Leeds GATE

Working to improve the quality of life for Gypsies and Travellers

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Reflections from Helen Jones on the meaning of 'improving accommodation'

Helen Jones's picture
By Helen Jones |  February 1, 2013 |

Helen Jones ReflectsThe wording of Leeds GATE objective of ‘improving accommodation’ is a bit problematic.  If we were working with people who wanted to live in houses, we could speak of “improving housing” and anticipate that people would know what we were talking about.  If we want to estimate the effectiveness of our work to improve accommodation we need to clarify exactly what we are aiming at.  So a quick resort to the internet for assistance is in order.

Top of the Wikipedia definitions of accommodation are:  

  1. a dwelling; and
  2. a place of temporary lodging.

Well that’s okay isn’t it?  Accommodation is where people ‘dwell’, or ‘lodge’.

In the case of Leeds GATE members this can include houses including privately or socially rented houses;  socially rented and privately owned or; rented pitches (ie one unit of site accommodation; one home).

It also includes ‘unauthorised developments’ (living on land you own but haven’t yet got planning permission for) and ‘unauthorised encampments’ (living temporarily on land you don’t own – ‘roadside camps’).

Interestingly Wikipedia also tells us that “accommodation” is used to describe ‘a reasonable adjustment’ which is a nice idea, not really what we are attempting to describe within our objective, but it may provide inspiration for how we approach achieving our objective? I’m in danger of going off at a tangent now.

Okay, back on topic, we want to improve where people live, and we may need to allow ‘reasonable adjustments’ to achieve that.  But what do we mean by ‘improving’?  Does it mean that we intend to do a bit of DIY, by way of home improvement? I wouldn’t want to rule it out but it isn’t that the way we have approached things so far.

We need to describe what ‘improved accommodation’ would be like for the Gypsy and Traveller people who are dwelling, and lodging, in our region.  According to those necessities which assure survival and advancement we need our homes to provide us with shelter, warmth, access to water and utilities; safety and security; a place to love and belong; a place which enables us to be confident and developing ; and which supports us to be moral, creative, accepting, spontaneous, our lives having meaning and peace. (Scholars might want to revisit Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need* at this point).  Wiktionary describes improvement as “The act of improving; advancement or growth; promotion in desirable qualities; progress toward what is better”

To evaluate whether the places Gypsy and Traveller people live are getting better as a result, in full or in part, of the work Leeds GATE has done, we must look back at how things were before, how things are now, and estimate how much of any changes between the two are because of the activities of Leeds GATE.

In subsequent blogs reflecting on the subject of improving accommodation we will focus on the families who live at the Local Authority owned and operated Gypsy and Traveller site Cottingley Springs; on families who are trying to provide their own site accommodation (private developments); people who live in housing; and people who live on the roadside camps.  In this blog, hopefully, we have explained that our work towards ‘improving accommodation’ is about making the places Gypsy and Traveller families live, better.

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