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About Focus E15 Campaign

Social housing, not social cleansing!

HOMES NOT HARASSMENT

Following the Chain of Power demonstration from Brimstone House hotel to Carpenters Estate on 27 June 2020, more people have come forward to tell their story and speak out. Alone our voices are often lost, but together we are stronger, louder and we are heard.

Below is an example of someone who wants to remain anonymous but who knows that her story is not an isolated one.

A woman and her young child have been in Brimstone House hostel for over a year. She was placed there by Newham council as she was homeless. Very little support from her caseworker despite repeated attempts by her to get in touch. She kept bidding for secure housing with no success. A new caseworker was suddenly assigned, who was aggressive and demeaning, saying that she had not done enough to find accommodation in the private-rented sector. Threatening conversations: if you refuse what the council deems to be a suitable offer, this can result in being labelled intentionally homeless, no more help for housing and possible referral to social services. This led to great feelings of anxiety as it is also implied that if not enough evidence of searching for accommodation, then the council may give up its duty to house her and her child.

Legal advice was taken, it is illegal to threaten the end of housing duty on basis that the search for private accommodation is inadequate. During this time however this woman had many feelings of insecurity at the thought of being sent out of London, away from support networks, family and friends. Feelings of being undermined as a parent. Huge negative mental health implications. Effect on physical health.

This is just one example of the 1000s and 1000s of others and THIS HAS TO STOP.

Focus E15 campaign says to Newham Labour Council:

Stop the harassment! House people decently! No more excuses, no more time wasting – open up the empty council homes on the Carpenters Estate now!

Why are 3 empty tower blocks next door to an overcrowded hostel in Newham?

Focus E15 campaign organised a physically distanced action on Saturday 27 June which linked the 1km from an overcrowded hostel in Newham (known as Brimstone House) to the 400 empty flats on a council estate (Carpenters Estate) and highlighted the fact that the 3 tower blocks on the estate have been deliberately abandoned by Newham Labour Council for over 13 years whilst people struggle to live in the cramped hostel.

The human solidarity ‘chain of power’ marked out the 1km distance by placing people on temporary markings along the way and by chanting political slogans up and down the line, urging everyone not to forget about the empty homes on Carpenters Estate which was originally built for the people of Newham as life long secure housing.

Egwolo, a former resident of Brimstone House who has recently been moved onto Carpenters Estate after protesting about the lack of space in Brimstone House hostel explained:

It is important to use our democratic right to safely protest against the clear injustice of having 28,000 people on a council housing waiting list, whilst leaving 400 plus Council homes empty. Families have been forced to isolate for months in one room. Refurbish these empty flats and open up the homes so people can have long term housing security and enough space to live safely.

Ayesha, a Focus E15 campaigner went on to say:

’Newham council has the worst record on homelessness in the country and one of the highest mortality rates for COVID 19 – how dare Newham Labour council leave homes empty during a pandemic. The tower blocks should be opened up as 100% council housing as that is what the people need’’.

Social media platforms shared our video of the action which you can watch below:

Watch the video of the ‘chain of power’ protest.

Let’s get organised!

Many who took part in the ‘chain of power’ event were chanting ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’. Newham’s deprivation and diversity makes it particularly vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19. More than half of children live in poverty, while the rate of households in temporary accommodation is one of the highest in England. Newham also has the most diverse population profile of any local authority in the country: 78% of residents are from minority ethnic communities and many live in inter-generational households. There are longstanding health inequalities across the borough.

Therefore there is no time to lose and our remaining council housing must be saved and put to good use. Refurbish the empty flats on Carpenters Estate and open up the homes, so people can have long term housing security and enough space to live safely.

Join Focus E15 campaign every Saturday outside Wilko’s on the Broadway in Stratford from 12-2pm, bring your mask, stay safe and stand up for housing justice for all. Together we are stronger. More pictures of the demonstration can be found in the slide show below.

Continue reading Why are 3 empty tower blocks next door to an overcrowded hostel in Newham?

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.