Category Archives: eviction resistance

 Sara and her children must stay in Newham!

No eviction on  Monday 11 December

Sara is the mother of two children, forced to move out of where she was living when her second child was born, due to overcrowding. She was given emergency accommodation by Newham Labour council, in Brimstone House in Stratford. That was six months ago.

In the last two weeks, Newham council offered Sara and her children a property to consider in Birmingham…. She was scared and she was brave …. all her family, support networks, and her oldest child’s education, is in Newham… so she said no. She explains to Focus E15 campaign that she is facing eviction from Brimstone House on Monday 11 December. Sara says that Newham council is:

 ‘asking me to leave the property because I rejected what they call a suitable offer and they are discharging their duty of care to me. I have lived in this borough for 12 years and all my local connections are in Newham as my family is the only support system I have.’

Followers of Focus E15 campaign will see an irony here…. Brimstone House is what was formerly Focus E15 hostel for young people and where the Mother and Baby Unit was based and it was the young single mothers living there in 2013 who stood together to say no to Newham council who told them to pack their bags and move to  Manchester, Hastings and yes… Birmingham. That is what launched the campaign against social cleansing and exposed Newham’s rotten record of sending people out of borough and out of London. 

Four years on, the council behaviour hasn’t changed and we will stand with Sara and her children to prevent their social cleansing, to prevent their eviction and to demand that they be housed in Newham, in accommodation suitable for them as a family.

20 years ago, in 1997, Labour Mayor Robin Wales made his priorities clear when he was leader of the council and said:

‘There are too many people, those currently living in Newham and those attracted from other London boroughs, who survive on low incomes or who present themselves as homeless. Whilst we will offer support and carry out our legislative duties, our aim will be to increase Newham’s property values, and raise the income profile of all our residents’.

Within Newham Labour Council, 46 councillors own or control almost 100 properties and one has 19 properties with combined estimated value of over £4.5m and collective monthly rent of over £20,000.  When the young mothers from Focus E15 hostel challenged Robin Wales in 2013, he had the arrogance to say: ‘If you can’t afford to live in Newham, you can’t afford to live in Newham’. How can such people represent our interests?

Recent vital research by Debt Resistance UK  has shown that Newham now has 12,000 homeless people, one in every 25 residents,  the highest number in England. Newham also has the highest number of residents in temporary accommodation in London, and is among the councils moving the highest number of people out-of-borough and indeed out of London altogether. 

Despite housing being a top priority for Newham residents, the council is spending significantly less money on housing than it is on debt repayments to banks for dodgy loans, known as Lender Option Borrower Option loans (LOBO). These are short-term, variable rate loans taken out by councils from the banks (when they should have secured safer fixed-rate 50-year loans from central government). Between 2001 and 2010, Newham took out £563m worth of loans from Barclays Bank and RBS. The teaser interest rates started low but continue to escalate and Newham is now paying  back 7.5% interest on these loans.  Interest repayments increased from £54m (2010) to £83m 2017. The upshot of this scandalous financial wrongdoing is that in 2015, Newham paid the equivalent of 70% of its council tax as debt servicing and in 2016/17, this has risen to 125% – the highest in England – meaning that more than all of what comes in as council tax payments, goes straight out to the banks. 

Whilst cutting services to residents and pleading ‘Tory austerity’, Newham Labour council has sat on an ever-growing pot of money: ‘usable reserves’ increased from £77m in 2010 to £434m currently, a staggering rise of 560%. 

If you sickened by any of this, come to our campaign stall and meeting on Saturday 9 December. Join us in our demand that Sara and her children must stay in Newham!

No more evictions! No social cleansing! 

The campaign stall runs from 12-2pm on the Broadway in Stratford, outside Wilkos.

The campaign meeting is at Sylvia’s Corner on Aldworth Road, Stratford, E15 4DN at 2.30pm

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Threatened with eviction when grieving: housing association turns its back on tenants

East Thames Housing Association in the limelight again….
Every week on the street stall Focus E15 campaigners meet people in housing need. We have recently met residents of  East Thames Housing association who are worried about being evicted. Focus E15 campaign have had extensive dealings with this housing association in the past because it was East Thames that wanted to evict young mothers,  when Newham council cut funding to the mother and baby unit in an East Thames managed hostel. These bullying and vicious threats  gave rise to the Focus E15 campaign  in 2013.

