Focus E15 campaign was born in September 2013 when a group of young mothers were served eviction notices by East Thames Housing Association after Newham Labour Council, headed by the unsympathetic Mayor Robin Wales, cut its funding to the Mother and Baby Unit in the Focus E15 Foyer hostel for young homeless people. When the mothers approached the Council for help, they were advised that, due to cuts to housing benefit and the lack of affordable housing in London, they would have accept private rented accommodation as far away as Manchester, Hastings and Birmingham if they wanted rehousing.
This attempt by Newham Council to displace the mothers from London, removing them and their children from their families and local support networks, is just one example of a city-wide process of social cleansing, with low income people being forced to the fringes of London and beyond by soaring rents, benefit cuts, and a shortage of social housing.
This prompted the mothers to get organised and demand social housing, not social cleansing!
The campaign has gone from strength to strength, with a weekly stall in Stratford, an occupation of Newham Council’s housing office, and a march of several hundred supporters to Newham Town Hall all contributing towards the the campaign’s growing national profile.
On September 21st 2014, Focus E15 campaign celebrated its first birthday with an occupation of a disused block of flats on the nearly empty Carpenters Estate in Stratford, East London. This action draws attention to the fact that people are being forced out of London due to a lack of affordable housing while thousands of perfectly good social housing units sit empty. The occupied flats were opened to the public and ran as a social center for two weeks, with an evolving program of daily events, including workshops, meetings, and music and comedy gigs.
The campaign continues to meet weekly in Stratford, every Saturday outside Wilkos from 12-2pm and is currently working with residents from the original Focus E15 hostel, now known as Victoria Street.