Monthly Archives: June 2016

Children forced to live in appalling conditions

On Monday 27th June 2016, Boundary House residents went to Waltham Forest council’s housing office, Cedar House, to fight back against the appalling conditions they have been forced to live in.

Boundary House is a block of one-bedroom flats of ‘temporary accommodation’ in Welwyn Garden City which is outside London. From there it is a long and expensive commute back to Walthamstow where most of its current residents are from. The distance and cost means that residents are isolated from their family, friends and support networks, with one mother of two being forced to quit her job in London, as she could no longer afford the commute.

The conditions there are terrible, with mould, cockroaches, overcrowding and dangerous faulty appliances. One resident, pregnant and living with her young daughter, had to survive the winter with no heating. Still today, their heating has not been fixed.

On the third floor of Boundary house there is a young mother living with her now four month old baby, who was delivered by C-section. As there are no lifts in the block of flats, and the block is not safe or secure enough to leave the pushchair down stairs, every time this mother wants to go out she must carry her baby in the pushchair up and down three flights of stairs. The strain of this has meant that she has not been able to fully heal from the operation.

Boundary House was not built with families in mind. Nonetheless, Waltham Forest council have been sending their constituents to this accommodation and have done nothing to ensure the properties are fit for purpose. When Boundary House residents tried to raise these issues to Waltham Forest council, they have received little, if any, responses to their letters, phone calls and emails.

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Boundary House residents prepare to march to the housing office

This is why on Monday 27th of June, Boundary House residents decided enough if enough. Supported by Focus E15, and others,  we marched on the housing office, as a united community to demand to speak to someone who could act upon our demands. When we arrived,  security tried to refuse us entrance into the office. But we did not stand for it and insisted to be let it. Once the security had conceded to our demands to enter, we were told the Director of housing would not be able meet us. We refused to accept this and told them we would not move until Boundary House residents were able to speak to someone in charge.

It did not take long for the council to concede, and we won a group meeting with the Director of Housing for Waltham Forest Council, whom some Boundary House residents have been trying to get in contact with for over two years. We were taken to a conference room, and every resident had the chance to tell their story, express their concerns, fears and frustrations, and to demand the Waltham Forest Council treat its residents with respect and dignity.

In the meeting, the Director of Housing agreed to listen to our demands, to investigate the appalling conditions of Boundary House, and to hold another meeting in the coming weeks to update Boundary House residents as to what actions they have taken improve from the current conditions. This is a small victory of Boundary House Residents.

The action has demonstrated that when we fight together, they cannot ignore us! We will continue to fight, to make sure that Waltham Forest council holds true to their words, and we will continue to demand that Waltham Forest council bring Boundary House residents back to London.

SOCIAL HOUSING NOT SOCIAL CLEANSING!
Joins us on our street stall in Stratford outside Wilkos on the Broadway on Saturday from 12pm.

 

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Pushed out of London into unsafe accomodation

The residents of Boundary House, were pushed out of their homes in Waltham Forest, and placed in temporary accommodation in Welwyn Garden City. Some residents have now been there for almost four years. The conditions are dirty, dangerous and unsuitable for families and children. The residents are living with mould, cockroach infestation, temperamental water supplies and cramped conditions.

The commute to London is expensive and time consuming, meaning residents have been isolated from their communities and support networks. Waltham Forest Council has neglected their duty of care, and continue to to ignore the concerns of their constituents.

On Monday 27th June member of the Focus E15 campaign, some of the residents and other housing activists will be going to Waltham Forest Council to demand decent and safe homes for all the residents in Boundary House.

Join us!  Raise our voices. Meet us on Monday 27 June at 11.00am at Cedar House, 2A Fulbourne Rd, London E17 4EE, Waltham Forest Housing Office.

In the meantime you can help spread the message if you sign and share the petition  and read the demands of the residents.

Please join the facebook event for this action and spread the word through your networks.
 

Social Housing not social cleansing!

Sanctioned while waiting to be sanctioned

A core member of the Focus E15 Campaign, Sam Middleton, has been caught in the catch 22 system of benefit sanctions.  She and another member of the Focus E15 campaign Kate Belgrave, recently spent a day figuratively wandering through the bureaucratic labyrinth that is the Department of Work and Pensions.

By Kate Belgrave 

Yesterday, I spent god knows how long on the phone to the Department for Work and Pensions (a charged-for call, if you don’t mind), having the most ridiculous conversation that I (and probably anyone) has ever had with them.

Finish reading the  rest of Kate Belgrave’s post here

More from Kate Belgrave at www.katebelgrave.com

Everyday people face evictions in Newham

Newham’s housing is a health risk
Newham is the most overcrowded borough in London with conditions for many residents increasingly best described as slum housing. In Olympic legacy Labour Newham, in the fifth richest country in the world, every day people face evictions, social cleansing and literally being dumped on the streets.  Below are just two examples of the consequences of what can happen when you remove social housing.

Jennifer is the mother of five children and a grandmother. On Wednesday 8 June she will be at Bridge House homelessness Unit in Stratford, east London in the borough of Newham. Jennifer is about to be made homeless for the second time in nine months. She has been in temporary accommodation for 14 years, shunted from pillar to post, and in this last home, didn’t even totally unpack when she moved in nine months ago because she didn’t think it would last. She is right, a housing association put her in private rented accommodation and now the landlord says no more, possession order has come, meeting at Bridge House and all the usual emotions of fear, insecurity, shame, powerlessness. What will Jennifer tell her son who is on the autistic spectrum and is just settling in yet another home, when they have to move again, what of her son doing GCSEs and anxious about his exams. These are the issues facing her again.

