King Hill hostel squat
In 1965, families squatted at King Hill Hostel, an ex-army camp in Kent, England. A significant solidarity campaign developed, carrying out the decisions made by the tenants of the squat. The government accepted the squat, and the campaign sparked a squatting movement throughout Britain.
From "The Squatting Campaign: homes for families" by Jim Radford:
In 1965 I became involved in a seminal campaign at King Hill Hostel in Kent. It was an ex-army camp out in the wilds; big wooden huts, very poor facilities. They put the women in the hostel but the husbands were turned away and told: "We don't cater for men, we can't have you." Children over 16 were also excluded. So the families were dispersed. And then after three months the women and the small children were evicted, which meant in most cases - in Kent, for example, where we researched it - most of the families broke up and never got back together again. There were even suicides. This had been going on for years, and hundreds and hundreds of families had been destroyed.
In 1965 there was a spontaneous revolt. One of the husbands moved in to the hostel to be with his wife and his children, and refused to leave. The local authority took him to court and he was sent to jail. So a group of us went down there and got the people in the hostel together. We created an organisation called the Friends of King Hill. We contacted all the women's husbands - some were sleeping in cars - and we moved them in en masse, barricaded the hostel, and fought a long and bitter campaign for 12 months.
King Hill Hostel served the whole of Kent at that time, including Bromley, which was not yet part of Greater London. We were saying: "Why are you sending people out to this remote place, out in the wilds, a mile walk to the nearest village? Why don't you accommodate them where there's work and where they can be in contact with their families?" They said: "We haven't got the places." So we said: "Yes you have. We've researched it - you've got all these empty houses."
Publicity was our most potent weapon. We had tremendous coverage, the bulk of which was supportive. We invaded the House of Commons, we camped outside the minister of health's house. Every week we were thinking up new things to do. And the result? Not only did we get Kent county council to change its policy to accept the whole family and to scrap the three months limit but we also compelled the government through the force of public opinion to issue two circulars directing local authorities throughout the country to do the same. We changed the system throughout the country because all local authorities from then on were required to accept the whole family and not to arbitrarily evict them.
The King Hill campaign triggered campaigns in other places. There were hostel campaigns and homeless action groups springing up all over the country.
- Colin Ward, "We House, You are Housed, They are Homeless" in Anarchy in Action
- Jim Radford. "The Squatting Campaign: homes for families." The Guardian. 10 February 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2004/feb/11/voluntarysector.comment1