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COP26: Climate campaigners take over council building to offer beds to activists

Activists have taken over a former homelessness services unit in Glasgow in response to a severe lack of accommodation during COP26

Climate activists have occupied a former homeless shelter in Glasgow to house fellow campaigners during COP26.

The occupation called Baile Hoose has brought the former Hamish Allan Centre and asylum seeker’s night shelter, a Glasgow City Council property in Tradeston, back into use to offer sleeping space and donated food to activists.

The campaigners told The Big Issue they decided to act after the demand for accommodation at the conference mixed with the existing housing crisis to leave activists with nowhere to stay.

“We are aware of activists who have been sleeping outside due to a lack of available shelter,” Betty, one of the campaigners behind the occupation, told The Big Issue.

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“Given the current housing crisis in the UK, buildings should not be left empty while people in our communities are sleeping on the streets due to unaffordable, exploitative rent and opportunistic Airbnb hosts.

“We hope to provide a hearty Glaswegian welcome as the concerned people of the world present a sustainable alternative to the lip-service, half-measures and inevitable climate chaos proposed by the G20 nations.”

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Concerns have been raised about the availability of accommodation across the Scottish city before the COP26 summit began on October 31.

Last week elders from the Indigenous alliance of the Americas, Minga Indigena, met MSPs at Scottish parliament to warn that 100 delegates on their way to COP26 were struggling to find suitable accommodation.

Calfin Lafkenche, coordinator of Minga Indigena said ahead of the conference: “Indigenous consent is key. People who live in indigenous territories must be consulted on any plans for the land. We demand for that to be included in the COP26 negotiations.”

Meanwhile there have been reports of shortages with only 15,000 hotel rooms secured in advance to house more than 25,000 delegates alongside police officers and activists.

The shortages have pushed up hotel prices while some homeowners around Glasgow have been putting their properties on Airbnb, Gumtree and other short-term let sites with soaring price tags up to £7,000 per week.

The situation has prompted campaigners to act.

Baile Hoose campaigners said they have spent several days restoring the building, which was closed after the council shifted to a Housing First model to tackle rough sleeping, and intend to continue the occupation until the climate conference ends on November 12.

The activists have promised to “clear, clean and re-secure“ the property once their occupation ends.

The building is located in the Tradeston area of the city which is part of Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s Glasgow Southside constituency.

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Campaigners have been calling for the first minister to back their occupation and claim that they have the support of UK civil society group COP26 Coalition. 

A COP26 Coalition spokesperson said: “We have been struggling with accommodation for people arriving in Glasgow, as they’re coming in great numbers and hundreds are being left with nowhere to stay, which is even more worrying as the temperature drops.”

A Glasgow City Council spokesperson said: “The former Hamish Allan Centre has been closed for years and the building is not safe for human habitation. There are concerns about fire safety and possible asbestos.

“It was shut down, as it did not provide acceptable accommodation at that time and the residents moved to more appropriate Housing First properties. The council did not provide access to the building and it’s concerning that people have moved in.”

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