Category Archives: Focus E15 Campaign

Take a look at the Labour Party’s new shadow Home Secretary’s record at local level

Lyn Brown, MP for West Ham in Newham, east London, was in the shadow home affairs team when Jeremy Corbyn was first elected leader of the Labour Party, she then resigned a year later after placing a vote of no confidence in Corbyn’s leadership but then was allowed to return as shadow minister for policing. 24 hours before the general election in June 2017, she was promoted to shadow Home Secretary as Diane Abbott was taken ill.

Focus E15 Campaign has had first-hand experience of her consistent attempts to dodge responsibility towards young mothers in her constituency who faced being socially cleansed out of London. We therefore register a  massive vote of no confidence in the decision to promote her.

Lyn Brown, MP for West Ham since 2005, was the local MP for the young mothers in the Focus E15 hostel. The mothers started campaigning in 2013 when Newham Labour Council withdrew funding from the hostel and the housing association tried to evict 29 young women and children out of London, to Manchester, Birmingham or Hastings, miles from family, friends and support networks…Lyn Brown did nothing to support the mothers and challenge social cleansing. The council’s solution was to push these young women into short-term expensive private-rented accommodation. Lyn Brown continued to ignore the problems despite meeting those directly affected at her surgery and at public meetings.

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When approached at an International Women’s Day event in 2014, she accused the young mothers of being exploited by the campaign and tried to stop an independent journalist filming her. A year later, she offered a washing machine and a bed to two of the mothers in dire housing situations – empty promises that never materialised.

If Lyn Brown won’t represent the most marginalised in her own constituency, then we know what her positions will be in government or in opposition as home secretary.

In the words of a campaigner from Focus E15 Campaign:

‘People may think Jeremy Corbyn represents them but you only have to look at the new shadow home secretary Lyn Brown to see how unheard and let down working class people will be left once again by the Labour Party. We need to be organising on the streets and putting pressure on the people fighting for real change. Remember no one can represent us but ourselves.’

Read more about what happened when Focus E15 campaign met Lyn Brown at an International Women’s Day event in 2014:

http://www.katebelgrave.com/2014/03/focus-e15-stories-so-far-iwd2014/  

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Newham nag is a hit with residents

Read all about it. Real news hits the streets of Newham

Focus E15 campaign and Debt Resistance UK  joined forces to launch a one off  publication, the Newham Nag on Saturday 20 May outside Stratford station in London.  Both campaigns agree that Robin Wales and the Labour council in Newham continue to pull the wool over the eyes of residents and this needs to be exposed. The Newham Nag draws attention to the official publication for Newham council, the Newham Mag.  This latter publication paints a rosy version of Newham that is unrecognisable to those who are facing the effects of years of austerity and council cuts. Clearly an alternative voice is needed in Newham!

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Passersby flocked to get their free copy of the Newham Nag and stayed around to chat to campaigners. Speakers on the community sound system included Debt Resistance, Focus E15 campaign and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! with a special Newham news and weather bulletin from our very own correspondent.  Points were made about the financial scandals, the growing disparity in wealth in the borough, gentrification, social cleansing, the corruption in the Labour Party at local level, the ongoing cuts to services and the appalling state of temporary and emergency accommodation that people are being forced into as evictions and homelessness increase.

The event was brought alive by some special guests including someone dressed up as Sylvia Pankhurst, the revolutionary, anti-fascist, communist, who was also campaigning in east London for the rights of working class women a hundred years ago; there was someone dressed up as Lyn Brown, the local Labour MP who received a fair few boos and also someone dressed up as a council worker and a cockroach, a symbol of the overcrowded slum living conditions that many residents have to put up with in Newham.

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Just as members of the public came forward to share their stories the police and local enforcement officers approached campaigners and suggested that there may be a problem with the street event under S137 of the Highways Act. It was hard to take this seriously given the amount of space available outside Stratford station and no passersby were complaining.  After some discussions,  with police officers ominously hanging around, the enforcement officers came back to announce that they were now going to ‘take enforcement action’, which turned out to be the threat of issuing a penalty notice, which they never did as campaigners took to the community sound system and made points about police harassment  – a fine lesson in standing your ground and knowing your rights and garnering the support of people on the streets.

The council may not want us distributing real information but we won’t be silenced.