Focus E15 campaign is supporting Jennifer in her request for long term stable housing in Newham. Housing Justice for Jennifer!

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Jennifer, second from the right joins the Focus E15 street stall

On Saturday 4 June, Focus E15 campaign held its monthly public meeting. The theme was Housing is a Mental Health Issue. A speaker from Psychologists Against Austerity spoke of the direct and indirect effect of poor housing and overcrowding on our physical and mental health. At the end of the meeting we met Beverley, a resident of Focus E15 building, or Brimstone House as Newham Council would like it now to be known, who is facing eviction. She has physical and mental health needs.  On Tuesday 7 June, Beverley was told to leave Brimstone House. When they  first placed her in Brimstone House, Newham Council said it was interim accommodation while a decision was made on whether to provide her with housing. Her dog, vital to help her maintain her health, was not allowed in the room and Beverley had to give her dog away causing her great anguish. The council assessed her as ‘homeless and eligible but not priority need’. She has now had her Housing Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) stopped. On Wednesday 8 June they will come to evict her and with no duty to house her, Beverley will be on the streets.

When Robin Wales announced in April that Newham Council had bought Focus E15 hostel, Brimstone House, from East Thames Housing Association, he said: ‘We cannot turn down this unique opportunity which makes both financial sense at the same time as helping some of our most vulnerable residents.’ So tell us Robin Wales, Labour Mayor of Newham, how throwing vulnerable people out onto the streets with their belongings is helpful?

On Thursday 16 June, at the Municipal Journal Local Authority Awards, Newham Labour Council is up for an award for the best trading standards and environmental health and has been nominated in the best environmental health category. What a slap in the face for the Newham residents who know the reality.

Expose the shameful actions of this Labour council.  No one should be indefinitely in temporary accommodation! No one should be out on the streets!

Repopulate the Carpenters Estate where over 400 homes in Stratford lie empty.

Join Focus E15 campaign weekly stall every Saturday 12-2pm, on The Broadway, E15 outside Wilko’s.

Join the protest at the Municipal Journal Local Authority Awards  where both Newham and Lambeth are due to receive awards:
Thursday 16 June 6.30pm
Hilton Hotel London W1K 1BE  

Social housing not social cleansing!

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Living  out of bags at Focus E15 hostel – awaiting eviction.

 

 

 

Militant suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst inspires housing campaigners.

When councils choose names for our streets, parks and libraries, the radical past and present is often ignored. With this in mind, Focus E15’s newly acquired office/organising space has been named ‘Sylvia’s Corner’ after the militant suffragette and socialist Sylvia Pankhurst.  The space will be used as a base for Focus E15 campaign to organise from and will be available for other progressive groups in the area to use. If you can make a small regular donation to help fund the space for housing activists to use  -there are some links at the bottom of the page.

Please read on to find out more about the life of Sylvia Pankhurst.  

Sylvia Pankhurst was an active socialist  and suffragette organiser in the East End of London. She organised with working class women, speaking to 1000s of people in mass meetings about women’s rights. Throughout her life she was an outspoken critic of the British Empire and she formed links with the struggle for a free and independent Ireland. She was an early communist, inspired by the Russian Revolution and later on in her life became an anti-fascist organiser.  She was known in the East End of London, amongst working class women as ‘our Sylvia’.

Sylvia Pankhurst purposely broke away from the elitism of the Women’s Social and Political Union that was led by her Mother, Emmeline and her sister Christabel – who were chiefly interested in respectable upper class women gaining the vote. They did not think working class women should be leading the suffrage movement.

In response Sylvia Pankhurst formed the East London Federation of Suffragettes in 1912. She believed in the power of mass action from below and that the movement for women’s suffrage should be led directly by working class women. Sylvia explained that women should be “revolting against the hideous conditions about them and demanding for themselves and their families a full share of the benefits of civilisation and progress”. Sylvia forged links with unions and inspired local community resistance when she came under attack from the police.

Sylvia Pankhurst

She launched a newspaper called the Women’s Dreadnought in 1914 to amplify the voices of working class women. Housing issues were often written about and discussed inside its pages. At one point 20,000 copies a week were printed and handed out across the East End of London. During the First World War which Sylvia opposed, she renamed her newspaper ‘The Workers Dreadnought’. She helped to organise various social centres across east London so that women could come together to talk about their lives and base the politics on their lived experiences.

Despite these remarkable achievements and commitment to the struggle, Sylvia Pankhurst has often been ignored and her importance downplayed in the official histories of the Suffragettes  – as well as out of the history of radical ideas.

Focus E15 campaign was started by young mothers in the East End who were fighting for decent housing. They were prepared to challenge the system and confront authority. Therefore calling the campaigns newly acquired space Sylvia’s Corner directly links the current struggles led by todays  militant women to the inspiring revolutionary struggles of the past.

Please help Focus E15  Campaign keep  a base from which to organise from. Help us keep Sylvia’s corner  -an independent, political and community space in the East End of London.

500 people paying £2 per month could fund Sylvia’s Corner   or

100 people paying £5 per month could fund Sylvia’s Corner

Thank you for your support. Housing is a human right! No social cleansing!