Five years after the original Focus E15 mothers got their eviction notice from Focus E15 hostel, residents from the same building, now renamed Brimstone House, are getting organised and tell Newham council ‘it’s like living in a prison’.
Focus E15 campaign has been working with residents of Brimstone House for the past couple of months to fight for decent secure housing for all.
Maximum pressure on Newham’s new administration as residents ask ‘Why not open up Carpenters Estate?’
Brimstone House is the building where Focus E15 campaign began. Five years later very little has changed, in fact things have seemed to spiral downhill. Brimstone House is now owned by Newham Council and is used as temporary and emergency accommodation but with no end in sight for the residents.
Brimstone House consists of 210 self-contained units with the majority of these homes housing 2+ people per unit. The accommodation is absolutely unacceptable for the residents with no space, damp, disrepair – with lots of residents complaining of no ventilation. The rooms are freezing in the winter and sweat boxes in the summer.
On Wednesday 15 August, five years on from the eviction notices served to the 29 Focus E15 mothers from the same building, we stood in solidarity with residents of Brimstone House and met with Cllr John Gray, members of Newham Council’s Housing Department and Brimstone House Property Management. Brimstone House residents voiced their shocking housing stories and demanded decent homes for all!
Cllr John Gray and his colleagues were shown around some of the units of accommodation in Brimstone House – they were shown first-hand the unacceptable conditions residents are living in.
Video of one resident and their accommodation in Brimstone House: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBMyr5GxHqw
There were many issues reported such as mistreatment from staff both within the building and at the council offices. Stress, depression and isolation from living in tiny accommodation is widespread. Strict door regulations mean loved ones can’t visit residents or stay overnight. Even carers have been turned away from entering. Disability rights are being ignored. Children living here have no space to play, yet there is a child’s park across the road which remains locked. Tenants are living in fear with fire alarms going off frequently at all hours of the day and night, causing great anxiety levels in the wake of Grenfell. There is 24/7 security on each floor in case of fire but this offers no reassurance to residents as a security guard can’t stop a fast-spreading fire… This is one example of the illogical, expensive and inefficient Council/Governmental solutions to straightforward and fixable housing problems.
John Gray said that 27,000 people are on the housing waiting list in Newham. We know that from 2012-2017 over 3000 Newham residents have been housed out of the borough and ironically 2,500 residents from other London boroughs have been moved into Newham by other councils. We also know that there are hundreds and hundreds of empty homes in the borough. These need opening up immediately to house people. The council’s aim of 1,000 homes over the next four years is not enough.
The meeting felt empowering with strong and brave residents standing together, making connections, speaking to each other and fighting collectively, all for one another.
The outcome of this meeting is that there will be a follow up meeting in October with Cllr Gray where some answers will be given on the plans for Brimstone residents as well as plans for the Carpenters Estate – where hundreds of council homes lie empty.
Residents were angered to hear this as some of these council homes have been empty for over 12 years and are just a 10 minutes walk away from Brimstone House. Residents expect answers about these empty homes. Residents asked Cllr Gray ‘Why can’t we be moved there?!’
Intentional Homelessness and Social Cleansing.
Some residents from Brimstone House have been offered accommodation far out of London away from support networks and families. When they tell the council the housing isn’t acceptable as it’s so far away, residents have been labelled intentionally homeless and offered no further help from the council.
Social cleansing is alive and well in Newham and affecting Brimstone House residents.
Hideously,some residents have been told if they reject an offer of accomodation deemed acceptable, they will be referred to Children and Young People Services – clear intimidation and bullying tactics from the council.
There are many wrongs in this building but the solidarity and power that comes from within these walls is unbelievable. Courageous, strong, powerful people who are willing to stand together and fight.
We must all stand with the residents of Brimstone House, we must hold Newham Council accountable and we must ensure decent housing for all. Victory to the Brimstone Residents!