A march against evictions awoke the heart of Stratford in the East End of London last Saturday when local people, political groups and campaigns took to the streets to demand decent housing for all. The march was militant, diverse and empowering, full of noise, speeches and lively chants. It was led by the original Focus E15 mothers and their families plus others who face being shoved out of London due to a manufactured housing crisis. A local mother, Bianca Ford who is being evicted with her children on October 12 in Redbridge said she had never been on a march before but marching with others who care about housing issues had given her the confidence to speak out. Afterwards she said that the march had been a ‘real buzz’. Residents from the Focus E15 hostel were also uplifted by the gathering of people and felt like they could speak out about their current housing fears. This shows that our active solidarity brings courage to people, inspiring them to take action.
Ghassem from Asylum Clinic spoke about migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and the racism and discrimination they face in housing. Class War stormed into Foxtons letting agency, drawing attention to rip off house prices, agency fees and high rents. They were congratulated for taking this action by many on the march. People also became angry and vocal when we passed by Bridge House, Newham’s homelessness housing office: a homemade banner was hung over the entrance demanding Newham Labour council stop social cleansing. Squatters rights were also championed and Sisters Uncut made the links between housing security and the importance of fighting against domestic violence.
Newham Labour Party was criticised for its role in the housing crisis and comrades in the Revolutionary Communist Group were on the megaphone when the march passed by a boarded up Newham Labour Party office.There was no one to be seen, perhaps they were hiding behind the boards…
The march finished up on the Carpenters estate because 3 tower blocks on the estate are still virtually empty. 400 flats have been left to rot by Newham labour party in the middle of one of the worst housing crisis this country has seen in a long time and one that continues to affect the most vulnerable people in our communities. Both Sam and Jasmin from the campaign spoke about the actions the campaign has taken to place the housing crisis on the political agenda in Newham and beyond. They then untied 100s of balloons which symbolized the 50,000 people who have been forced to move out of borough (in London) during the past 3 years.
You are invited to the second anniversary birthday of the Focus E15 campaign for decent housing for all. Join us to March Against Evictions 12pmSaturday 19 September 2015 at Stratford Park, West Ham Lane, London E15 4PT. Bring whistles, horns, sound systems, drums and pots and pans! We will not be cleansed and we will not be silenced! Campaigner and Focus E15 mother Jasmin Stonesaid: “The housing crisis continues, with no major political party offering viable solutions. 126 families are evicted every day across the country. We continue to demand the repopulation of the Carpenters Estate, an immediate end to decanting and evictions of residents from the Estate, long term and secure tenancies for all, and of course, social housing, not social cleansing.’
In the two years the Focus E15 campaign has gone from strength to strength, with a weekly street stall in Stratford, and occupations of East Thames Housing Association show flat, an open top bus with petitions for Boris Johnson and regular challenges to Labour Mayor Robin Wales – all contributing towards to the growing national profile of housing activists. Last year the Focus E15 campaign sprung to national attention during the two-week occupation of empty homes on the Carpenters Estate in September 2014.
This year, join us for a vibrant afternoon of marching, music and noise for people of all ages. Be sure to bring whistles, horns, sound systems, drums and pots and pans. We will not be cleansed and not be silenced. We will continue to expose the reality of the housing crisis. Join us! Make your voices heard on the open mic throughout the march!
At the end of the march we will meet on the Carpenters Estate, the site of the 2014 Focus E15 Open House occupation, to highlightthat it is full of perfectly good social housing that has been emptied and boarded up because Newham council wants to sell off the land to a private developer.
For those who want to join us for the last part of the march, meet us at Bridge House, 320 Stratford High St, E15 1EP. We will be arriving there at around 1.30-1.45pm. Nearest station: Stratford overground,tube, and DLR
StratfordBuses: 25, 86, 69, 104, 262, 238
Hashtags we will be using on the day are #MarchAgainstEvictions and #housingcrisis
A few nights ago, one of the founders of the Focus E15 campaign, Jasmin Stone, sat down to write a letter to the new leader of the Labour party. This is what she wrote:
Congratulations on your winning the leadership of the Labour Party. I was pleased that in your victory speech you spoke of the need to fight social cleansing, something that as you know we have been fighting against for the last two years in Newham. You may remember that when we met in 2014 at an interview at Russia Today, we briefly spoke about the issue. On the 19 September, Focus E15 will be marching for housing and celebrating two years of our campaign fighting social cleansing, evictions and private landlords. The Focus E15 campaign has highlighted the housing crisis and has defiantly raised as much awareness possible. We have been in the press world wide as our struggle relates to millions of people and is led by those affected, feeling the brunt of austerity. I know this is short notice but it would be great if you could please either spare the time to speak to the march or send a message of support for it and for our campaign.
