All posts by Focus E15 Campaign

About Focus E15 Campaign

Social housing, not social cleansing!

Why I displayed a resistance banner in my temporary accommodation (Brimstone House)


On the 1st of May I decided to make a resistance banner. This is my way to make stand about how I feel  living in temporary accommodation/bedsit provided by Newham council. I feel it is the only way to get public attention and for people to understand about living in such conditions in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic.” 

”People from deprived and over-populated areas such as Newham are more likely to catch the virus. My thoughts behind making the banner and hanging it up on the balcony of Brimstone House was to simply say I have had enough. I am angry and frustrated that for myself and many other families living in temporary accommodation, we have been disregarded by the Council.

With so many empty homes around Newham such as those on the Carpenters Estate, it is totally inhumane and unacceptable to have families living in one room with children.

We are scared for our lives and our children lives. There is not enough being done by Newham Council to protect us as residents with so many empty flats lying empty.

The least they can do is open them up.”

By Marsha from the Focus E15 campaign

RADIO INTERVIEW ON HOUSING DURING CORONAVIRUS

Listen to Focus E15 campaigner Egwolo being interviewed by Pete Day from ”NuSound Radio 92FM” here: http://radiopete.org/home/nusound-radio-92fm-140520-focus-e15/

https://radiopete.org/

Resistance banners appear across London for Mayday

We may be locked down at the moment but groups and campaigns are turning their thoughts to the political situation this Mayday by putting out messages of anti capitalist resistance at home and on billboards and bus stops. Here are a selection of some messages both inspiring and angry. Check out lockdown banners on Facebook for loads more! Happy mayday comrades.

Educate! Agitate! Organise! Mayday 2020.

TAKE ACTION ON MAYDAY TO DEMAND EMPTY HOMES ARE OPENED!

Following our online meeting with Moms 4 Housing, Focus E15 have decided to call for action on Friday 1st May, in the form of creating and displaying banners to demand that empty homes are opened because housing should be a human right.

Get creative and make your banner – walk down the street with it, hang it out a window, whatever you prefer. But make sure to take a picture and hashtag: #OpenEmptyHomes and #HousingIsAHumanRight

Our friends and comrades in the USA and around the world will also be doing action to highlight the same message. Follow Moms4Housing here: https://moms4housing.org/

Remember to check out the Moms4Housing meeting podcast: https://focuse15.org/2020/04/26/moms4housing-webinar-released/

Give solidarity, take action this Mayday!

Moms4Housing webinar released

On Sunday 19 April 2020 Focus E15 campaign in Britain and Moms4Housing in the USA organised  an online webinar to discuss tactics during the Covid19 pandemic. Focus E15 campaign have edited the audio and are releasing it as a podcast which you can find below. During the meeting attention was turned towards ways to take action on May 1st to mark international workers day and to take our campaigns for decent long term secure housing onto the streets.

RECLAIM HOMES FROM THE USA TO THE UK – ONLINE PUBLIC MEETING – REGISTER NOW

On Sunday 19th April at 6pm London  / 10am California join us for this meeting co-hosted by Focus E15 Campaign in London, England and Moms 4 Housing in Oakland, California, USA https://moms4housing.org/ 

There are four times as many empty homes in Oakland as there are people without homes, and in the UK there are double the amount of empty homes as homeless people.

 

The Covid-19 crisis has escalated the need for action to allow everyone to be housed and live in dignity and safety.

This session will hear from grassroots organisations either side of the Atlantic who are taking action against this same problem. We are using this time of crisis to share experience, education and ideas for action.

These people need homes, these homes need people!

REGISTER HERE:

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_whmQYqKTT72mg06iZtxrcw 

 

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In response to the Covid-19 emergency

Focus E15 campaign sends love and solidarity to  those who are suffering under the Coronavirus emergency – whether physically, mentally, or economically. We salute all key workers and give our gratitude to them for working to keep us safe and well.

During this crisis, housing campaigners need to be heard, we will not stay silent as the gross inequalities and cracks in the system are laid bare for all to see. Housing is a public health emergency. Our demands are as follows:
 
Open all empty homes now: families living in crowded temporary accommodation need long term stability and the space to get well.  We know of countless cases of families surviving in single rooms, like the families stuck in Brimstone House hostel.  We have been saying for 6 years to Newham Council -open all homes on Carpenters Estate now!
 
Provide long-term housing for those in temporary accommodation and for those who are street homeless.  To stay safe and well people need secure housing.
 
Long-term freeze on rental payments and evictions – find out more about your housing rights during the pandemic https://londonrentersunion.org/c19rentcrisis/
 
Give all our key workers the protective equipment they need – it is urgent to keep all our friends and families safe and protected.
 
