Monthly Archives: July 2015

Triathlon Olympic homes put up the rent by 23%. Where will Sharon live now?

Last Saturday we were approached at our street stall by a woman called Sharon who is living in the new Olympic ‘East village’. It is horrid to think that this new housing complex has been built on the site of one of Europe’s largest housing co-ops, known as Clays Lane,home to around 450 people. Clays Lane was compulsory purchased to make way for the 2012 London Olympics. Sharon use to live at Clays Lane and in a strange twist of fate, she was rehoused  on the site of her former home 14 months ago.

This new housing in the Olympic village  is managed by Triathlon Homes. Triathlon is a public/private partnership, boasting on its website that it provides over 1000 ‘affordable’ homes. However what this means is that it charges huge rent at 80% market rate and to top it all, in March 2015, Sharon’s rent  was actually raised by a staggering 23%. Who  on earth can afford such a massive hike? How much profit does this housing association need? When the market dictates housing policy, no one living in social housing is safe or secure.

In June this year, Sharon  was diagnosed with a  genetic heart condition. She also lost some of her left vision in both eyes and was registered as visually impaired. Such life changing health conditions meant that Sharon’s life became more challenging and difficult. She lost her job.  She is responsible for her son, a 13 year old boy who attends the local school. However Triathlon housing will not accommodate or allow for such changes of personal circumstances. Sharon has been told that she is not eligible to claim housing benefit for the type of housing provided by Triathlon in the Olympic village. It seems as if the housing association is conspiring with Newham Council to push out people on low incomes or those on benefits and to ‘socially cleanse’ the Olympic Village.

Sharon has been giving a notice to quit. However she wants to stay where she is. She does not want to be forced out of Newham and lose her connections with  her friends or the hospital where she undergoes check ups and treatment for her condition. We urge Triathlon housing and all  ‘social landlords’ to have a heart and to treat people as human beings that need stable shelter for themselves and their children. Sharon should not have to move again. Moving house when you are visually impaired can be difficult as it is hard to adjust to new surroundings. When children keep moving schools they can fall behind with their education and lose formative friendships.  Let her son continue with his education at his local school.

This  personal story illustrates  why our campaign is demanding Social housing not social cleansing!
Join us on our street stall on Saturday, 12pm -2pm on the Broadway in Stratford outside Wilkos.
Come to our March Against Evictions on September 19th, 12pm Stratford Park, West Ham Lane

Please consider asking Triathon to provide long term housing that people can truly afford. Let Sharon stay!

Email: info@triathlonhomes.com

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Brave Colchester family speak out about council intimidation

Earlier this month Katrina and some of her children travelled down to the stall from Colchester to get support and tell us about their housing situation there and the overcrowding they are facing at the hostel they are currently living in. We are very alarmed by the problems faced by her and other  families who have lots of children. We do not think that such families should be split up or have children taken into care. Children need security, family life and decent housing.
This is Katrina’s story
We have a relatively large family by ‘normal standards’ but at the time we had the fifth child my husband was employed and earning a very healthy wage. He was made redundant but didn’t expect it would take long to find employment. As far as we were concerned our family was big enough and  so another pregnancy was a huge surprise and to be carrying twins was a massive shock. We were living in a 3 bed private rent so knew that eventually we’d need to move to something bigger and approached the council to go on the waiting list. They told us we had to make an application for homelessness to be accepted onto the housing waiting list. We were told that if we refused to move into temporary accommodation then they wouldn’t accept us onto the housing list so we moved.
Because we resisted their bullying tactics, we made ourselves a target for punishment. One of the tactics the council tried was to tell our landlord he needed to evict us (this was to ensure we had no choice but to go to the emergency housing they had lined up for us). The day before the eviction the landlord had rung us asking if we had heard from the council  as no one was getting back to him and the last thing he wanted to do was evict us. Within hours he must have heard they weren’t going to pay him any more housing benefit and we had approx 15 hours notice before the bailiffs came knocking.
So we had to move to the hostel. After being summoned to a meeting we have been told that the council will be discharging their duty to house us yet they are still forcing us to move again no doubt to wait until the last bag/box has been unpacked to throw us out again. They are saying we will be better off in the private sector yet there aren’t any affordable rents and living in a university town means large properties make more money for landlords to let out to students.
In the hostel we are housed with other vulnerable people and this is just not suitable for families.To add to it all we have 5 girls sleeping in a room with 4 beds. We are told one will have to sleep on a mattress on the floor which wouldn’t leave any floor room for walking, let alone toys.
If you are unemployed for what ever reason you are looked down upon for being a burden on the economy and don’t deserve anything. As for housing officers feeling that people ‘like us’ are bleeding the tax payer dry all I can say is that as far as I am aware we are all tax payers (VAT). Our hopes for the future are to have stability, to know we are secure for at least a fixed amount of time so we can actually have lives and focus on work and education.
By telling our story we hope encourage others to speak out against the harsh treatments of councils, to highlight how housing officers are prepared to tell whatever lies it takes to manipulate the situation into their favour such as telling people they will only be in B&Bs for a couple of days that stretch into months. To be told you cannot appeal their decisions and to be grateful for whatever they handout! They prey on the isolation of people so it’s time people got together and exposed them for what they really are.