In December 2016, East Thames Housing Association joined forces with London&Quadrant Housing Association. Together they manage over 90,000 homes across Britain and pledge to build 100,000 new homes, 50% of which will be ‘affordable’ (we all know that that means 80% of market rent and this is not affordable). Their website states that they ‘combine [their] social purpose and commercial drive, investing all profits back into creating homes and neighbourhoods people can be proud of’. When you read the story below you are left to wonder what  their social purpose is and whose interests are being represented.

close up etha
Please read the story below which shows how East Thames Housing Association tenants are  treated. Be ready to join us in the coming weeks to challenge East Thames in their shocking treatment of this grieving family.

East Thames tenants speak out

We have lived at our East Thames home for over 20 years. Sadly, our dad, the sole tenant, passed away before the summer unexpectedly. In the aftermath of his death we have gone through the correct channels and reported the sad news to East Thames.

We applied for succession of the tenancy but this has been declined due to their policy.

It has taken East Thames over four months to tell us something that is policy. We now have 28 days to pack up over 20 years of memories, forcing us to deal with our fathers belongings whilst we are still grieving.

Receiving this result from the housing association felt like a kick in the teeth especially for our parents who are both deceased. They have been London&Quadrant and East Thames tenants since 1982. All parents work hard to keep a safe place for their children growing up and in their absence hope the family home can remain.

East Thames did not present us with any other alternatives for housing just the news that we must vacate.’

Focus E15 campaign believes that these tenants must stay in their long term family home! There is no need for the housing association to evict them. Join with us on the Focus E15 campaign street stall every Saturday from 12-2pm on the Broadway in Stratford, outside Wilkos to discuss this case and make further plans for action.

Housing is a mental health issue: Root Shock and the London housing crisis

At our last campaign meeting Joe Hoover from City University  talked about human rights and housing, drawing on work of activist groups such as ONE DC in  Washington DC, and other groups in Chicago. He provided us with shocking figures of US homelessness, displacement, decanting, racism and then talked about the resistance and inspiration given by movements in Brazil, South Africa and tactics used. The discussion included making links to what is going on in London and Newham in particular and Joe spoke of Rootshock and the human/psychological suffering imposed by being torn from one’s roots.

Read Joe’s guest blogpost below, where he explains more about this concept of Root Shock. 

 

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. In Newham Council, and other councils across the UK, there will be a week of events to highlight the importance of mental health. There is, however, a troubling absence on their calendar of events. Newham Council is not talking about housing as a mental health issue. In fact, Newham Council, like councils across London, is undermining the mental health of the individuals and communities they are tasked with serving.

Mental health difficulties can make it hard for individuals to find and keep a secure home, but the types of homes and communities we build also have a profound effect on our mental well being. In London our public officials and government bodies too often fail to meet the housing needs of the most vulnerable, but to make matters worse they are making more and more Londoners vulnerable to displacement. While planners and developers speak of “regeneration” or “renewal”, the communities that are losing their homes know this process as displacement, as social cleansing. When we destroy buildings and rebuild urban centres in the interest of investors over residents, we harm communities and individuals. Displacement is a collective psychological trauma.

Dr Mindy Fullilove has developed the idea of root shock (http://www.rootshock.org) to describe the ‘traumatic stress reaction to the loss of some or all of one’s emotional ecosystem.’ What she describes is the loss of our sense of place in the world, the loss of our community, when we are forced out of homes by war, disaster or urban renewal. When we are forced from our community, and when communities themselves are destroyed, our attachment to our home is severed. We lose the bond between person and beloved space. As our attachments are severed we are also taken away from our familiar environment, which is a psychological and social injury. When we lose our familiarity with our environment we lose the detailed cognitive knowledge we have of places, people and ourselves. Finally, as we are taken from the places and people we know well, our sense of identity suffers. The cumulative effect of this loss is what Dr Fullilove calls root shock, and its consequences are far reaching for communities and individuals that have been uprooted.

