Residents fight back against evictions – hear directly from Michelle Edwards:
Given a choice, estate regeneration schemes would not have been my natural topic of conversation. Now, I’m so versed in the subject that I could probably achieve academic status. ‘Gentrification.’ ‘Affordable’ housing. Social housing. Displacement. Labour-run boroughs. Investors. MIPIM. Developers and demolition. Those words are used with very great frequency and in a wide range of conversations these days.
My own journey into housing campaigning was triggered between 2010 and 2011 when Waltham Forest Council carried out a review of all its estates to “identify which required investment and intervention beyond planned maintenance and to improve the quality of the stock, deal with issues of underlying tenant dissatisfaction and to reflect council priorities to regenerate local areas and communities.” To that end, their review identified “Marlowe Road as a council estate with the highest priority in the borough for intervention.” A flawed consultation/assessment survey was carried out over five months from September 2012 – January 2013. The aforementioned was nothing more than a box ticking exercise. It is doubtful that any of the views of respondents were taken into account. The end game was likely always going to be ‘demolish and rebuild’ and the all-too-familiar social cleansing that accompanies it.
Out of sheer frustration and in order to debunk the council’s stream of untruths about the development, I pitched a column called ‘Life on the Estate’ to the Waltham Forest Echo. Since December 2016, I have written with forensic detail about the harshness of living through a regeneration project. The links are found below.
(Launch of column. Page 9)
Quote of the Day: ‘Incompetence is often highly regarded
in governmental circles.’ William Wallace
No time for your Housing issues, we have an election on…
This is what Labour MP for East Ham Stephen Timms said to Chantelle, when she visited him last week as a last resort in her struggle for decent long-term accommodation with her young son in Newham.
Three years ago, Chantelle and her two month old son, were placed by Newham Council, under the Bond Scheme, in private-rented accommodation. The flat has mice and cockroaches, damp, no loft insulation and intermittent problems with the boiler leaving Chantelle and her son with periods of no hot water or heating. Chantelle’s son is in a local nursery and has a place in the school for September 2017.
Out of the blue, in January 2017, Chantelle received a Section 21 Notice of Possession (Section 21 of the Housing Act 1988, is the legal eviction notice a landlord can give to a tenant to regain possession of a property at the end of an Assured Shorthold Tenancy). Frightened by the prospect of homelessness with her young son, Chantelle sought advice and Newham Council advised Chantelle to stay put, not to move out to stay with a family member as she would then be making herself intentionally homeless. She was advised to look for private accommodation in the two weeks that followed and when she was not successful, she was then advised by the housing office to go through with the eviction process and she was told she would not be liable for court fees.
However outrageously Chantelle has been ordered to pay court costs of £355 to the landlord for this eviction and bailiff’s have been summoned to evict her, creating more stress and anxiety for Chantelle and her son.
Chantelle’s case worker has said that once the bailiffs have come and Chantelle is on the streets she will be given emergency accommodation, but only out of London. The case worker said that unless a child is in their GCSE year, they are ‘expendable’ and will cope with being moved away from their family, friends and teachers.
Labour Mayor Robin Wales in his address to the Annual Council Meeting last month said that Newham ‘has real Labour values that create for each of us the means to realise our true potential’ and boasted that Newham has ‘amongst the best services in London’ and ‘doing more than other boroughs to get rid of rogue landlords’ and as housing reaches a crisis point, Newham is ‘showing the way for others to follow’.
The reality is that social cleansing continues, with people like Chantelle being forced out of borough and out of London, tearing them away from their family and support networks, their children’s schools and their jobs or job prospects. Meanwhile thousands of homes lie empty in the Newham, not least over 400 homes on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford.
Chantelle will be at STRATFORD MAGISTRATE COURT 389-397 High Street E15 4SB Tuesday 6 June at 2pm. She should not be financially penalised. Chantelle knows that her struggle is the struggle of thousands of people across London. Focus E15 campaign will be there to support her when she requests an extension to stay in her current property and for the court costs to be waived. The struggle goes on to ensure that Chantelle and her young son are not moved out of Newham.
Social housing! Not social cleansing!
A core member of the Focus E15 Campaign, Sam Middleton, has been caught in the catch 22 system of benefit sanctions. She and another member of the Focus E15 campaign Kate Belgrave, recently spent a day figuratively wandering through the bureaucratic labyrinth that is the Department of Work and Pensions.
By Kate Belgrave
Yesterday, I spent god knows how long on the phone to the Department for Work and Pensions (a charged-for call, if you don’t mind), having the most ridiculous conversation that I (and probably anyone) has ever had with them.
Finish reading the rest of Kate Belgrave’s post here
More from Kate Belgrave at www.katebelgrave.com
Newham’s housing is a health risk
Newham is the most overcrowded borough in London with conditions for many residents increasingly best described as slum housing. In Olympic legacy Labour Newham, in the fifth richest country in the world, every day people face evictions, social cleansing and literally being dumped on the streets. Below are just two examples of the consequences of what can happen when you remove social housing.
Jennifer is the mother of five children and a grandmother. On Wednesday 8 June she will be at Bridge House homelessness Unit in Stratford, east London in the borough of Newham. Jennifer is about to be made homeless for the second time in nine months. She has been in temporary accommodation for 14 years, shunted from pillar to post, and in this last home, didn’t even totally unpack when she moved in nine months ago because she didn’t think it would last. She is right, a housing association put her in private rented accommodation and now the landlord says no more, possession order has come, meeting at Bridge House and all the usual emotions of fear, insecurity, shame, powerlessness. What will Jennifer tell her son who is on the autistic spectrum and is just settling in yet another home, when they have to move again, what of her son doing GCSEs and anxious about his exams. These are the issues facing her again.