Newham Mayor’s security behave like crocodiles

Below is our response that we are sending to the Newham Recorder regarding their recent article and the outrageous comments from council spokespeople about Focus E15 campaigners. Please also scroll down to watch the latest video about the Mayors Newham show.

Dear Newham Recorder,
The spokespeople from Newham council were clearly not in the park judging by their comments. We did not go ‘with the sole intention of disrupting this fun day, causing upset to families with…aggressive and confrontational behaviour’. We went to talk to people and to give out leaflets, hardly an aggressive crime in a public park. As Ben Geraghty from the campaign, quoted in your article says, our ‘intention was to raise awareness’.

In fact we barely had time to talk to anyone before we were rounded on by aggressive APS security staff, who snatched away our leaflets and placards before herding, dragging and pushing us out of the park. The video which shows this action has now been seen by over 14,000 people on facebook.

The security staff certainly did not evict us to ‘ensure the safety of the members of the public’ or because of any ‘threatening behaviour’ on our part. Such council statements are an attempt to draw attention away from the aggression shown by their security. Everyone we spoke to inside the Newham Show showed great interest and support for the campaign because the housing crisis in Newham is affecting so many people.

Focus E15 campaign wanted to leaflet  people attending the Mayor’s Newham Show to let them know the facts about Newham: Labour Mayor Robin Wales is an unashamed advocate of gentrification, a supporter of sanctioning and kicking out the poor and most vulnerable. Under his rule, over 400 homes on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford remain empty and around the borough many more homes are boarded up, while homeless people whom the council has a statutory duty to house, are forced out of London.

The security staff were told to remove us as quickly as possible  to prevent us giving out information to people and to stop Robin Wales being embarrassed again. Last year, at the same event, Mayor Robin Wales himself was so physically and verbally aggressive to members of the Focus E15 campaign, that it was taken up by the Newham Standards Committee, and their investigation concluded with him being found guilty of a breach of the code of conduct.

Outrageously the council distributed their own leaflets at the Newham Show which read ‘£50m, that’s how much the council has to save next year’ and council employees were going around asking people what services should be cut. This is a council that sides with big business, banks and property speculators, while cutting social housing and continuing a policy of social cleansing.

We should remember that Newham has one of the highest rates of poverty of any London borough and, since 2012/13, it also has one of the highest levels of LOBO (Lender Option Borrower Option) loan debt in the country. Newham has  spent £563m on borrowing money which in turn  has generated  huge interest repayments: the council  owes over £40m in LOBO debt and this is likely to rise. For some reason, Newham council have refused to disclose the loan contracts when requested to under the FOI Act.

Services for the people of Newham should not be cut. Focus E15 campaign will not be silenced by aggressive security staff. We will continue to highlight the housing crisis in Newham  and side with all those in housing need.

This video shows more footage from the Mayor’s Newham Show:

Evicted for handing out leaflets at a public park during Mayors Show

Report on the Newham Mayor’s Show

Focus E15 campaigners and their supporters went to the Mayor’s Newham Show on Sunday 12 July.

We wanted to let  the Mayor of Newham, Robin Wales know that the campaign for affordable long term secure decent housing goes on and we will not sit by and watch people being evicted and sent out of London far from their communities and support networks.

Last year at the Newham show Robin Wales was verbally and physically aggressive to Focus E15 campaigners which led to an investigation by Newham Standards Committee that found the mayor guilty of a breach of code of conduct.

Unfortunately this year, the security staff were physically aggressive. They evicted Focus E15 campaigners from a public park in a brutal manner. Their heavy handed, rough treatment was totally disproportionate to the actions of the campaigners who were peacefully giving out leaflets to interested members of the public. One Focus E15 campaigner was wrestled to the ground by his throat and he and other activists were forcefully ejected from the park. Our banners and leaflets were confiscated and they even took our leaflets away from members of the public upon entrance. Yet we know that all people have a right to be informed about the housing crisis in Newham and many people at the Mayors show are affected by it. Why is the council trying to suppress leaflets about the housing crisis from the public?

Meanwhile, inside the Mayors show, council officials were busy distributing their own literature which boasted about how much money the council ‘saved’ due to 50 million pounds of cuts to our services. Let us remember that this council has spent £563m on LOBO (Lender Option Borrower Option) loans – the highest of any council in Britain – on which they continue to pay huge interest – amounting to almost 50 million pounds.

It is clear that Newham squanders money while people struggle for housing!

Once we were all evicted from the park we chanted, handed out leaflets and put up our banners outside. Our campaign is growing and reaching out to everyone. Stand with us. Say not to evictions! Repopulate the Carpenters Estate! Social housing not social cleansing!