Come and get your copy of the Newham Nag, available every Saturday on the Focus E15 stall 12-2pm outside Wilko’s on The Broadway, Stratford E15. Email focuse15london@gmail.com for more information.

For more information about the work of Debt Resistance UK and their involvement in exposing local council financial scandals all around Britain, see lada.debtresistance.uk.

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No More Fake News! This is reality

Robin Wales and his parallel universe of lies and deception!

Focus E15 campaign went along to Newham’s Annual Council Meeting on the 18 May. This is a big gala event.  250 people heard Robin Wales make vainglorious speeches about how wonderful he has been for Newham.  It was grotesque. Robin Wales made a speech about his work programme for 2017/18 and spoke of Newham having the best services in London, compared to 25 years ago when the borough was, an “incompetent backwater”. It was hard not to feel sick.

He  then went on and blamed the housing crisis on the Tories and explained that Newham Labour are standing up against criminal and rogue landlords. He promised that Newham Labour are putting “power into the hands of the residents”. Robin Wales ended his speech by concentrating on the Newham borough motto, which is, ironically, considering the amount of social cleansing that has been going on, Live, Work and Stay. He repeatedly emphasised that Newham is a place where people CHOOSE to live, work and stay, knowing full well that for those who are sent out of borough and out of London for housing, there is no choice at all in gentrified post-Olympic Newham.

As the applause started and the standing ovation began Focus E15 campaigners stood up too and started shouting questions about Lobo loans, financial mismanagement, social cleansing, slum living conditions, the empty council housing on Carpenters Estate and then broke into chants of Repopulate the Carpenters Estate! Robin Wales shrugged his shoulders and mumbled in to the microphone about 2018 council elections. He was then mobbed by his sycophantic supporters while ‘We’ll meet again’ was played very loudly over the public address system and Focus E15 campaigners shouted YES WE WILL.

Leaving the Old Town Hall in Stratford the reality hit – almost in every doorway in the old shopping centre  was a bed space for a homeless person tucked into a sleeping bag on cardboard. Homelessness and rough sleeping is rising and Newham has the highest number of residents in temporary accommodation in London and is one of the boroughs moving the highest number of people, who it has a statutory duty to house, outside the borough and outside of London. Outrageously, after over a decade, the Carpenters Estate in Stratford still stands mostly empty. Newham council is continuing its attempts to empty these homes, remove the residents and demolish the estate while claiming there are no homes in the borough.

Join us on Saturday 20 May to tell the real news of Newham. Meet outside Stratford station from midday  and tell the truth about what is going on in the borough. Please share this facebook event

Why I am a Focus E15 campaigner

Janice Graham has been out campaigning with Focus E15 campaign on the streets of East London every Saturday for 3 years. On International women’s day 2017 she takes time to explain why:

I am a mother of 4 children and I have 11 grandchildren. I have lived in Newham most of my life, bringing up my family single handed.  I have just plodded along getting on with my life, not being interested in anything to do with politics: I always thought it was boring and couldn’t be bothered to listen to a load of old rubbish coming from politicians thinking they know everything.  This changed when Newham Labour Council’s policies of social cleansing started to affect me and my family.

My daughter Jasmin was moved into Focus E15 Hostel in Stratford in East London, when she was 7 months pregnant. The hostel was home to 100s of young people under the age of 25, all from different backgrounds and many of these young people were quite vulnerable.  The rooms were very small and damp, but at least I thought, my daughter has a roof over her head and hopefully she can move somewhere more suitable for bringing up a child soon. After all there were all those lovely brand new flats on the Olympic Village sitting empty.

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Janice, left, with her daughter Jasmin

How wrong could I be: in September 2013 Jasmin and all the other 29 mothers and mothers to be, received eviction notices and were told they would have to get out because the council’s funding stream to the mother and baby unit suddenly stopped.  It was scary because the Council  were moving people as far as Hastings, Birmingham or Manchester.  I went with my daughter and tried desperately to find something in the private rented sector, but each time we met landlords it was clear that they were not interested in housing single mothers on benefits.

