Category Archives: eviction resistance

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.

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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.’