Homeless shelter tenants evicted from abandoned building by owner

Homeless people have been evicted from a “thriving” community shelter in an abandoned office building by an alleged overseas property owner.

The former office block at 121 Westminster Bridge Road in Lambeth had lain empty until homeless people started occupying it from the beginning of this month.

The group is known as the Autonomous Shelter Network and has seized empty properties for homeless people to use across the capital.

Protesters in masks did not want to be identified (Picture: James Twomey)

In the short time they had been there, tenants described a transformation of the space as a shelter for homeless people, as well as a cafe and cultural centre.

But building owners Picasso Investment Corporation, which formally dissolved in the UK in January 2021 according to Companies House, sought an order from the court to evict the occupiers.

The tenants said they had found documents that suggested the owners had reformed the company in tax-haven Monaco.

The court order gave the tenants 24 hours to leave the building, and at 4pm last night many of the people who had been living there protested when the bailiffs arrived.

Tensions rose when one of the bailiffs appeared to say he “loved” evicting people and said to one of the protesters “I’ll f*** you up”.


A protester and former tenant of the building, Robyn Watts, said he had been living in the building for two weeks and was “gutted” they were being evicted.

Mr Watts said had been homeless for a couple of months after he was evicted from his Clapham home when the landlord increased the rent by 40 per cent.

“I’ve got no family, no support network,” he said. “But I got really lucky when I stumbled into the Autonomous collective. 

“It’s been so peaceful, there’s heating, water, clothing. Imagine receiving unconditional support from strangers. That’s what it’s like here. It’s disgusting that they’re going to close it down.”

A man known as ‘Spiderman’ refused to leave the building (Picture: James Twomey)

Another man who only wanted to give his first name, Mario, said: “I spent 14 days sleeping on the street until they invited me to come in here. I really feel like family.”

One of the cafe’s organisers, who only wanted to be named as Stephanie, said she was “disappointed but not surprised”.

“They don’t care about homeless people,” she added. “When people came here and managed to get the heaters working, people started to cry, they said ‘it was like paradise’.

“We created an atmosphere that was magical here and broke the preconceptions that homeless people are bad people.”

The bailiffs said they were private hire and worked for the owner, but would not say what company they were from. 

A man claiming to be the owner was present but did not give his name and declined to comment when approached by the South London Press.

Pictured top: The building at 121 Westminster Bridge Road with protesters outside (Picture: James Twomey)

Video by James Twomey

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