I thought, this cannot happen, I am not letting Newham Council separate my family. My daughter is not going to live hundreds of miles away from me – I would never see my grandchild.  The insecurity was putting my daughter under so much stress.  I started to worry about all the other mothers from the hostel and wondered how they were coping; they must do something together.  I suggested to Jasmin that she should speak to the other mothers, knock on their doors and get some kind of petition going.  And that is exactly what they did. A campaign was formed, supported by other organised groups like the RCG, Feminist Fightback and many talented individuals offering campaigning experience and solidarity to the mothers.  I am very pleased to say that we stood up to Newham Council and made them listen and the mothers were all rehoused in London. A massive victory!

For more than 3 years now Focus E15 Campaign has been going strong. Every Saturday  we meet people on our street stall on the Broadway in Stratford who are going through similar housing problems, causing people much misery and stress. Why should people have to move away from their area so property developers can build sky high apartments that often stay empty?  The empty homes all over the country should be repopulated now.  There are even empty council homes in Stratford on the Carpenters Estate where homeless people could be rehoused.

My message to anyone and everyone is you can fight back, get together in numbers. Make demands, say what you want and keep on pushing until you get what you want.  I would never had dreamt in a million years that I would have been out on the street making a noise and fighting for what I now realise is our right.  You can do that too.  Stand up to the council bullies and fight back.

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Solidarity to all residents resisting estate ‘redevelopment’.

This year Focus E15 campaign have been in talks with campaigners resisting gentrification across London. At the campaign meetings there have been lively discussions with some new supporters  including academics from Ruskin College Oxford and students from Birkbeck; members of the Women’s Equality Party; residents resisting the sell-off of Northwold Estate in Hackney and also actors and directors from Lung Theatre, who are raising the issue of housing with the play E15 (now on tour).

SOLIDARITY TO Northwold Estate!

At one of the campaign meetings this year we heard directly from some brilliant residents from  Northwold estate. Northwold estate in Clapton, East London, is a Guinness Trust estate built in the 1930’s with some later developmental additions. Tellingly, the Guinness Trust slogan is ‘business with a social purpose’ and contrary to their claims to be easing the housing crisis through providing ‘affordable’ housing, Guinness Trust have, in recent years, doubled rents. Their plans are to demolish a third of Northwold estate by building luxury flats which can be sold at market prices of up to £1 million.

Guinness trust have misled residents about the latest redevelopment plans, creating a sham ‘consultation’, and cancelling a recent meeting about the proposed redevelopment. Many residents remain unclear about the plans and are upset, frightened and angry. The plans for redevelopment of the estate would mean a ten-year process of regeneration, no play facilities for residents, and no guarantee that if they knock down a third of the estate that the rest of the estate would even be saved.

Active resistance is spreading on the estate, with a committee now formed and 60-70 people coming out to the first public meetings. Residents are fighting for their community, their homes and their estate.Their demands to Guinness are: no demolishing of flats, no loss of social homes, maintenance of the current homes and a proper consultation. Residents are speaking out because they know their homes could be lost if they tow the line.

Focus E15 is offering support and solidarity to the Northwold Estate campaign. Keep your eyes open for more meetings and actions. Victory to the residents of Northwold Estate!

All eyes on Carpenters Estate

At our last campaign meeting  there was a lively discussion on the future of Carpenters Estate led by a former resident of the estate who is very worried about the recent announcement in the Newham Mag that the estate will soon be redeveloped. 400 homes on the Carpenters Estate remain empty, while homeless people, whom the council has a statutory duty to house, are often moved out of the borough.

Focus E15 campaign agreed to mobilise all forces to attend up and coming public meetings, council meetings and cabinet meetings in order to raise the issue of immediate repopulation of the estate.The campaign will expose the bogus claims from property developers that they are creating affordable housing, when they are in fact doing the opposite.

Focus E15 are fighting against social cleansing and for social housing, demanding secure long term stable housing for all. Join us on the streets every Saturday from 12pm- 2pm outside Wilkos on the Broadway.

Building campaigns with political solidarity

Andrew is 55 years old and has been street homeless since the 30th of October 2016. Despite being vulnerable and known to local services, Andrew  has been left to sleep out in the deadly cold for 4 months. Members of the Focus E15 campaign, the Revolutionary Communist Group, the Museum of Homelessness and local residents have been joining forces and standing in solidarity with Andrew.

