SQUATTERS who have taken over a former school building in Birkenhead say more needs to be done to tackle the growing problem of homelessness in Wirral.
The group, who call themselves the "Love Activists" took over a disused bank in Hamilton Square in protest against homelessness last week and have now moved to the former Cole Street Primary School in Alvanley Place.
The school closed its doors in 2011 due to falling numbers and remaining pupils were transferred to nearby Cathcart Street Primary.
After being allowed in through the twin-padlocked gates by activist Paddy this morning, I was welcomed into the building that is now home to around 40 people.
Sleeping bags and pillows occupy what were once brightly-lit but are now cold, dark and dimly lit classrooms. It is their home.
They say there are plans to turn the former school canteen into a soup kitchen.
Outside flags - one with the face of Bob Marley's and another with an anarchy symbol - hang from second-floor windows.
Among those now living in the building is Daniel who has been homeless for a year because of family breakdown.
He told the Globe: "We are not here to smash the building, not here to cause trouble.
"We're just helping the homeless, trying to get them accommodation, as we were at Hamilton Square.
"We're offering them free bed and breakfast, so get yourselves down here.
"We want as much support as we can.
"We're just here to have a peaceful life, as everybody else is. The only trouble we have had is from kids smashing windows.
"I'd like to apologise to our neighbours for when the alarm went off. That’s been sorted and won’t happen again”.
In a recent Facebook post the activists said: "There's approximately 1.1m empty commercial properties in the UK so why is there a homeless crisis.
"Well the homeless crisis was manufactured. There's enough empty buildings in the UK it's just there's no money to be made by people being housed.
"Barclays bank own 97% of third energy which has vested interests in fracking in Yorkshire."
Daniel continued: “I was forced onto the streets because of family breakdown and wasn’t able to get help from the council because of my age.
“We need to get accommodation sorted, because there are too many people out on the streets now.
“We have just been neglected.”
“The police have been okay with us and we want to work with them and reassure there will be no trouble”.
In September of 2015 activists took over the empty Bank of England building in Castle Street, Liverpool, for two weeks before they were evicted.
The building’s takeover has prompted a mixed response from neighbours in nearby roads.
Michael Wilson, 70, a retired telecommunications engineer, told the Globe: “I think they should be allowed to stay there.
“They’re not causing any hassle and I’ve got no problem with them being there.
“I’d rather have in the building than see it demolished to make way a for planned block of 50 flats. That would cause so many issues, like parking problems ”.
A businesswoman, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “I have not got an opinion on the issue, but all I will say is I can see both sides of the issues and it was only a matter of time before something like this happened”.
Susan Martin, a mental health nurse, said: “I’m very happy for them to be there, because homelessness is a problem that needs to be sorted out.
“We are bringing Syrians over here and helping them by giving them shelter and a jobs, but what are we doing to help our own?
“They deserve a bowl of soup and help to get their lives back on chance.
“The majority of homeless people don’t want to be in that situation, but find themselves there through no fault of their own.
“These people have nothing and just want somewhere to stay.
“Why can’t the council keep the building as a centre for the homeless? A place where they can offer help to get people’s lives back on track”.
Daughter Georgina, a former pupil of Cole Street school, added: “The building has been left abandoned for such a long time and needed to be used in some way.
“I’m happy for it to be used a centre for the homeless and would be happy to go and help out if I can”.
A passer-by, who asked not to be named, said: “They should get out of the building; there are enough problems in Birkenhead without this adding to it”.
A neighbour added: “I don’t know who they are or what they do but they’re a nuisance and should not be there.
“They had us up all hours with alarms going off and they’ve already done damage to the property.
“Hopefully they’ll be gone soon enough”.
A police spokesman said: "Merseyside Police can confirm officers were called to reports that a group of individuals had gained access to a disused building in Birkenhead yesterday, Tuesday April 18.
"Officers were called to Cole Street Primary School in Alvanley Place at 8am.
"The owner of the building has made aware and the situation is being monitored by Merseyside Police".