Please take a look at this video which shows the outrageous way private security guards behaved during the Mayors  Newham show.  Facebook video.

Stuck in limbo at Focus E15 hostel

Danila Caetano, a 22 year old with a 13 month old baby, came to the Focus E15 campaign street stall on Saturday 4 July. She  has been living at Focus E15 hostel since 2011. This hostel is where the original group of mums started the Focus E15 campaign.

This is Danila’s story.
I am a single mum. Single mums get  judged unfairly. The local authorities do not care about single mothers or their children.
Living at Focus hostel is difficult with a young child, the flat is very small and cramped. The baby does not have enough space. I am living in one room really. I have a table next to my bed where we can eat. It is dangerous for the baby and when you have repairs needed to be done it takes East Thames ages to fix it. I had no hot water for the first 6 months of my pregnancy. They don’t care.
I have suffered from depression. When you bring a child into the world you want to give her a decent life. I am so unhappy that my child is living in a cramped situation.The hostel is not suitable for children.
I have lived in Newham since 2008. I have family and friends here. I am studying at Newham college and my baby goes to nursery in Newham. I would have no support network if I was to be moved out of London. It is already hard being a single mum and I would struggle to live somewhere else.
Danila is one of many young residents of Focus E15 foyer, stuck in limbo, neither evicted nor given the support to be able to move out and fearful that they will be sent out of London as Newham continues to carry out social cleansing.
Newham Council and East Thames Housing Association need to work together to house the young people and children of Focus E15 hostel in decent, long term, affordable and appropriate housing.
Eye-witness report from Focus E15 hostel
On 25 June there was a fight that led to the reception area being covered with blood and glass.
The father of a family of four, all living in Focus E15 hostel, told Focus E15 campaign that it wasn’t until 4 July, nine days later, that the floor was cleaned. In his words:
 This shows the utter disregard that Newham Council and their business partners (East Thames and Tando) have for the residents of Focus E15 hostel. Children and families are being exposed to unhealthy conditions on a daily basis. I do not think that the place is suitable for young people to grow up in and this constitutes child cruelty of the highest order in a developed society.
Contact the following people to voice your concern:
Yvonne Arrowsmith, chief executive of East Thames – yvonne.arrowsmith@east-thames.co.uk
Terry Paul, councillor Stratford – terence_paul@hotmail.com
Lyn Brown, MP for West Ham – brownl@parliament.uk; lyn@lynbrown.org.uk
Florence Bangboye housing officer – Florence.bamgboye@newham.gov.uk
Robin Wales – Mayor of Newham -mayor@newham.gov.uk

Mum and her baby allowed to stay on in B&B

The young woman and baby who was threatened with eviction from her B&B when she refused to be moved to the outskirts of Basildon (due to racist abuse) is no longer being evicted tomorrow, Tuesday 7 July.

Her case has been highlighted by Focus E15 campaign and other eviction resistance housing activists.

Today Newham council phoned her up to say that they will continue payment for the B&B until there is a decision from her appeal.

She will keep us updated on her housing situation.
She and her baby still need to be housed in a decent long term affordable stable home.

Onwards!
Keep up the pressure!
Social Housing! Not Social Cleansing!

Racist abuse in Basildon dismissed by Newham Council.

 

Focus E15 campaign met a woman on the weekly stall on 27 June. This is her  story:

I am a 23 year old single Muslim mother of a four month old daughter. I have an eviction notice for 7 July from the B&B we are in. After that day my baby daughter and I will be homeless.

During my pregnancy I was living in a hostel. I was depressed most of the time and I wasn’t eating well and I had pelvic problems which meant I wasn’t able to get out of bed or climb the stairs, and my room in the hostel was on the top floor. Once I gave birth, Newham Council placed me in a B&B, not really suitable for a young baby.

Now I face eviction because the council say that I have made myself intentionally homeless by rejecting an offer that they found to be suitable for me in Basildon, Essex.

I went to view the property in Basildon and had a terrible time while I was there with verbal racist abuse and being told to go back to the place I came from etc. They made me feel unsettled and scared, unwanted and inferior to them. I felt like I was nothing and since that day my depression and anxiety have got worse.When I told Newham Council, they said I was not physically abused, that it could have been a one off, and that this wasn’t a good enough reason to refuse as the offer was a suitable one and that I had to either take the property in Basildon or leave the B&B.

I have family and friends in Newham who help me since I gave birth. The council don’t listen and don’t care. I’m scared for my daughter. The day she was born I made a promise to myself. I made a promise to protect her and always make sure she is looked after and safe and secure, to always make sure she is warm and always smiling.

An eviction order has been sent to this young single mother and baby

Please share this story on Facebook and twitter. Tweet Newham Labour Council @newhamlondon

Details of eviction resistance on Tuesday 7 July to follow soon. Please check back