A Focus E15 campaigner reports:

GATE KEEPING MUST STOP
We met Andrew and went to the housing service at Bridge House in Stratford, Newham East London, to ask about finding Andrew a secure home.There were 5 of us in total, we were peaceful and made it clear we were there to support him. We had a banner that said Housing is a Mental Health Issue to let passersby know why we were there. We tried to enter the building at 10.30 am only to be refused entry by security who said that Bridge House is “an appointment only building” and we were told we must go to East Ham’s housing office instead. We refused to leave. The security guard eventually sent down another security guard to take Andrew’s details. After waiting another 30 minutes a receptionist told us we would not be able to speak to a manager and we must go to East Ham.

From previous experience and visits to the  East Ham’s office, we know that people in housing need are often boomeranged from Stratford to East Ham only to be sent back to Stratford. It is ridiculous!

KEEPING UP THE PRESSURE
During our time standing outside in the freezing cold, Bridge House pulled down metal shutters and locked the doors to the public building.  A Focus E15 campaigner called the councils housing office and asked to speak to Andrews case worker who said he would call back within the hour, once he had gone over Andrew’s case. Nearly 2 hour later there was still no phone call. So Focus E15 called back and we got put through to another member of staff who explained that the case worker was in a meeting and would call back asap but he didn’t. Finally we spoke to him: he said he would need a further 30 mins.However 30 mins later and what a surprise – still no phone call from him, so we phoned again and received no answer. At this point we began to feel very worried about Andrew as we did not want him spending another night on the streets.

THIS IS HAPPENING TO PEOPLE EVERY DAY
This is the process people are expected to go through. Andrew does not have a phone so how could he possibly ever get to speak to his case worker? He has no money, so how is he supposed to travel to East Ham? This is the treatment homeless people face: being turned away at the door and told to make lengthy expensive phone calls and travel to the other side of the borough.If they do manage to get there, the shutters come down and nobody helps.

WHAT OLYMPIC LEGACY?
On Carpenters Estate, a 30 second walk from Bridge House housing office, there are 410 EMPTY COUNCIL  homes. Some that have been empty for 12 years. And from one extreme to another, shadowing both Bridge House and Carpenters Estate, are  brand new buildings where one of the flats is selling for 15 million pounds. How does any of this make any sense?   Let us also remember that Newham Labour council tried to displace young mothers from Stratford whilst boarding up  its council housing. This is the real Olympic legacy: social cleansing of the working class. Whilst we think about what this means for people, it is worth bearing in mind that there are 300,000 homeless people and 750,000 empty homes in England, which makes 2 and a half empty properties for every homeless person. We have to demand that they are opened for those who need them.

SOLIDARITY CAN WIN
Whilst writing up this blog, we received a phone call saying that Andrew will be offered a place. This just goes to show that when we stand together we see results! However it should not take 5 people going to a housing office with a banner and calling a million times for accommodation to be found for someone in a rich country like ours.

The message here is that we can support people individually but to start to see effective change we need to expose the corruption that happens everyday. We need to fight for our homes and we need to challenge our local elected council as they are not representing us. We have to be loud and we have to remind them that we are watching what they say and do and we will not be silenced and we will not give in.

Andrew is overwhelmed with his new place and said he can not wait to get involved with the campaign.

Come and stand in solidarity with Andrew at the Focus E15 Street stall,every Saturday 12-2pm on Stratford Broadway.  Let’s plan the beginning of the end of the housing crisis. Together we are stronger.

Housing Activists from Budapest arrive in London

In November 2016 Focus E15 participated in an exchange with Budapest housing activists who are in a campaign called A Város Mindenkiè– The City is for All (AVM).

This exchange was organised through the European Coalition for the Right to Housing and the City.  The aim of this exchange, which was the first of its kind run through the European Coalition, was for campaigners in both London and Budapest to share protest techniques, learn new skills and examine our political approaches in the fight for housing.

First, AVM activists came to London and participated in various events –in  the ‘day-to-day’ life of Focus E15 campaigning.

We took them along to our weekly street stall in Stratford outside Wilkos on the Broadway for leafleting, petitioning, using the open mic and of course a bit of street dancing:

Dancing in the street!
Dancing in the street!
Focus E15 campaign Street Stall
Focus E15 Street stall

After the street stall, at the  Focus E15 campaign meeting, activists from AVM gave a presentation about how their campaign in Budapest is structured. We were impressed to learn that their campaign has been active for 6 years with different sub groups, weekly meetings and street stalls  organised on a regular basis. Focus E15 campaign also invited Joel Benjamin from Debt Resistance UK  to speak. Joel presented information on how local council are raking up huge debt due to servicing the interest on massive loans. The interpreters were working very hard to ensure that our guests understood the murky details of Newham Council’s finances and how this relates to the sell off of publicly owned housing.

