Newcastle Residents demand safety first!

Focus E15 campaign have been contacted by tenants in Newcastle. This is what they have told us.

We, a group of tenants and local people, are campaigning to your Your Homes Newcastle and Newcastle City Council to make changes to their fire prevention and procedures in high rise blocks, like many other local authorities have across the country recently. We are demanding ALL blocks are fitted with sprinklers and adequate fire safety measures are in place and followed through in ALL their buildings.

Following the recent disaster at Grenfell Tower, it was brought to attention that residents concerns and demands regarding fire safety in the building were ignored by their local council. We, tenants of Your Homes Newcastle (YHN) are hoping to highlight ours and demand upgrades to fire prevention in ALL Your Homes Newcastle tower blocks.

Questions being asked about fire safety in Grenfell Tower include;
Why were sprinklers not installed? Why was fireproof cladding not installed? What happened to fire alarms? Why were fire safety demands ignored?
These, are all questions which are applicable for blocks like the ones we live in. There is a seriously concerning number of fire regulations and policies which YHN fail to enforce. For example:-

  • All flat doors in their Riverside Dene properties (and others) fail to meet fire safety regulations. It states a gap no bigger than 8mm under doors, however some have gaps up to an inch.
  • Despite regulations introduced in 2007 (stating sprinklers should be fitted in all buildings over 30m) and the knowledge that sprinklers are one of the most effective ways to prevent fire spreading in high rise buildings, over 3800 council tower blocks are still without them, including YHNs.
  • YHN have made claims they “do not allocate families with young children in multi-stories and hasn’t done so since the turn of the century”. This is false, YHN tower blocks are FULL of families. YHN also house elderly and disabled in their tower blocks, their ability to easily escape the block in case of emergency is a serious worry. Occasionally, lifts are out of service for long periods of time with little/no explanation why or when they are coming back on.
  • Bin chutes are poorly maintained. Chute drawers must automatically shut close after use and have an air tight seal to prevent the spread of smoke, some floors actually have no chute door or door to the chute room!
  • In a leaflet, “concierge service news,” which YHN posted through SOME doors, stated replacement windows within stairwells were fitted with a smoke detector which will automatically open the top window for smoke ventilation – this is just outright false.
  • YHN have stated their all of their high rises are built on the principle of ‘compartmentalisation’. After a refurbishment some YHN Riverside Dene (duplex) flats are now open plan.

Please show your support in sharing our concerns and demands for a safe place to live by signing and sharing our petition and joining our Facebook group ‘Your Homes Newcastle make your tower blocks fire safe!’

 

Riverside Dene

Grenfell contractor Rydon makes millions via public sector contracts

Rydon is the company that led the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower during 2015-16 which resulted in external cladding being installed onto the face of the tower block. Metropolitan Police have launched a criminal investigation into the fire and have said that the cladding and installation fitted at Grenfell had failed “all safety tests”.

Rydon has spent the last 40 years developing its business via public sector contracts. Thank you to Trevor Rayne from the newspaper Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism who has discovered more information about this little known British-based company. We have reprinted some of his research below.

Rydon employs over 750 staff and paid out £8.4m to shareholders in 2016. Rydon’s chief executive is Robert Bond who received a salary of £424,000 last year and as a shareholder received an estimated £1.4m in dividend payments.

Other Rydon shareholders include two Jersey firms registered in the offshore tax haven of Jersey, including one set up by Lloyds Bank. HBOS put up money for a management buyout in 2005. HBOS is now owned by Lloyds.

  • In 1997 Rydon was registered as a provider to housing associations, local authorities, NHS Trusts and the education sector.
  • 2002 Rydon entered the Public Private Partnership market with the PFI scheme for the Chalcots Estate in Camden.
  • 2004 Rydon secured the largest mental health PFI contract in the country for the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust.

The Royal Borough of Kensignton and Chelsea are also under intense scrutiny due to negligence over fire safety standards as the Grenfell Action Group blog painstakingly points out. Focus E15 campaign will be supporting the forthcoming demands of this housing campaign.

People of East London!  Join Focus E15 on the street stall on Saturday July 1st at 12pm – 2pm in Stratford outside Wilkos to demand:

PUBLIC HOUSING NOT PRIVATE PROFIT
Social Housing, not social cleansing!
Justice for Grenfell!