It is important that we are stay connected to our local communities at this difficult time.  We encourage you to join a Mutual Aid group to find support near you:  https://covidmutualaid.org/
 
Educate, Agitate Organise!
Focus E15 Campaign is committed to politically organising and taking action during the lockdown in the following ways:
 
EDUCATION and ORGANISING:  We are running a program of weekly political discussions, which we are calling  ‘virtual street stalls’, where we can stay in touch with each other and be up to date with the key issues around housing and Covid 19, in order to educate ourselves.  Every week we will  try and have an invited speaker, share an article or short video clip and discuss a different topic. We will also be hosting virtual special political meetings and online monthly campaign meetings. Please join us and spread the word!
 
Sat 11th April, virtual street stallEYE WITNESS ACCOUNTS FROM INDIA
 
Sat 18th April, virtual street stall:  HISTORICAL FEMINISM and the fight against Domestic Violence during Covid-19
 
Sun 19th April, political meeting:  RECLAIM HOMES, from USA to UK.  Hosted by Moms 4 Housing in Los Angeles, and Focus E15 Campaign in London.
 
Sat 25th April, virtual street stall:  EYE WITNESS ACCOUNTS FROM PALESTINE
 
Sat 2nd May, monthly campaign meeting: POLITICAL STRUGGLES IN LATIN AMERICA-   from Colombia to Cuba. Internationalism in the fight against Covid-19!
 
Please find details of all these events + Zoom call information by regularly checking the Focus E15 campaign’s Facebook page.

Our tribute to Chelsie.

Focus E15 campaigners are heartbroken to learn of the death of our young comrade Chelsie, in Newham on Tuesday 10 March 2020, aged 18 years old. Chelsie’s death is an enormous loss to the campaign. She was a crucial part of the Focus E15 campaign family, and our thoughts, solidarity and love are with Jasmin, Janice, Kayleigh and Safia, Chelsie’s parents and siblings and all of her family and friends at this terrible time.

Since the inception of Focus E15 campaign over 6 years ago, Chelsie, then aged 12, has been one of our youngest campaigners. The courage and dedication shown by the original group of young mothers who refused to be moved out of London and stood up to Newham council and East Thames Housing Association, made an impression on Chelsie because she understood that these young women should be housed in their communities near their support networks and families. It was not long before she was demanding ‘social housing, not social cleansing’ as she took a stand against the corruption of Newham Labour council. Surrounded by discussion, debate and action, Chelsie got more involved and she demonstrated against the vermin-infested overcrowded housing in a neighbouring borough by excitedly dressing up as a cockroach on a lively street protest outside Theori Housing. Her enthusiasm and sense of fun lifted campaign spirits.

Chelsie’s interaction with campaign life illustrates how, in a campaign, everyone has a place, a role, something to bring, abilities and talents to share. From the small detail of having a laugh on the street stall that Chelsie instigated, to her role in helping make childcare possible so that everyone could participate fully, it was Chelsie who stepped up with ongoing support in a myriad of ways. A regular street stall supporter, Chelsie did face-painting for children in Summer and cinema trips in Winter, never complaining when she had to see the same film one more time. Talented at drawing and painting, Chelsie collaborated with our campaign artist Andrew in making political banners. On the Carpenters Estate at a big public meeting, Chelsie, took part in a performance of a puppet show alongside Andrew and Jasmin. She had helped write the script and showed her understanding of the class forces at play in the struggle for decent housing. Chelsie recently helped re-organise our office space to provide a much-needed children’s play area, so that those fighting for the right to be housed could take part in meetings and discussions while their children were looked after in a child-friendly environment.

We can all learn from her patience, generosity, sense of fun and kindness she showed to young children who she loved and who loved her. We will also always remember Chelsie’s love of animals, the fun facts she taught us, and how happy she was when the regular Saturday street stall dog arrived – sprinting the last bit of pavement to reach Chelsie, wearing her trademark bright colours.

While we mourn Chelsie’s death, we also celebrate Chelsie’s life. Chelsie helped us understand that together we can make a difference and she was part of the feeling of solidarity and comradeship that is so important in Focus E15 campaign. Her contribution to the campaign teaches us also, that there must always be space for the ideas and the contribution of our young people.

We will never forget Chelsie’s commitment and loyalty to the campaign.

Focus E15 campaigners send our love to everyone affected by Chelsie’s death.

Viva Chelsie!

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A tribute to Mary Finch

Focus E15 campaigners were very sad to learn about the death of Mary Finch who was an inspiration to us all, a real fighter for housing justice and an amazing woman who lived on Carpenters Estate. We are sending our thoughts and love to Mary’s family, friends and neighbours at this difficult time.

A tribute to Mary Finch by Sally Grey from Blueprint Theatre

Mary Finch was a thorn in the side of Newham Council who knew that as long as she lived, they would not be able to remove her from her home of almost 50 years.

