Last week marked the official opening of the office in the St. Christopher’s Community Centre on site at Dale Farm. So far, it only consists of a table, some chairs, a sign-in sheet and a kettle, but we hope to be kitted out with at least a computer, printer and broadband this week. Adding to the crucifixes and portraits of Mary that already decorated the walls of the centre are new posters with messages such as “£18 Million wasted on Dale Farm. No sites identified. Who is really to blame?” and “Tell us where to go and we will go. If not here, then where?”
Someone has to be in the office at all times to sign visitors in and to answer any questions the residents have about their precarious situation. Today, it was 11 year-old Dale Farm resident, Eileen who was manning the office. Unlike most of the adults at Dale Farm, Eileen can read and write and was proudly showing me and my 3 year-old daughter, Molly, how much she had learnt so far at Crays Hill Primary School. She even drew Molly a picture of a princess that has now become her most prized possession.The office will serve as a central meeting point for residents facing eviction to gather for moral support, to get daily updates on their legal situation and to make sure that their homelessness applications are up-to-date. We hope that, after two years of asking Basildon Council to agree to have officers from its Homelessness Department on site, this will finally take place. The office can serve as a hub for officers to meet with residents and more effectively process their homeless applications. Furthermore, their presence on site would be an important gesture to show the Travellers that Basildon Council is taking its homelessness obligations seriously.
Father Dan, the priest at Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church in Wickford, blessed the office after the final in the series of nine prayer services he has led on site at Dale Farm over the last nine days.
Posted By Susan Craig-Greene
Posted Jul 18th, 2011