 

 

All eyes on Newham council as fire safety concerns continue to mount

The disaster at Grenfell Tower, is a heart wrenching and unbearable ‘social murder’ on a devastating scale. Focus E15 campaign have been responding to this atrocity and politically charged moment by organising speak outs in the community and attending residents meetings. The campaign is urging tenants across the country to take immediate action and organise together to put pressure on local councils to ensure the safety of all tenants in their neighbourhoods.

We also know full well the frustrations of dealing with councils who refuse to listen to their tenants concerns and understand how worried people will be about the safety of their homes.

On Thursday 22  June a BBC radio programme called World Tonight investigated a tower block in Newham in east London called Ferrier Point. A BBC reporter called Andrew Hosken took two fire experts,  Professor Arnold Dix and Arnold Tarling into this particular tower block because Ferrier Point is covered in cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower and was worked on by the same contractors, Rydon Ltd. Both experts on the programme were horrified by what they saw regarding the lack of fire safety standards in the block and voiced serious concerns over residents safety.

One expert said, ‘already my hair is standing on end’, after noticing that the windows could not offer a potential escape route. Residents would be trapped behind fully fixed double-glazing that they would be unable to open in the event of a fire. As they moved inside to check the boiler, one of the fire surveyors exclaimed, ‘crikey;’ as it dawned on him that flammable plywood was connected to the boiler and went into every single flat, essentially meaning that there is a fire route into each living quarter. He also observed that it would be impossible for fire services to access the boiler in order to stop a fire. A resident in the building claimed that she hadn’t even used her boiler for three years as she was worried about a potential gas leak.

When asked if the building would pass a fire inspection, the surveyors replied that Ferrier Point was ‘an absolutely unequivocal fail’, and ‘a failure with capital letters in neon flashing signs’.

Focus E15 campaign therefore urge Newham council to take immediate action over Ferrier point. We demand that they  put people before profit! The council must act and remove  flammable cladding from all buildings in Newham to ensure the safety of residents. We also urge the council to inform the public of their immediate plans in light of the fire at Grenfell Tower and to take urgent and effective action. It is disturbing to note that Newham council have not yet announced on the council website what they intend to do.

Focus E15 campaign are also clear that the Grenfell tower fire should not become part of a cynical excuse to get rid of remaining social housing stock in the false name of regeneration (as it was this cosmetic tinkering and lack of overall quality control that certainly caused the fire to spread so fast at Grenfell Tower). Social housing is not the problem here but must be part of the desperately needed solution to the escalating housing crisis – after all Newham has recently been shown to have the highest amount of homeless people in the whole of the UK.

Please join the campaign to speak out and make plans to work together in the community to put more political pressure on Newham council regarding our housing needs. Join us on the street stall every Saturday from 12-2pm outside Wilkos on the Broadway to say:

Justice For Grenfell!

SOCIAL HOUSING NOT SOCIAL CLEANSING!

Justice for Grenfell residents must be a priority

Focus E15 campaign sends condolences to everyone affected by those who died in the fire at Grenfell Tower and offers our solidarity and support to the residents. We will continue to fight alongside you in the struggle for decent long-term secure safe housing for all.

In November 2016, Grenfell Action Group said:

‘It is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO, and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders. We believe that the KCTMO are an evil, unprincipled, mini-mafia who have no business to be charged with the responsibility of looking after the every day management of large scale social housing estates and that their sordid collusion with the RBKC Council is a recipe for a future major disaster.’

Follow Grenfell Action Group, Focus E15 campaign, Radical Housing Network and others for details of coming events, meetings and actions.

Demonstrate:  Justice for Grenfell

Friday 16 June 6pm
Department for Communities and Local Government
2 Marsham Street, SW1P 4DF

We reprint below the press statement by Radical Housing Network and urge readers to look at the blog pieces of the Grenfell Action Group, who for years have campaigned and written about the criminal inadequacies of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) and the estate landlord Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation (KCTMO).