The evening ended with some fireworks as Focus E15 campaign members challenged the Mayor of Newham Robin Wales over Newham council’s appalling housing record.pic-3

On Sunday, a housing conference co-hosted by Focus E15 and The Revolutionary Communist Group was held in Kings Cross.  The housing activists from AVM spoke about their own experience of homelessness and the extent to which the local Municipals in Budapest take children of homeless or evicted parents into care in a matter of hours. This is what they are exposing and fighting against.

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Focus E15 campaigners then spent a few days in Budapest learning more about AVM and housing issues in Hungary. Prior to 1990, state-owned housing in Hungary accounted for 23% of the overall national housing stock,  rising to 54% in Budapest and 25% in the cities generally.  However, social housing in Budapest has decreased significantly since 1990 when a capitalist government took hold.

We spent most of the time in Budapest in District 8, which is close to the city centre. District 8 has a very right wing Mayor who has accelerated the demolition of social housing and the eviction of poorer residents.  Various tactics are used by the authorities to evict people from the remaining social housing stock. Residents who are in arrears are removed immediately. Others are offered a buy-out deal for little money.  If you refuse this, you are in danger of eviction.  And if you have children and you find yourself evicted, your children will be removed and taken into care.img-20161115-wa0000.jpg

Focus E15 campaigners with AVM in Budapest. ‘Lakhatast Ne Zaklatast’ – ‘Homes not Harassment’.

We also found out that AVM have been supporting people with eviction resistance.  They took us to meet Gizzy, an amazing woman who has been fighting to keep her housing, whilst the Municipal try and push her into an old people’s home – she is in her mid-50s.

We spent a great deal of our time in Budapest discussing tactics with AVM.   We discussed ways to fightback, the confidence to be explicitly left wing and the need to link clear anti racist messages to the struggle for housing.  This is significant in Hungary as the central government is moving down a deeply racist path – this certainly has an effect on the Roma population we met in Budapest.

Other issues discussed were should you bring children to a demonstration, or is it too risky?  Also, how do you ensure that you are not simply ‘fire-fighting’ individual housing issues,  but ensuring people stay involved and are inspired to lead a bigger movement in the fight for housing?

If you would like to find out more about our trip to Budapest, see some slides and discuss all these issues more, Focus E15 will be holding a full presentation and discussion at the next campaign meeting on Saturday 3 December, Sylvia’s Corner, 97 Aldworth Road, London E15 4DN, 2.30-4.30pm. All Welcome.

Cockroaches march to Theori Housing offices as shutters come down on residents

On Friday 28 October, residents from Boundary House in Welwyn Garden City and residents of other Theori-run housing, supported by Focus E15 campaign, took their outrage and anger to Theori Housing Management offices in Leyton, Waltham Forest, east London to protest at appalling living conditions.

The demonstration highlights  the unfolding tragedy of London’s housing crisis and the fact that Labour-run Waltham Forest council continues to send vulnerable people out of the borough. Many single mothers and families with young children have been transported miles from their children’s schools, jobs, families and friends to Boundary House in Welwyn Garden City. The council uses companies such as Theori to facilitate this process.

Boundary House was originally built for single nurses, but is now home to displaced families crammed into tiny inappropriate, mouldy rooms, with cockroaches and other infestations.  The windows without child safety locks are a grave hazard for inquisitive toddlers and children are now miles from their schools. Assistant director of Housing, John Knight, who said that a degree of overcrowding was to be expected, recently concluded that Boundary House meets Waltham Forest council’s required standards and is happy to continue the relationship with Theori. Meanwhile people suffer.

So who are Theori? Theori Housing Management Ltd describe themselves as specialists in the property sector with a portfolio in excess of £500m and growing. Theori is used by at least 21 London councils.They have the gall to say on their website that ‘The team at Theori pride themselves on being specialists in the industry and therefore have an understanding of the factors that affect homeless families’. What an insult to the families displaced into Theori-run housing.The stress and isolation that comes from poor housing and social cleansing is causing a mental health crisis, with people forced into situations that are making them ill, as they are cut off from the support networks that keep them healthy.

