Video: Squatters explain why they’ve invaded charity coffee shop

Outside Bedford's YMCA community coffee shop, which has been occupied by squatters.
Outside Bedford's YMCA community coffee shop, which has been occupied by squatters.

Squatters say they will occupy other buildings in the town if they’re not given a permanent roof over their heads.

The homeless group took shelter inside the YMCA Fountain community coffee shop almost two weeks ago after they claim a door was left unlocked.

While they have come under fire for forcing a community project to keep its doors closed to others in need, the squatters say they were left with no other choice.

They claim to be paying for their food and footing the bills for telephone calls and electricity but a YMCA spokesman said no money has changed hands and no deal has been made.

She said squatters, including ringleader Jason Crowe, have been offered accommodation at Bedford’s night shelter but they have still refused to move.

“When I last spoke to Jason he said all he wants is to move into a flat or a shared house but obviously there are restrictions on that,” the charity spokesman said.

Outside Bedford's YMCA community coffee shop, which has been occupied by squatters.

Outside Bedford's YMCA community coffee shop, which has been occupied by squatters.

Jason, who says he was facing life on the streets after being evicted from his home through no fault of his own, said: “I have got no roots, I have got no base, I have got no family. I have got no-one to go to.

“People look at us as if we are doing this for fun. That door was left open on the day I was in crisis. It’s either here or prison.

“People need to understand that we are not bad people. I didn’t bring this on myself. I got evicted through no fault of my own.

“I’m ill, I’m at the most vulnerable I have ever been in my life.

“They have brought this on themselves and they can deal with it now.

“If I don’t get any satisfaction here, I’m going to take Barclays Bank next.

“I will take every single bank around here. I know how to get into them.”

Under current law, squatting in a commercial property is not a criminal offence, which means police cannot force them to leave.

Jason says he has offered the ground floor of the building, where the coffee shop is run, back to the YMCA as they are only using the upstairs of the block.

But the YMCA say this is not a realistic proposition.

Jason claims to be running a drug support services from the Thurlow Street base to help people get off ‘Spice’ - a type of synthetic marijuana.

Although not qualified, Jason says he has successfully kicked the habit himself and wants to help others.

“I need to educate people just how strong this stuff is. My goal now is to help as many people as I can,” he said.