Justice for Grenfell Tower
‘Managed decline’ of council housing and contempt for tenants contributed to fire.
Radical Housing Network, a London-wide alliance of groups fighting for housing justice, said the Grenfell fire was a tragic consequence of systematic disinvestment in council housing alongside disregard for council tenants safety and their concerns – and called for #JusticeforGrenfell.
The catastrophe at Grenfell Tower was foreseen by a community group on the estate. Just 7 months ago, Grenfell Action Group, a member of Radical Housing Network, warned that failings in the estate management organisation’s health and safety practices and attitude were a “recipe for a future major disaster”. These warnings were dismissed by Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) council.
It’s been revealed that Gavin Barwell, Conservative Chief of Staff and ex-Minister for Housing, ‘sat on’ a report warning that tower blocks were vulnerable to fire. Last year, Barwell was one of 312 Tory MPs who voted against making properties ‘fit for human habitation’.
Radical Housing Network called the fire a horrendous example of the consequences of a combination of government cuts, local authority mismanagement, and sheer contempt for council tenants and the homes they live in – and an indictment of London’s housing inequality.

A spokesperson for the Radical Housing Network said:
“The fire at Grenfell is a horrific, preventable tragedy for which authorities and politicians must be held to account. Grenfell’s council tenants are not second class citizens – yet they are facing a disaster unimaginable in Kensington’s richer neighbourhoods.
“This Government, and many before it, have neglected council housing, and disregarded its tenants as if they were second class. Nationally and locally, politicians have subjected public housing to decades of systematic disinvestment – leaving properties in a state of disrepair, and open to privatisation. Regeneration, when it has come, has been for the benefit of developers and buy-to-let landlords, who profit from the new luxury flats built in place of affordable homes. Across London, regeneration has meant evictions, poor quality building work, and has given tenants little meaningful influence over the future of their estates.
“The chronic underinvestment in council housing and contempt for tenants must stop. It is an outrage that in 21st Britain, authorities cannot be trusted to provide safe housing, and that people in council properties cannot put children safely to bed at night.
“We support demands for a public inquiry into this disaster – there must be Justice for Grenfell. We call for the immediate resignation of Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s Chief of Staff, alongside anyone else whose negligence has contributed to this tragedy.
“All Grenfell Tower residents must be offered secure, long-term local housing by RBKC, and the estate must be fully rebuilt so that no social housing is lost – this should not be an opportunity for the council to privatise homes, or for someone to make a quick buck.”

 Radical Housing Network is a London-wide network of campaigns fighting for housing justice. Grenfell Action Group is a member group of RHN.
@radicalhousing
Read the blogs from Grenfell Action Group

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/fire-safety-scandal-at-lancaster-west/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/kctmo-playing-with-fire/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/01/30/more-on-fire-safety/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/another-fire-safety-scandal/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2017/03/14/kctmo-feeling-the-heat/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/why-are-we-waiting/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/grenfell-tower-from-bad-to-worse/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/more-trouble-at-grenfell-tower/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/the-disempowered-of-grenfell-tower/

https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/tmo-still-asleep-at-the-wheel

 

Take a look at the Labour Party’s new shadow Home Secretary’s record at local level

Lyn Brown, MP for West Ham in Newham, east London, was in the shadow home affairs team when Jeremy Corbyn was first elected leader of the Labour Party, she then resigned a year later after placing a vote of no confidence in Corbyn’s leadership but then was allowed to return as shadow minister for policing. 24 hours before the general election in June 2017, she was promoted to shadow Home Secretary as Diane Abbott was taken ill.

Focus E15 Campaign has had first-hand experience of her consistent attempts to dodge responsibility towards young mothers in her constituency who faced being socially cleansed out of London. We therefore register a  massive vote of no confidence in the decision to promote her.

Lyn Brown, MP for West Ham since 2005, was the local MP for the young mothers in the Focus E15 hostel. The mothers started campaigning in 2013 when Newham Labour Council withdrew funding from the hostel and the housing association tried to evict 29 young women and children out of London, to Manchester, Birmingham or Hastings, miles from family, friends and support networks…Lyn Brown did nothing to support the mothers and challenge social cleansing. The council’s solution was to push these young women into short-term expensive private-rented accommodation. Lyn Brown continued to ignore the problems despite meeting those directly affected at her surgery and at public meetings.

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When approached at an International Women’s Day event in 2014, she accused the young mothers of being exploited by the campaign and tried to stop an independent journalist filming her. A year later, she offered a washing machine and a bed to two of the mothers in dire housing situations – empty promises that never materialised.

If Lyn Brown won’t represent the most marginalised in her own constituency, then we know what her positions will be in government or in opposition as home secretary.

In the words of a campaigner from Focus E15 Campaign:

‘People may think Jeremy Corbyn represents them but you only have to look at the new shadow home secretary Lyn Brown to see how unheard and let down working class people will be left once again by the Labour Party. We need to be organising on the streets and putting pressure on the people fighting for real change. Remember no one can represent us but ourselves.’

