This autumn Focus E15 marks 5 years of active campaigning. Campaigners have been out on the streets in Newham every week highlighting social cleansing, the issue of ‘intentional’ homelessness, boarded up council homes on Carpenters estate, the effect of living in temporary accommodation on families and the mental health distress caused by living in insecure housing as well as local council corruption. The campaign insists on everyone’s right to a decent, long term secure home.
Here are ten points that Focus E15 Campaign has found important over the last 5 years:
- Take direct action. In 2014 Focus E15 Campaign led a vibrant political occupation on Carpenters Estate where the council has boarded up perfectly decent council homes. Messages of solidarity came flooding in across the country. Direct action can be empowering and it can highlight important issues to the wider community. Direct action also comes in many forms such as protesting at council meetings, holding a space on the streets, taking a march from the pavement to the road and chanting outside the housing/council offices.
- Together we are stronger. The campaign encourages people to take up the fight for housing. Effort is made to include those most affected and give them a voice. The campaign is careful not to mislead people by making false promises – as we are not a provider of housing – we are not the council! We tell people that ‘We can choose to fight together and you may win, – if you do nothing, you will probably lose’. We also ensure anyone who wants to join the fight for housing can get involved in the campaign as every willing person is needed in the struggle that lies ahead. Solidarity is vital.
- Speak truth to power: Focus E15 Campaign will work alongside any individual, group or political party willing to take up the fight for housing in a meaningful way, but the campaign is not linked to any current electoral party. Retaining our independence allows the campaign to highlight political corruption and take direct action in a Labour-controlled borough like Newham which has one of the highest rates of homelessness in England. The fact is that Labour councils are responsible for the majority of London’s estate demolition schemes and we must speak out.
- One struggle! One fight! We learn from other struggles, whether at home or abroad, and make links with housing struggles across the world. We fly the flag for Palestine and raise the issue of house demolition in Gaza and the rest of Palestine. We have met with housing campaigners in their communities, and likewise, they have met with us in Stratford to hear first-hand about the ‘Olympic legacy’ and what it means for housing in East London. From Scotland and Ireland to Italy, Hungary, Venezuela, Cuba and Brazil, we have made links with all those fighting for housing, to learn tactics and discuss politics.
- Use art as a political tool. There have been several plays, short films and art made about or inspired by Focus E15 Campaign and all the housing struggles in London. The arts are an important way to reach more people. There is always art in the form of banners with political messages and beautiful designs. However, beware that most of the arts and mainstream media is dominated by the same establishment who are selling off our council housing and who will act to water down or silence the artists who dare to speak out.
- Be a housing expert – or know one! It is important to understand the system. As Focus E15 Campaign has come against obstacles, we ask questions that make us analyse the system we live under, such as why are council estates being demolished, why are there more empty homes than homeless people, why are the poor demonised and why do we see racism in the housing system?…Can capitalism be reformed? Does it need to be replaced? Have a look at the work of Revolutionary Communist Group who regularly publish articles on housing issues. Also look at the work of Architects for Social Housing to learn more.
- Keep your spirits up. We are on the streets every week, building solidarity, welcoming people, taking collective action and helping to encourage and empower each other. We make sure there is time for fun as well as political debate. We always have music and regular dancing on the street stall. There is face painting and opportunities to join in with banner making too.
- Network and build with other groups. Over the last five years Focus E15 Campaign has welcomed and made mutual links with many individuals and campaigns by being out on the streets weekly and having a monthly campaign meeting. At these meetings there is time for discussion and debate and to learn from invited speakers. The campaign has an open democratic organising structure. On our stall we have a table where everyone can bring progressive literature to share, and an open mic which everyone is encouraged to use.
- Learn from history. The battles we face today are similar to the battles that people have faced in the fight for housing in the past. We look to Sylvia Pankhurst who was a communist suffragette fighting for working-class housing in east London (where the campaign is based) one hundred years ago, Mrs Barbour’s army in Glasgow who led rent strikes in 1915 and many more!
- Room for everyone but no room for racism! The street stall is an open place for political engagement. We are clear that the housing crisis is not caused by immigration. Focus E15 will challenge racist narratives that are popularised by right wing forces. We interact with the community on a weekly basis, use our sound system to oppose racist views and display banners with clear anti-racist messages.
SOCIAL HOUSING NOT SOCIAL CLEANSING!
NO SUCH THING AS INTENTIONAL HOMELESSNESS!
SAVE THE CARPENTERS ESTATE – 100% COUNCIL HOUSING!
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As Focus E15 reach their fifth year of fighting for housing justice, they’ve posted up ten very useful lessons from their experiences…
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