Floods 2015: ‘the whole city came together’

The line the James Street flood is visible as a dark line line on building Credit: Lorraine Mulvenna

On Boxing Day 2015 York experienced the worst floods since 2000. When the Foss Barrier failed an area very badly affected was James Street, the home to one of the city’s Gypsy and Traveller Sites. Many people and businesses showed enormous support for those that were affected and for a time ‘the whole city came together’.

Kally: On Boxing Day the water just come up through the drains, like it does often do. We thought, ‘nah, it won’t get that bad’. We didn’t know what was going on around us. There is a man on the site who has a house phone and around 1am, he had a phone call and shouted out to us all, ‘get off the camp because it’s going to flood’. That night we just sat out the front of the site.

Denise: The next day people we know started to help. There was a man we knew in the houses near James Street called Alan, who has a boat. He is my daughter’s best friend’s father. He came round in his boat. He stayed all day until it dropped dark, going backwards and forwards, getting things for people out of the site.

Kally: There was also an old man and woman from the nearby houses who fetched teas for us.

Denise: Morrisons were really good. They said we could go in and get some things for the kids like PJ’s, underwear, socks and shoes. They also brought out bags of shopping for us.

Morrisons also said ‘go to the café and get a warm meal’. Nestles was good as well, they sent chocolate and coffee. The Catholic Traveller’s Group donated funds to Dunelm for us to get bedding. Joe Windas did some fundraising via facebook and organised two fundraising nights.

Kay: Someone at the York Traveller’s Trust offices went out for Fish and Chips and came back with mounds and mounds of fish and chips. People were sending hot sandwiches in to us too.

Kally: When people were walking past the site, they’d stop and say, do you need help? The full city came together, for a while.

Helen: What happen after the floods and during the clear up? Where were you living?

Kally: I was living in Malton. I was in a dark and lonely place in Malton, I was still with my child but not with my family or the community. I was thinking, am I going to get a home to James Street or am I going to be struggling to put something together? The Two Ridings charity gave money, if it wasn’t for them and their support to get the chalet sorted out, I’d still be struggling.

Helen: Given the flooding, do you thinking James Street worth fighting for?

Lorraine: Yes, as a camp and a community it is worth fighting for. It is probably the best situated camp in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland too. You don’t need a car, you can walk everywhere, bus routes, schools over road, schools up the road. But the situation it is now, unless they improve the drains or heighten us up, that we are left with the threat of being flooded, we are living with that over our heads all the time.

York Traveller’s Trust thanks everyone that donated or helped out during the aftermath of 2015 flood.  See the website if you’d like to support York Traveller’s Trust in their work on future flood prevention.

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