Read more about what happened when Focus E15 campaign met Lyn Brown at an International Women’s Day event in 2014:

http://www.katebelgrave.com/2014/03/focus-e15-stories-so-far-iwd2014/  

lyb brown pic 2

 

 

Working class women face court fees as evictions keep rising

No time for your Housing issues, we have an election on…

This is what Labour MP for East Ham Stephen Timms said to Chantelle, when she visited him last week as a last resort in her struggle for decent long-term accommodation with her young son in Newham.

Three years ago, Chantelle and her two month old son, were placed by Newham Council, under the Bond Scheme, in private-rented accommodation. The flat has mice and cockroaches, damp, no loft insulation and intermittent problems with the boiler leaving Chantelle and her son with periods of no hot water or heating. Chantelle’s son is in a local nursery and has a place in the school for September 2017.

Out of the blue, in January 2017, Chantelle received a Section 21 Notice of Possession (Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, is the legal eviction notice a landlord can give to a tenant to regain possession of a property at the end of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy). Frightened by the prospect of homelessness with her young son, Chantelle sought advice and Newham Council advised Chantelle to stay put, not to move out to stay with a family member as she would then be making herself intentionally homeless. She was advised to look for private accommodation in the two weeks that followed and when she was not successful, she was then advised by the housing office to go through with the eviction process and she was told she would not be liable for court fees.

However  outrageously Chantelle has been ordered to pay court costs of £355 to the landlord for this eviction and bailiff’s have been summoned to evict her, creating more stress and anxiety for Chantelle and her son.

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Chantelle’s case worker has said that once the bailiffs have come and Chantelle is on the streets she will be given emergency accommodation, but only out of London. The case worker said that unless a child is in their GCSE year, they are ‘expendable’ and will cope with being moved away from their family, friends and teachers.

Labour Mayor Robin Wales in his address to the Annual Council Meeting last month said that Newham ‘has real Labour values that create for each of us the means to realise our true potential’ and boasted that Newham has ‘amongst the best services in London’ and ‘doing more than other boroughs to get rid of rogue landlords’ and as housing reaches a crisis point, Newham is ‘showing the way for others to follow’.

The reality is that social cleansing continues, with people like Chantelle being forced out of borough and out of London, tearing them away from their family and support networks, their children’s schools and their jobs or job prospects. Meanwhile thousands of homes lie empty in the Newham, not least over 400 homes on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford.

Chantelle will be at STRATFORD MAGISTRATE COURT 389-397 High Street E15 4SB Tuesday 6 June at 2pm. She should not be financially penalised. Chantelle knows that her struggle is the struggle of thousands of people across London. Focus E15 campaign will be there to support her when she requests an extension to stay in her current property and for the court costs to be waived. The struggle goes on to ensure that Chantelle and her young son are not moved out of Newham. 

Social housing! Not social cleansing!

Newham nag is a hit with residents

Read all about it. Real news hits the streets of Newham

Focus E15 campaign and Debt Resistance UK  joined forces to launch a one off  publication, the Newham Nag on Saturday 20 May outside Stratford station in London.  Both campaigns agree that Robin Wales and the Labour council in Newham continue to pull the wool over the eyes of residents and this needs to be exposed. The Newham Nag draws attention to the official publication for Newham council, the Newham Mag.  This latter publication paints a rosy version of Newham that is unrecognisable to those who are facing the effects of years of austerity and council cuts. Clearly an alternative voice is needed in Newham!

Front Cover

Passersby flocked to get their free copy of the Newham Nag and stayed around to chat to campaigners. Speakers on the community sound system included Debt Resistance, Focus E15 campaign and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! with a special Newham news and weather bulletin from our very own correspondent.  Points were made about the financial scandals, the growing disparity in wealth in the borough, gentrification, social cleansing, the corruption in the Labour Party at local level, the ongoing cuts to services and the appalling state of temporary and emergency accommodation that people are being forced into as evictions and homelessness increase.

The event was brought alive by some special guests including someone dressed up as Sylvia Pankhurst, the revolutionary, anti-fascist, communist, who was also campaigning in east London for the rights of working class women a hundred years ago; there was someone dressed up as Lyn Brown, the local Labour MP who received a fair few boos and also someone dressed up as a council worker and a cockroach, a symbol of the overcrowded slum living conditions that many residents have to put up with in Newham.

