Monthly Archives: August 2015

Refugee left on the streets by Newham Council + racist private landlords. Who can help Ibrahim now?

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Last Saturday on our street stall we met a refugee called Ibrahim. He wanted to tell us his story. This is what he said:

When I first got to London I was put into home office accommodation called NASS which is based in Newham. I stayed there from September 2014 – April 2015 whilst the Home Office decided if they would give me refugee status.  Once this status was granted, I was given 28 days to leave, open a bank account, find a home, etc. It took me a long time to open a bank account even though I had all the official documents and support from the Refugee Council.  This meant I could not get any benefits, so I was alone without money, without a job, no national insurance number and no roof over my head.

The Refugee Council gave me an official letter stating that I was completely homeless, and with this I went to Newham Council who told me to come back at 9 am the next day.  I made sure I slept rough close by that night, so I was first in line at the housing office in the morning, and I started queuing at 7am.  When they met me, they got me a translator and took down my story.  They took my contact details, gave me a ‘Housing Options’ letter which listed 3 hostels, and said they would be in touch.  I went to the hostels straight away, but they had no space for me, so I waited for the phone call from the council.

After 2 weeks, I wondered why no one had rang me.  It turns out at the previous meeting, the council had written my phone number down wrong. No one apologised to me for this.  They gave me another letter, but there was no translator present this time so I didn’t understand what it meant – my friend read it for me later and it said they acknowledged that I was street homeless, but that they would not offer me housing.  They told me to look for private accommodation.

My friend phoned one of the hostels up a few weeks ago on my behalf, and they said they had been trying to get in touch with me as a space had opened there, but because the council had not corrected the wrong phone number on their system, I never got the message.  I was told by the hostel that  if my friend hadn’t rang up that day I would be completely off their records.

I try to look for private accommodation, but it is a struggle as deposits are very high and many landlords don’t take DSS.  I got close to getting a room once but they heard my voice, and because I have trouble speaking English, they refused to go any further. To get private accommodation I have to save for a deposit, but it is hard to get a job when you are sleeping on the streets and have no address – people don’t employ you.  I also have to get an English speaking friend who has a ‘good accent’ to phone landlords, as they don’t accept me when I phone.

 I have now been street homeless for 5 months, with no end in sight.  I try and sleep during the day in a park near the Olympic stadium, and keep awake all night for safety.  When it rains I sleep in the police station.  I walk very far each day. I have to get to my college course and to work training courses.  I have no income aside from money the Refugee Council can afford to give me from their petty cash – sometimes £10 a week, sometimes £20.  I struggle as I have to top my phone up a lot to call landlords, so don’t eat much.  I try to stay clean and well dressed to get a job, and wash in the local Mosque, which they allow as I am Muslim.

Focus E15 campaign stands with Ibrahim in his fight for housing. Many refugees face escalated difficulties and racism and get very little support from anyone. Currently Ibrahim sleeps on the streets near the Olympic Park whilst homes lie empty on the Carpenters Estate, and many other places around London.  It is unacceptable for any Council to fail to support the most vulnerable in their borough, including refugees.
Ibrahim’s  words were translated for us by the Asylum Clinic, who we met with Ibrahim whilst they passed our stall, after getting basic supplies for their clinic to help Refugees.
 
Please share Ibrahim’s story on Facebook and twitter. Tweet and demand action from Newham Labour Council @newhamlondon
 
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Bailiffs sent away! Mostafa still at Sweets Way!

Great work from Sweets Way!

sweets way resists

On Monday, people kept a family from being evicted and pushed a council to reverse the decision that would have left them homeless. But we need to keep up the pressure to keep Mostafa and the family safe.

SWN20 (9 of 38) Photo by Hannah Nicklin

Yesterday many of us were prepared to be arrested. Not by choice, but because we had seen what Mostafa and his family had gone through, and we had seen them failed over and over again by the various systems that are meant to protect people in their positions.

We were prepared to do everything peaceful within our power to stop High Court bailiffs from entering the home of the last family at Sweets Way and making them homeless. We were prepared to do this knowing that doing so could constitute a criminal offence that could be left hanging over our heads for the rest of our lives.

But we…

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Tell Redbridge council that Bianca + 2 children need a local home.

Last Saturday on our street stall we met another young mother in urgent housing need called Bianca Ford. The private landlord is selling her home in Chadwell Heath.

Bianca and her children need somewhere to live near to her child's school.
Bianca and her children need somewhere to live near to her child’s school.

A court order has been issued and she has been given an eviction notice meaning that Bianca is now nervously waiting for the bailiffs to come knocking. Redbridge council have told her that she may be moved out of the area into Bed and Breakfast accommodation. She has to wait until she is homeless to find out, in about 4 weeks time.

Bianca Ford is an articulate  young single mother who is 23 years old. She is responsible for two children. Her youngest child is only 9 months and her oldest child is 5 and is due to start back at the local primary school in September. Her 5 year old is registered as having a disability. Having a child with health needs is one of the reason why Bianca wants to retain links to the local area so that her child can keep receiving regular treatment from the physiotherapist. If she was moved to a different borough, Bianca has been told it could take up to  8 months for her child to start receiving treatment again. Such a long waiting time would be detrimental to her child’s development.

Bianco wants to see her children thrive, to settle, to have friends and be happy. She also wants them both to grow up with the love and guidance of her wider family who live in the area. Bianca is also responsible for helping out her mother who has epileptic fits and sometimes needs Bianca to look after her. Who will help her if Bianca is moved away?

Getting news that you are going to be evicted is distressing. When her landlord told her he was going to sell her home, Bianca’s world was turned upside down. We need long term, secure social housing so people can form networks of friendship and support. Bianca has already spent time in a B&B  when she was pregnant and she does not want to return to living in temporary housing that is unsuitable for her children.

Bianca dreams about going to university, to get a job and  to help children with disabilities. As a single mother of two children, how can she apply for a university place if she does not know where she is going to be living, or if she is being moved around constantly?

We urge Redbridge council to look carefully at the needs of this young family who have a child with a disability. They want to move forward with their lives in a positive way. Bianca’s child needs to remain in her school where she has completed her reception year and made friends.

Please consider emailing Redbridge Council to highlight this case and the urgency of this family’s situation.

Please be ready to stand with Bianca when the bailiffs come. We are asking people to go to the housing office in Redbridge to support Bianca and her children during her housing meeting. Stay tuned for more updates.

Demand social housing, not social cleansing!

email: housing.options@redbridge.gov.uk

UPDATE
Please be ready to stand with Bianca outside Redbridge Housing Office on Monday 12 October. Look out for further updates