A vociferous campaigner since the Carpenters estate first appeared on the radar of developers, Mary fought off bids by a host of shady organisations, attracting attention from around the world with her feisty character and determination to protect her community from profiteers. She and her loving husband, Brian, understood the need for more homes on the estate. They also knew that didn’t mean anyone should have to give theirs up and they recognised the senselessness of 400 empty homes left to rot in a community once thriving.

Such was the force of her spirit that she features in 3 plays written about the area. Mary was the hero of our play, Legacy, which wouldn’t exist without her and she featured in Land of the Three Towers and E15. She was also the subject of several dissertations and made appearances in the local and national press.

It is said our work is not about individuals but about the bigger cause. This is true but there would be no bigger cause without the individuals fighting for it; so, whilst Mary was speaking for all on the Carpenters, she was aware of the strength of character and personality required to take on the council, the university and the private developers. She knew that it took someone special; that at the heart of every cause, there are exceptional individuals. And Mary Finch was one in a million.

An open letter to Newham’s MP Lyn Brown from a mother facing eviction

JOIN US IN ACTION:

Thursday 17 October, Eviction Resistance, Victoria Street Stratford E15

I write this letter to you today as a long standing resident of Newham as of May 1996. Due to a series of events and situations both beyond and within my control I have found myself homeless and as it stands Newham Council has seen it fit to discharge its duty towards me leaving me and my 21 month old son with no alternative place to reside.

As my MP I am writing to you to seek your assistance in asking Newham Council to reverse this decision and make me an offer that is indeed more suitable and affordable to meet the needs of my household.

I said earlier that I am a long-standing resident of Newham. However, I am much more than that. I went to school at Storey Primary School in North Woolwich. I completed my secondary education at Eastlea Community School in Canning Town and discovered my love for learning at Newham Sixth Form College in Plaistow where I completed my A Levels. I would spend my weekends with friends or family window shopping at Stratford Centre or enjoy a show at Theatre Royal Stratford East. I was fortunate enough to perform on stage at the Stratford Circus Arts Centre with my performance group. I even know the best shops to get hair products from in Upton Park.

I list all this not only to show my local connection to Newham but how much Newham is a part of me. Which is why when I became pregnant in 2017 I shelved my plans to save up for my own place and applied to be put on the Home Choice housing register in June of that year. It was not until January 2018, after a long period of silence and several errors on the part of Newham Council I was finally accepted. After the birth of my son I made a homeless application to the council in February on the grounds of overcrowding, the state of my mental health and the unaffordability of private rental sector properties. Newham accepted it’s duty of care towards me and has placed me in emergency accommodation at 10 Victoria Streets since April 2018.

On the 17th of this month the Council made an offer  to me for a private rental property in Leytonstone with a weekly rent of £243.56. The offer described the property as suitable on the grounds that the estimated housing element of Universal Credit I would be entitled to, met the Local Housing Allowance rate; and they deemed that I did not need the support of family and friends because I was unemployed. It also stated that that there were no health and safety concerns with the property to deem it unfit for habitation.

As of 20 September I rejected the offer because as a single parent with Council Tax, bills and the cost of food to think of coupled with several outstanding debts I knew I would not be able to afford the property. I have been unemployed for 4 months and I know that my current state is only temporary. I have been actively seeking work since I was forced to resign from my previous role due to the fact my childcare provider increased their rate and Tax Credits advised they would not cover the difference. I was on maternity leave when I entered 10 Victoria Street. When I informed the Council I would be returning to work in November 2018 my housing benefit entitlement was decreased by 74% with immediate effect leaving me in arrears for a period of time. Despite trying to explain to the Council I could not sustain such a significant reduction as my role prior to my maternity leave had changed and there was a considerable difference in my take-home pay, I was still threatened with the prospect of eviction if I did not pay back the arrears by a certain date.

I ask you now Ms. Brown, if I was barely surviving in an emergency Council property at £190.58 per week and in full time employment, do you honestly believe I would be able to support my household in a PRS property with a monthly rental value of over £1000 either as an unemployed or employed single parent? If the council applied such a drastic reduction in my housing benefit it goes without saying that the same would apply to Universal Credit the moment I begin working again. The only difference would be the that I would owe a private sector landlord a vast amount of rent in arrears.

I also rejected the offer as the property did not allow me to meet health and safety obligations toward my son. As I mentioned previously my son is 21 months old. If the Council had conducted a proper suitability assessment I do not see how they found it reasonable that the bedroom that would have been allocated to my son was situated in an isolated location at the back at the flat. In addition, both bedrooms were separated by a kitchen between them. If I had been seeking a property on private sector how as parent of a young could I even entertain the idea of having such a potentially hazardous room serve as the main thoroughfare for the entire home? It leaves me with no other choice to conclude that this property was offered to me with the full knowledge I would not be able to afford it and that the Council was negligent in conducting a suitability assessment safe within the knowledge that I would reject it. As a consequence of that rejection the Council has now discharged its duty of care towards me and my son.