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Just as members of the public came forward to share their stories the police and local enforcement officers approached campaigners and suggested that there may be a problem with the street event under S137 of the Highways Act. It was hard to take this seriously given the amount of space available outside Stratford station and no passersby were complaining.  After some discussions,  with police officers ominously hanging around, the enforcement officers came back to announce that they were now going to ‘take enforcement action’, which turned out to be the threat of issuing a penalty notice, which they never did as campaigners took to the community sound system and made points about police harassment  – a fine lesson in standing your ground and knowing your rights and garnering the support of people on the streets.

The council may not want us distributing real information but we won’t be silenced.

Come and get your copy of the Newham Nag, available every Saturday on the Focus E15 stall 12-2pm outside Wilko’s on The Broadway, Stratford E15. Email focuse15london@gmail.com for more information.

For more information about the work of Debt Resistance UK and their involvement in exposing local council financial scandals all around Britain, see lada.debtresistance.uk.

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No More Fake News! This is reality

Robin Wales and his parallel universe of lies and deception!

Focus E15 campaign went along to Newham’s Annual Council Meeting on the 18 May. This is a big gala event.  250 people heard Robin Wales make vainglorious speeches about how wonderful he has been for Newham.  It was grotesque. Robin Wales made a speech about his work programme for 2017/18 and spoke of Newham having the best services in London, compared to 25 years ago when the borough was, an “incompetent backwater”. It was hard not to feel sick.

He  then went on and blamed the housing crisis on the Tories and explained that Newham Labour are standing up against criminal and rogue landlords. He promised that Newham Labour are putting “power into the hands of the residents”. Robin Wales ended his speech by concentrating on the Newham borough motto, which is, ironically, considering the amount of social cleansing that has been going on, Live, Work and Stay. He repeatedly emphasised that Newham is a place where people CHOOSE to live, work and stay, knowing full well that for those who are sent out of borough and out of London for housing, there is no choice at all in gentrified post-Olympic Newham.

As the applause started and the standing ovation began Focus E15 campaigners stood up too and started shouting questions about Lobo loans, financial mismanagement, social cleansing, slum living conditions, the empty council housing on Carpenters Estate and then broke into chants of Repopulate the Carpenters Estate! Robin Wales shrugged his shoulders and mumbled in to the microphone about 2018 council elections. He was then mobbed by his sycophantic supporters while ‘We’ll meet again’ was played very loudly over the public address system and Focus E15 campaigners shouted YES WE WILL.

Leaving the Old Town Hall in Stratford the reality hit – almost in every doorway in the old shopping centre  was a bed space for a homeless person tucked into a sleeping bag on cardboard. Homelessness and rough sleeping is rising and Newham has the highest number of residents in temporary accommodation in London and is one of the boroughs moving the highest number of people, who it has a statutory duty to house, outside the borough and outside of London. Outrageously, after over a decade, the Carpenters Estate in Stratford still stands mostly empty. Newham council is continuing its attempts to empty these homes, remove the residents and demolish the estate while claiming there are no homes in the borough.

Join us on Saturday 20 May to tell the real news of Newham. Meet outside Stratford station from midday  and tell the truth about what is going on in the borough. Please share this facebook event

Bring Abigail and her children back home to London!

Watch the videos, read the text below and support Focus E15 campaign in the renewed pressure and demands on Waltham Forest council to stop social cleansing to Boundary House in Welwyn Garden City.  We  are demanding an end to Abigail’s isolation. 

In March 2014 Abigail approached Waltham Forest council to help find accommodation. Her previous landlord was about to evict her as she was pregnant and he didn’t want a baby in his property. Abigail was told by the council that they had found her emergency temporary accommodation, a one bedroom apartment, in Welwyn garden city.

When Abigail arrived at the new property, it was clear the accommodation was not suitable for her and her unborn daughter.  It wasn’t a one bedroom apartment as she was told, but a very small studio flat with a kitchenette, living room and bedroom all in the same room. The room had problems with damp, mould, cockroaches and dangerous faulty appliances (Abigail and her children have spent the last two winters with no working heating). Heavily pregnant when moving in, and then with a new-born baby and a pushchair soon after, the room Abigail was given was on the 3rdstory, and the block of accommodation has no lifts.