A few weeks ago we met some local residents at our street stall in Stratford. This is their housing story.
Sabrina and Matthew have two children aged 13 and 16 years – both at school in Canning Town, borough of Newham, east London.
Their private landlord sold up and they were evicted. After putting their belongings into storage and going to Bridge House (Newham council housing office), they were offered a two-bedroom home in East Ham. They were told there were a few steps up to the door as Matthew walks with a crutch, however in reality there were several flights of stairs involved. Worse still was that the property was in no fit state for anyone to move into, with vomit and blood on the furnishings. Sabrina and Matthew said no. They returned to Bridge House, pleaded to be seen and were offered a place in Luton. This is impossible for their teenagers who are in important stages of their education. Sabrina and Matthew said no. The staff at Bridge House told them they would have to go to Sabrina’s mother for two weeks – two months later they have heard nothing and are now in an overcrowded flat with Sabrina’s mother having had to refuse her offer of a downsize as the family are all there.
Sabrina’s mother contacted local MP Lyn Brown to ask for advice and support for her daughter and family. There has been no support and all she has been told by Lyn Brown’s personal assistant is to stop ringing every day. Councillors Alan Griffiths and Bryan Collier have told them to look for private-rented accommodation.
With little support from their elected representatives and unsuitable housing being offered, Sabrina has decided to take the brave step of joining others who refuse to let this housing crisis be conducted behind closed doors and to tell her story so that others can understand what families are going through in the post Olympic Labour borough of Newham under the watch of mayor Robin Wales.
Focus E15 campaign gives Sabrina, Matthew and their children our full support, we say to Newham council: keep families local to their community, their support networks and their children’s schools. Stop social cleansing and repopulate the Carpenters Estate in Stratford, where hundreds of flats still lie empty and must be filled as soon as possible with people who need housing.
On our street stall recently Focus E15 campaigners met Ibrahim, a refugee who was left to sleep on the streets of the borough of Newham for months due to the inadequacy of the council and their unwillingness to give refugees and other residents in the borough stable, secure housing. Unfortunately it is clear that Ibrahim’s story is not an isolated case.
A crisis in housing has been unfolding for decades and is only set to get worse when the Immigration Bill comes into law later this year. This Bill proposes to build on the measures in the Immigration Act and to extend document checks by landlords and banks to stop undocumented migrants from renting housing or opening a bank account. Landlords could have the powers to evict migrants without a court order making the present situation even worse.
The Focus E15 campaign believes that the recent request from the government to every council, asking them to house 10 Syrian refugee families, is not only inadequate, but shameful when the reason so many refugees from around the world have had to flee their homes is due to the wars waged in the interests of,(and financed by) our capital and country. We encourage people to stand together, as humans, to say 10 families per council is not enough. If our local council, Newham in East London really wanted to help refugees, they should rehouse people on the Carpenters Estate where 400 flats have been boarded up for several years.
We are demanding safe and secure housing for all who need it! So councils in London, in solidarity with people around the world needing safe stable homes, it is your responsibility to open the 22,000 empty homes in the capital and immediately start rehousing people.
Focus E15 campaign will be present at the demonstration for refugees in central London on Saturday 12 September. Please join us there.
We have recently heard that Ibrahim has now been given shelter in a hostel.This is because after passing our street stall he had the confidence to go to the housing office and not move until he was offered housing! Although a hostel is not ideal, it is safer and warmer than the streets. There are 100s of other like him who need support today. Please consider supporting the work of the Hackney Migrant Centre or RAMFEL (Refugee and Migrant Forum in Essex and East London)