This is the grate that's just been put up to evict a longstanding community of Westminster rough sleepers, forcing them out into the elements. The situation is urgent.
For at least a year these rough sleepers, some of them involved in our campaign, have been sleeping in the tunnels out of the cold. MPs walked past them into parliament every day. They received national attention before, when one of them passed away, sparking outpourings of sympathy and promises of help.
Instead of help they received official harrassment, with rough sleepers being faced first with "Community Protection Notices" threatening £20,000 fines for "loitering", then the 1824 Vagrancy Act and "random" searches by police. Often woken up at 6am, they had to wander around Westminster in the day, but at least they had a warm tunnel to stay in when it wasn't being used.
But over the weekend they returned to the place they'd made their home one evening, and found a massive metal grate blocking off the tunnel. Every day at 7pm, when the tunnel is no longer of use to politicians in suits, it is blocked off and left empty. No warning or notice was given, and no help was offered. Rough sleepers are forced to sleep in nearby parks or outside the station, still being regularly "moved on" of course.
We need your help. This is on the Parliamentary Estate, and is the decision of the Parliamentary authorities. They chose to do this now because MPs are on recess in their constituencies - we're asking you to contact your MP and call on them to demand #NoWestminsterEvictions.
We've got a draft email you can send to your MP below (and please let us know if you get a reply!):
I'm one of your constituents, and I'm asking for your help with an urgent situation on the doorstep to Parliament. A community of rough sleepers who've been sleeping out of the cold in the Westminster station tunnels have all been evicted over the weekend. You likely walked past them when you went into Parliament every day.
They were given no warning or notice of the eviction, but instead a massive metal grate was simply installed that now blocks off the tunnel at 7pm each day:
No support was offered connected with the eviction, and no evidence of 'misbehaviour' by rough sleepers has been given. The group of rough sleepers were there well over a year (Gyula Remes, the rough sleeper whose death in December received national attention, was one of them). Now there is nowhere in central Westminster where they don't risk being moved on, and many are forced to sleep in nearby parks or outside Westminster station.
This tunnel is part of the Parliamentary Estate, and clearly now was chosen as the moment to do this because MPs are on recess. As your constituent I would be grateful if you voiced your opposition to the eviction, so that this decision can be reversed and more compassionate means can be used to support these people off the streets.
Please could you do a brief statement or video voicing your views on this, and could you contact the Parliamentary Estate directly. If you would like more background on the situation please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.