Watch the video as Abigail explains more about her situation:

Welwyn Garden City, where Abigail was placed, is over 20 miles and an expensive train ride away from Abigail’s family, community and place of work in Walthamstow.  Outrageously, this means Abigail has had to spend 80% of her wages on travel, whilst being separated from her support networks, and removed from the place she knows as home.

This year marks 3 years since Abigail’s placement in Welwyn Garden City- when she was initially moved she was told it would be a few month, maximum. She has been doing everything she can to move back home; speaking to councillors, housing officers, and continually bidding for suitable properties closer to her loved ones. But unfortunately, her attempts have been unsuccessful, and Waltham Forest Council are unwilling to help.

In September 2016, Abigail gave birth to her second beautiful daughter, who has recently been diagnosed as having Congenital Melanocytic Naevus (CMN), a type of birthmark. Unfortunately complications of CMN can include neurological problems in the brain or spinal cord and malignant melanoma. This means that the baby must attend regular check-ups with her doctor, and specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

With the recent diagnosing of Abigail’s second daughter’s condition, it has become even more urgent that she is brought back to London, back to her support networks, so her family and friends can support her and her daughters. Abigail will need help with childcare, family to attend appointments with her, and loved ones around to support her in stressful and scary times.

This family cannot get the support they need living miles away from their community, it is time they are brought back home. That is why Focus E15 campaign is supporting an online petition to demand Waltham Forest Council bring Abigail and her daughters back to London, and to provide this family with a safe and decent home. Please sign and share the petition across your networks:
https://www.change.org/p/waltham-forest-council-bring-abigail-and-her-kids-back-home

Thank you. Together we are stronger!

Why I am a Focus E15 campaigner

Janice Graham has been out campaigning with Focus E15 campaign on the streets of East London every Saturday for 3 years. On International women’s day 2017 she takes time to explain why:

I am a mother of 4 children and I have 11 grandchildren. I have lived in Newham most of my life, bringing up my family single handed.  I have just plodded along getting on with my life, not being interested in anything to do with politics: I always thought it was boring and couldn’t be bothered to listen to a load of old rubbish coming from politicians thinking they know everything.  This changed when Newham Labour Council’s policies of social cleansing started to affect me and my family.

My daughter Jasmin was moved into Focus E15 Hostel in Stratford in East London, when she was 7 months pregnant. The hostel was home to 100s of young people under the age of 25, all from different backgrounds and many of these young people were quite vulnerable.  The rooms were very small and damp, but at least I thought, my daughter has a roof over her head and hopefully she can move somewhere more suitable for bringing up a child soon. After all there were all those lovely brand new flats on the Olympic Village sitting empty.

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Janice, left, with her daughter Jasmin

How wrong could I be: in September 2013 Jasmin and all the other 29 mothers and mothers to be, received eviction notices and were told they would have to get out because the council’s funding stream to the mother and baby unit suddenly stopped.  It was scary because the Council  were moving people as far as Hastings, Birmingham or Manchester.  I went with my daughter and tried desperately to find something in the private rented sector, but each time we met landlords it was clear that they were not interested in housing single mothers on benefits.

I thought, this cannot happen, I am not letting Newham Council separate my family. My daughter is not going to live hundreds of miles away from me – I would never see my grandchild.  The insecurity was putting my daughter under so much stress.  I started to worry about all the other mothers from the hostel and wondered how they were coping; they must do something together.  I suggested to Jasmin that she should speak to the other mothers, knock on their doors and get some kind of petition going.  And that is exactly what they did. A campaign was formed, supported by other organised groups like the RCG, Feminist Fightback and many talented individuals offering campaigning experience and solidarity to the mothers.  I am very pleased to say that we stood up to Newham Council and made them listen and the mothers were all rehoused in London. A massive victory!

For more than 3 years now Focus E15 Campaign has been going strong. Every Saturday  we meet people on our street stall on the Broadway in Stratford who are going through similar housing problems, causing people much misery and stress. Why should people have to move away from their area so property developers can build sky high apartments that often stay empty?  The empty homes all over the country should be repopulated now.  There are even empty council homes in Stratford on the Carpenters Estate where homeless people could be rehoused.

My message to anyone and everyone is you can fight back, get together in numbers. Make demands, say what you want and keep on pushing until you get what you want.  I would never had dreamt in a million years that I would have been out on the street making a noise and fighting for what I now realise is our right.  You can do that too.  Stand up to the council bullies and fight back.

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