I have been working with a local campaign group, Focus E15 who have supported me in pursuing my case with Newham Council.  I have had several media interviews, spoken at a deputation with Newham councillors and have attended a meeting with Newham Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, in which she advised that all homeless applicants had a right to reject an offer from the Council. Clearly she failed to highlight that this right came with the caveat that we would be forced to leave our temporary residence and duty would be discharged. I have viewed your voting record and have noted that you have voted in favour for equality and human rights legislation. I have watched clips from Labour’s recent party conference where the Shadow Chancellor described you as ‘the conscience’ of the party. I appeal now to that conscience and to your record of siding with changes for social  justice to use your position to overturn Newham Council’s decision against me.

I also write as a resident of Newham who has seen the changes that have come and taken shape within my community, accelerated by the advent of the 2012 Olympics. I know of people who were offered vast sums to leave their properties to build the site and others who were simply kicked out to accommodate a show built on the suffering of local people.

As a voice for social justice I am sure you are aware of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s investigation into the progress the United Kingdom has been making in implementing into law rights of citizens as outlined by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). In particular the government’s duty to implements the duty on public authorities to take account of the impact of their decisions on socio-economic inequalities under Part 1 of the Equality Act 2010 in England and Wales. With it’s history of forcing intentional homelessness on struggling residents, sending vulnerable applicants to locales hundreds of miles from their social connections and leaving them in insecure, unsafe and unsuitable accommodation it if fair to say Newham Council has actively discriminated against residents solely based on their socio-economic background and have enacted unfair judgements as a result.

Now more than ever is it the time Ms. Brown to use your parliamentary position to speak up about the injustices that residents in your constituency are going through in trying to secure a decent home for their family.

Newham has been a Labour-run council since 1964.
The housing crisis cannot solely be placed on the financial crash, austerity, a Conservative government or even Brexit. Labour councillors could have taken steps to mitigate against the rising number of homeless applications or worked with other labour-run councils in coming up with solutions or reducing the waiting list figures we have in Newham today. In stating this I implore you to start this process of communication between councils and alleviate the plight of your constituents. It is my sincere hope that this letter has spoken to the heart and conscious of it’s recipient and you will endeavour to take action.

From a mother and child facing imminent eviction.

Stand with Focus E15 campaign and families directly affected by this Labour council’s savage housing decisions. Newham residents are having their lives blighted by social cleansing, homelessness and the threat of eviction. 

JOIN US IN ACTION, Eviction Resistance

Thursday 17 October, Victoria Street, Stratford E15.

The word on the street

We have recently been told of another family Newham council has washed its hands of,a single mother and her teenage daughter. They have lived in Nehwam their entire lives, and spent 13 years bidding for housing. This family had the right of succession to a council home inhumanely taken away from them(do council workers get a kick out of doing this we have to wonder?) and the family were evicted from temporary housing. They were offered a place in Basildon but this was not suitable and when they could not leave all their local connections behind the council labelled them as intentionally homeless for refusing this inappropriate offer. The council then discharged their duty to house this family. Now this mother and teenage daughter are homeless and forced to sofa-surf. 

And it goes on:

Newham Council continue their destruction of young lives with yet another example of a mother and young child socially cleansed and struggling.
After no longer being able to live with family due to overcrowding, they were housed in temporary accommodation out of the borough in Chadwell Heath. They were told that it was a only for a month, but it turned out to be six. Infested with bed mites, it was unsanitary and in bad condition. Then Newham council said there was a place in Southend. Terrified of being made homeless as the council worker kept threatening if she refused it, this young mother felt she had no choice but to say yes. This meant being miles and hours from her family and support networks, from her child’s grandmother and from her university in Stratford. The council housing officer said that one and a half hour travel was acceptable. No mention of the prohibitive cost.
The flat in Southend was in major disrepair, electrical appliances not working, boiler out of action, no storage space. No-one from Newham council had seen it. She put in for a review, the council housing officer just rang her up with patronising tips on how to address the issues she had raised. This is not a review.
The predictable happened, this mother got depressed and felt isolated and alone. Her mental and physical health was affected, she was in debt due to the expense of travel, she is finding it much harder to keep going with her studies and she feels her child has no stability. She got to the point of wanting to hand in her keys. Sofa surfing and overcrowding her only alternative.

Together we are stronger. 

We demand that Newham Labour council stop threats of homelessness, stop social cleansing, stop blighting the lives of our next generation, and immediately refurbish and repopulate the empty council housing stock.

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The much loved Ella Bradbury demanding housing for all with Focus E15 campaign