The trauma of root shock increases an individual’s vulnerability to violence, substance abuse, physical illness and mental illness. As has been documented in The Sprit Level (https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/resources/the-spirit-level), we know that inequality is bad for our health, but when we add the loss of homes the harm of poverty and inequality is made worse. When communities lose their emotional ecosystems and place in the world, it exposes individuals to violence and economic hardship when they are moved to deprived areas, and to isolation as they are separated from friends, families and networks of care.

If we do not recognise the trauma of displacement we cannot address the harm done by removing people from their homes. We have to stop seeing the destruction of communities as a business investment and recognise it as an injury, committed against individuals. Recognising housing as a mental health issue means focusing on preventing this trauma. Dr Fullilove talks about the need for prevention as a strategy of resistance: primary prevention should seek to protect homes and communities from destruction; secondary prevention should seek to limit the devastation to communities already under threat; and tertiary prevention should seek to rebuild communities damaged by displacement.

 

Thinking of housing as a central element of our emotional ecosystem reveals that our public officials and institutions are failing us. We must demand that Newham Council, and councils across London, serve the needs of the people and build healthy communities.

By Joe Hoover.

CALLOUT. Newham council worker’s teen speaks out against evictions.

Join the Focus E15 campaign this Friday to  support  Nmah Kamara, her husband and children who have been evicted from their home and face being moved out of Newham.

Friday 22 May 9.30am
Outside Bridge House
320 High Street, Stratford, London E15 1EP

One of the children writes clearly and movingly how this will effect the whole family:

image

“After a long complicated housing story we have an Eviction Notice for the 22 May 2015 to leave our present and only accommodation at 8am but with nowhere to go.
If the Council relocate me from Newham at this stage of my life I will definitely fail to complete my education which is my future due to the physical, emotional and psychological transition I have to undergo, which is also true for my sister.
I have lived in Newham since my parents moved to Britain. My mum works for Newham Council.
My sister, brother and I have completed primary and secondary schools in Newham, we are now in further education (currently busy with projects and exams) and through UCAS we have already enrolled at Universities in London starting from 2015/16 with the hope that I will still live in Newham.
We have our friends and we are well associated with our borough making it very difficult to move away without affecting our continuity of education and network support”.

Please support this family on Friday. Social Housing! Not Social Cleansing!

Evicted by Newham Labour council after 20 years, we say Jane Come Home

Jane Come Home
Friends, family and campaigners support Jane outside her newly occupied flat

Jane is occupying her former council home as a political protest after she was evicted by Newham Labour council in March 2015. On Saturday 11th April, with full support from the Focus E15 campaign and many others, the doors of her former council flat were flung open and Jane threw a surprise house warming party. She was warmly welcomed back by her neighbours, family and friends. Jane was quick to hang up a newly made banner which states ‘Jane Come Home’ to the delight of her many well wishers and supporters who partied alongside her.

Jane has a daughter who is 14 years old. They were both evicted from their home on the 24 March 2015 after being a tenant of Newham council for 20 years. Another victim of the government’s harsh benefit sanctions, she fell into rent arrears when her Employment Support Allowance was suddenly stopped and her housing benefit cut. She was evicted because she owes the council about 5 months rent of £2,569 (this figure includes some court costs). She missed the court date due to a combination of depression, illiteracy and fear.

Help was in hand when her family offered to pay the full amount of rent owing but the council point blank refused the offer and said it was too late. On the day of the eviction Jane passed out with the stress and became another part of the tragic statistics for the amount of homeless families in Newham: almost 5,000 children are living in temporary accommodation. In the last two years alone, Newham has seen a 42 per cent increase in the amount of homeless familes, according to the  figures analysed by Labour MP Dame Tessa Jowell and released from the Department for Communities and Local Government. This injustice has to stop.People need homes. The council should start to address these shocking statistics by giving Jane and her daughter their home back.

After all, the amount or rent that is due is not much more than the monthly rent of one of the new luxury apartments that are mushrooming all over Stratford.We are asking the council to accept Jane’s family’s offer to pay the rent, clear the debt and allow Jane and her 14 year old daughter back into their home so that normal family life can resume. Jane’s daughter needs to attend her local school where she is due to sit her GCSEs.