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When the protest began, Theori locked its doors and hastily brought down the shutters in fear of those coming to tell their stories and in contempt for the residents of their properties who have just had enough of living in such unsuitable accommodation.

Closing the shutters did not shut out the protest and a lively demonstration spread out on the streets outside the locked office. It was colourful, noisy and militant with games for children and speakers on the mic helping passers-by to understand the issues. Protesters dressed up as cockroaches to illustrate the grim conditions residents are forced into. Home made placards got the message clearly across – Theori puts children’s lives at risk – horrible in Theori, horrible in practice  and Waltham Forest and Theori benefit from residents’ misery. One single mother, resident of Boundary House, told Focus E15 campaign that:

‘We are fed up, our phone calls and email ignored, our questions not answered and always told by Theori to contact the council and by the council to contact Theori. In Boundary House, nothing has been done to make the windows safe for toddlers and young children.’

Protesters stuck pictures of poor housing conditions to the front of the office and constructed a makeshift house of horrors on the street. The action was supported by   Haringey Housing group and the Revolutionary Communist group.

Stories of forced displacement by Boundary House residents ring alarm bell to the young mothers who lived in the Focus E15 hostel in the neighbouring borough of Newham and faced eviction themselves in 2013. The council told them they would be moved to Manchester, Birmingham or Hastings, into private-rented accommodation. The mothers of Focus E15 hostel stood together and said no to being sent away and the Focus E15 campaign began.

It is interesting to note that the day after the demonstration at Theori’s offices, Boundary House residents woke to the presence of Theori housing officers knocking on their doors asking if there are any problems. As one resident told them, ‘don’t ask, you know the problems, just do something about them!’

Stand together!
Expose the councils and the housing management companies!
Decent homes for all!
Stop social cleansing!
Repopulate the empty houses and stop demolishing council blocks!

Come to the next Focus E15 Campaign meeting on Saturday 5 November 2.30pm Sylvia’s Corner, 97 Aldworth Road, E15 4DN to hear more about Boundary House, Newham council and all the campaign news.

 

Actors Occupy Shopping Centre To Speak Out Against Social Cleansing

The Focus E15 campaign joined forces with a dynamic theatre company called You Should See The Other Guy on Sunday 16 October. An impromptu performance took place inside the Stratford Centre of a play called Land of the Three Towers, much to the surprise and delight of  shoppers and Focus E15 campaign supporters. Passersby were treated to short clips of  fresh and energetic dialogue, humorous songs and even some dance routines despite the security guards trying to break up all the fun. They did not succeed as the performers were indefatigable and would not be silenced. This really is what political theatre should look like.

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The play celebrates the action that Focus E15 campaign took  in 2014 when 4 flats were occupied on Carpenters Estate in protest at Newham Labour Council who were sending people out of the borough whilst keeping their perfectly decent flats boarded up for years on end. The campaign believes that there should be social housing, not social cleansing.

Land of the Three Towers  will now have a run at the Camden’s People Theatre from Tuesday 18 October to Saturday 22 October. Some tickets are still available.

Focus E15 campaign would like to take this opportunity to wish all the crew involved in Land of the Three Towers every success this week. See you in the audience!

 

3 years of resistance: how we did it.

It all started three years ago, when 29 young mothers fought back against their evictions from Newham.

They refused to accept that their children would have to grow up without knowing their families, and that they would be cut off from their friends and communities. They demanded to be kept in London, to continue to live in the area they know as home.

After a fierce and lively campaign, Newham council conceded to the demands of the mothers and rehoused them in the local area. This was a victory for the mothers, and the Focus E15 Campaign was born.

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Since then, the campaign has grown beyond what any of us could have been imagined, and Focus E15 has successfully brought the issues of social cleansing and unjust housing to the forefront of the political left and into the public eye. Joined by residents, feminists, anarchists, academics, theatre makers, artists and by the regular input of the East London Revolutionary Communist Group, the campaign with panache, determination and steadfastness  has kept a weekly presence on the streets for 3 years.

