were trying to take over there were scuffles between gay communards and workmen. Two people were slightly injured.
GLF communards are still living in the house at 42 Colville Terrace, and they have not fitted a siren to give themselves warning of any further attacks on the house.
GLF supporters told Gay News: “At 10am two members of the housing trust accompanied by two if its employees tried to break into the collective in Colville Terrace.
“They tried to do this by saying that they had a court order to enter and take possession of the house. After being asked by the occupants to see this notice, they withdrew.
“They said they would be back at 11am and all possessions had to be out by then. When they returned we insisted that we be allowed to the Housing Trust office.
“Three of us went and were assured that no attempt would be made to evict today. But when we returned to Colville Terrace we found that they had broken in (this going against what was said at the Housing Trust office).
“They forced their way up the stairs of the outside of the house, viciously pushing aside the many supporters who had arrived in the meantime.
“One of our members was injured slightly by one of the workmen. On reaching the door they attacked the window of the door, smashing it into the hallway. Some of the occupants were injured by flying glass, one with a piece of glass in the eye.”
Police arrived and stood around as the workmen tried to break into the house via the basement. But they were frustrated by the nine-inch concrete floor. So they just burst the water main.
It was at this stage that one of the spectators who had been injured complained to the police who told the workmen that they could be prosecuted for common assault. This has now been done.
At noon, the police. Housing Trust officials and their workmen withdrew.
Before any of the action happened the Colville Terrace Commune sent the following letter to the Notting Hill Housing Trust:
“We, the present tenants of 42 Colville Terrace, hereby make a formal application to be rehoused by you, our landlords. We are one unmarried couple and a family of 12 gay men, members of two minority groups who remain as yet unrecognised by you. We strongly suggest that you call an emergency meeting to discuss our plight. We are, by your definition, squatters; in that we moved into the house without consulting its owner. We moved in because we had nowhere to live. We had been continually harassed by private landlords.
“Tired of being forced to live in separation, miserable, exorbitantly expensive, squalid bedsits, obtained by pretending to conform to society’s heterosexual ‘norm’ we decided to live together in a rented house in Brixton. There we were harassed by gangs of local school queer bashers to the degree of getting hit over the head, or front door bashed down, and having bricks thrown through all our windows. We were refused protection by the police who even threatened to arrest us for soliciting, breach of the peace, etc. Within 24 hours we were given notice to quit, which we were in no position to fight.
“We came to Notting Hill for a number of reasons: principally because most of us had been forced out of rooms in that district.
We are challenging your refusal to rehouse us, not from the point of view of being squatters, but of being a family. We are as close as any nuclear family.
“We as gay men are as persecuted as any minority group (if not more so); the difference between us and other minority groups is that we receive no help from any liberal institution or charity. We never qualify: where must we go? Back into our lonely bedsits through the country?
“We demand a meeting with all the members of your trust. We want a firm policy statement on gay people and unmarried couples. We are a family, we hear so much about the plight of broken families, but we are surrounded on all sides by attempts to break our family.
“We will not move unless we are guaranteed a house.”
ED: For reasons of space we have been able to print only extracts from the commune’s letter.