After 50 years since Ken Loach made the film Cathy Come Home, we  are raising the issues of evictions and social cleansing in our community with the slogan Jane Come Home. Victory to Jane and all those who face the brutality of being ripped from their homes by council enforced bailiffs.

What you can do to help.

Contact Jane’s Labour MP Lyn Brown to ask her to put pressure on the council  for Jane to Come Home.

Telephone Lyn Brown: 0208 470 3463 Email: lyn@lynbrown.org.uk

Post: Lyn Brown, 306 High Street, Stratford, London, E15 1AJ

Tweet: @lynbrownmp

Share this story on  Facebook and twitter. Tweet Newham Labour Council @newhamlondon

Tweet the local councillor Terry Paul @terrympaul

Come to the next street stall on Saturday April 18th, on the Broadway outside Wilkos from 12pm-2pm in Stratford and then our open campaign meeting afterwards at the Carpenters Arms pub.

HOME FOUND IN NEWHAM FOR ASHA

VICTORY FOR ASHA AND HER CHILDREN – three bedroom home in Newham confirmed today! Asha and children were threatened with eviction and being moved out of London on 16 March, but she stood firm and with the support of the Focus E15 campaign the family have been housed in Newham. This proves that there are homes locally.

There has been a dramatic increase in evictions

Outside flats on the Carpenters Estate, that Newham Council had allowed to be boarded up. September 2014
Outside flats on the Carpenters Estate, that Newham Council had allowed to be boarded up. September 2014

whilst the Carpenters Estate in Stratford remains mostly empty -so let’s keep up the pressure – and demand that councils work for the people they serve. Social housing not social cleansing!

Shining a light on the shadowy soldiers of social cleansing

Photo from #EvictTheBailiffs by @orpen_m on Twitter, used by permission.
Mock eviction photo by @orpen_m on Twitter, used by permission.

Focus E15 would like to thank those who took part in the #EvictTheBailiffs mock eviction at the British Credit Awards last night. The obscenity of the credit industry coming together at £4,000-per-table to celebrate the bailiffs and debt collectors that prey on and profit off of people who are struggling through the housing crisis should not pass unnoticed. At a time of unprecedented eviction rates, we felt an urgent need to shine a light on this predatory industry, which is profiting immensely from the suffering of others.

We feel the array of responses amongst participants was a very real reflection of the rage that exists over the hardship and misery of poor and working class families, which was being gratuitously celebrated inside the venue. Add to this the juxtaposition between £4,000 for a table at this dinner and people who are having to use food banks to feed their family.

We were encouraged by many of the comments from passers-by who clearly understood the story that was playing out:

“In my opinion it’s like something off the Hunger Games; London will be cleansed of poor people.”

“It’s great that you’re doing something so they don’t feel comfortable celebrating their industry.”

The Sheriff’s Office – the company that evicted Focus E15 member and school teacher Nazrah Ismail, her 3 young children and disabled husband just before Christmas – once again won the award for ‘Enforcement Team of the Year.’ We will continue to shine a light on their vicious and inhumane practices at every opportunity in our ongoing fight for social housing and against social cleansing.

Victory! A home in Newham is found for Zineb and her children.

The Focus E15 campaign is thrilled that Newham Council has found appropriate local accommodation for Zineb and her three children. The family had spent a sleepless night on the floor of the local police station, following their eviction on Friday 16th January.

Then, after being placed in an unheated and distant hostel in Barnet, Zineb, a council employee and single parent working for minimum wage, was rehoused in reasonable reach of her job and her eldest child’s school. The family can now begin to resettle their lives, following the shock of their eviction last Friday.

However, as the Council is paying the family’s rent to a private landlord, wider questions remain about the hundreds of empty homes on  the Carpenters Estate (council owned), and in the Focus E15 hostel (managed by East Thames Housing Association). Public money is being put into the hands of private landlords during emergencies like this one, while publicly-owned homes remain empty. Zineb’s new flat is a great win for the family, but the bigger issue of poor and working people being pushed out of their homes and their communities remains critical.

We will continue to stand with one another to make sure Newham remains a place where everyone is truly able to ‘live, work, stay.’