On the first anniversary of the campaign, we staged a political occupation of four boarded up homes on the Carpenters Estate, where 600 empty homes sat in the shadow of the Olympic Park. Newham Council had said the properties on the estate were inhospitable, allegedly due to asbestos. Yet outrageously, during the Olympic Games, the council accommodated the Press in some of the depopulated flats in the tower blocks. This direct action brought attention to the fact that in a London Borough where 20,000 people are on the social housing waiting list, perfectly good homes sit empty, left to rot in order to justify their demolition to make way for luxury apartments.

The Occupation lasted for two weeks, during which Focus E15 were harassed by the council and our water supply was cut off. But with increased public support and media attention, the council, led by Robin Wales was forced to issue an apology in The Guardian newspaper. We left the occupied flats, peacefully and of our own accord, and the council agreed to open up 40 empty properties on Carpenters Estate, providing homes for people who desperately need them.

Last year, for our second anniversary we held a March Against Evictions, across the borough of Newham. Over a thousand people marched with us in solidarity, demanding safe and decent homes for all. The march ended back at the Carpenters Estate, and brought together an amazing assembly of local community groups, housing activists, squatters, communists and so many more. It was an amazing day, and demonstrated the growing strength of a grassroots movement for just housing.

Focus E15 has continued to go from strength to strength; fighting against evictions, homelessness and social injustice, and helping to inspire and empower disenfranchised and marginalised communities. Every week we are on the street, at our stall talking to the public, engaging with local communities and helping those that seek our support to raise awareness of the housing crisis. The campaign has demonstrated at council meetings, occupied empty council flats, accompanied  residents to housing appointments, demonstrated on  balconies, held rallies to raise awareness around housing and mental health issues and ensured that the street stall has a strong anti racist stance.

This year we managed to acquire some funding to open up our new office space, Sylvia’s Corner, named after a nod to the militant suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst. It is fast becoming a radical hub in East London: open to other campaigns, hosting political meetings, screening free revolutionary films and providing a space for the local community to come and engage with the campaign. Spaces such as Sylvia’s Corner are becoming ever more necessary within the continuing gentrification of London. We must make sure that as grassroots working class activists we continue to hold spaces in a city that private developers and landlords are trying to claim solely as their own.

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Recently Focus E15 has been supporting an emerging campaign of mothers who have been pushed out of their homes and out of London by Waltham Forest Council. Boundary House Residents Fight Back have been fighting against appalling conditions in their temporary accommodation. Young children have been forced to live in one room apartments, with mould, cockroaches, dangerous facilities and large windows that do not lock, leaving a potential death trap for inquisitive children in the third floor flats.

Boundary House accommodation, in Welwyn Garden City, is over 20 miles, and an expensive train fair, from Waltham Forest. Young mothers have been forced to quit their jobs as they are not able to afford the commute. They have been separated from their families, their support networks, and dumped in rundown accommodation that was originally built to accommodate single training nurses and midwives, not familes.

Waltham Forest Council have told us that “Boundary House meets their required standards for temporary accommodation”, and they have admitted to encouraging residents to move into the private rented sector. Focus E15 has supported the residents in stating that this is simply not good enough. Boundary House Residents have begun their fight back against their unsafe housing, staging protests at the council housing office and holding a ‘Nag Week’ by bombarding Waltham Forest Council with complaints.

On the 28th of October  at 11am, Boundary House Residents will be leading a protest outside Theori Housing, the property management company hired by Waltham Forest council to manage temporary accommodation. Support Boundary House Residents, and join Focus E15 when we demand safe and decent accommodation for all.

Three years ago, Newham Council underestimated the strength of working class mothers coming together and demanding their right to safe and decent housing in London. Today, Newham Council sees us as a threat. They continue to try and undermine our struggle, from harassing and detaining our campaign members to stealing our tables.

But we will not be silenced and we will not be stopped. We have a lot of struggles ahead, most notably with enactment of the Housing and Planning Act, which if successful will essentially mean the end of social housing.

But together we are stronger. Working collectively, with grassroots and working class movements leading the way, we will continue to fight against social cleansing and for safe and decent housing for all.

Three years ago, 29 young mothers demonstrated the power of the people working together and fighting against injustice. Today, with working class mothers at the front and heart of our campaign, we continue that struggle.

In the words of Jasmin and Sam;

“This is the beginning of the end of the housing crisis”

Join us to fight for long term secure housing at the first of a series of events marking 3 years of the Focus E15 campaign. We will be having an anniversary street stall outside Wilkos on Saturday 24 September at 12-2pm. Join us!