Focus E15 campaign is supporting Jennifer in her request for long term stable housing in Newham. Housing Justice for Jennifer!
On Saturday 4 June, Focus E15 campaign held its monthly public meeting. The theme was Housing is a Mental Health Issue. A speaker from Psychologists Against Austerity spoke of the direct and indirect effect of poor housing and overcrowding on our physical and mental health. At the end of the meeting we met Beverley, a resident of Focus E15 building, or Brimstone House as Newham Council would like it now to be known, who is facing eviction. She has physical and mental health needs. On Tuesday 7 June, Beverley was told to leave Brimstone House. When they first placed her in Brimstone House, Newham Council said it was interim accommodation while a decision was made on whether to provide her with housing. Her dog, vital to help her maintain her health, was not allowed in the room and Beverley had to give her dog away causing her great anguish. The council assessed her as ‘homeless and eligible but not priority need’. She has now had her Housing Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) stopped. On Wednesday 8 June they will come to evict her and with no duty to house her, Beverley will be on the streets.
When Robin Wales announced in April that Newham Council had bought Focus E15 hostel, Brimstone House, from East Thames Housing Association, he said: ‘We cannot turn down this unique opportunity which makes both financial sense at the same time as helping some of our most vulnerable residents.’ So tell us Robin Wales, Labour Mayor of Newham, how throwing vulnerable people out onto the streets with their belongings is helpful?
On Thursday 16 June, at the Municipal Journal Local Authority Awards, Newham Labour Council is up for an award for the best trading standards and environmental health and has been nominated in the best environmental health category. What a slap in the face for the Newham residents who know the reality.
Expose the shameful actions of this Labour council. No one should be indefinitely in temporary accommodation! No one should be out on the streets!
Repopulate the Carpenters Estate where over 400 homes in Stratford lie empty.
Join Focus E15 campaign weekly stall every Saturday 12-2pm, on The Broadway, E15 outside Wilko’s.
Join the protest at the Municipal Journal Local Authority Awards where both Newham and Lambeth are due to receive awards:
Thursday 16 June 6.30pm
Hilton Hotel London W1K 1BE
Social housing not social cleansing!
The Focus E15 campaign has been catching up with some ex residents from Focus E15 hostel, asking them how they feel about Newham councils recent comment on a previous blog post on this website. In this comment, the council claim that they have “ gone above and beyond to help find suitable accommodation for all the supported young people living in the foyer (Focus E15 hostel)“.
The first to be interviewed about this statement is Keira Josephs, a mother & ex Focus E15 resident.
Poor conditions and evictions continue to plague Focus E15 building, despite what Newham Council says.
Focus E15 building has been bought by Newham council and Newham Council’s media team have responded with a comment to Sam and Jasmin’s post about this purchase. In this comment (only posted on the Campaign’s website) the council tries to negate all the reasons why the mothers from Focus E15 hostel had to fight for their right to stay in the city in 2013 when Newham Council were evicting people out of London. It was this, alongside hastily revoked eviction letters from East Thames Housing Association, which was the spark that lit the Focus E15 Campaign for decent housing for all.
After the campaign occupied empty flats on the Carpenters Estate in 2014 to highlight the outrage of hundreds of available homes left empty for years, Robin Wales was forced to make an apology in the Guardian newspaper for the way the mothers were treated. Two years on, Newham Council has said that it has bought Focus E15 building ‘to provide homes for those who need them most’.
However the Campaign has recently spoken to residents who say that some continue to be threatened with eviction whilst others are stuck in the squalid, cramped, inappropriate rooms of the Focus E15 building. People with complex mental health issues who have been shunted around by Newham council for years are facing an uncertain future.
As one resident who spoke to the campaign said:
“I should be living. This is not living. This is just existing… That is Newham Council for you. They’ve destroyed my life.”
Help support the residents of Focus E15 building who are speaking out.
Come to our campaign meeting, Saturday 7 May, 2.30-4.30pm, Sylvia’s Corner, 97 Aldworth Road E15 4DN.
Decent secure housing for all! Stop evictions! Stop social cleansing!
Researcher Paul Watt from Birbeck University has published a new paper in the journal CITY about Focus E15 campaign – just ahead of a one day conference in London which takes place later on this month and where the journal will be launched. CITY is a ‘special feature’ journal focussing on London’s housing crisis (see below for details).
The paper about the campaign is called ‘A nomadic war machine in the metropolis‘. In it, Paul Watt applies philosophical conceits (a ‘deleuzoguattarian framework’) to ask the question – what kind of campaign is Focus E15? He also provides a very engaging over view of the campaign to date with interviews from the campaigners themselves.
For anyone looking to familiarise themselves with the work of the campaign so far, this paper, although very academic in places, deserves to be read widely and will be of particular interest to social geographers. In fact the campaigners who have read the paper so far recommend it! It can be downloaded for free here: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/qfA79PThehB5dEmbB8iz/full
We would like to thank Paul Watt for his regular support during the last two years of campaigning.
All the details about the conference mentioned above now follow. Remember to book your tickets if you would like to go:
LONDON’S HOUSING CRISIS AND ITS ACTIVISMS. Saturday 23 April, hosted by University of East London and Birkbeck University.
This one day conference launches a forthcoming CITY Special Feature on ‘London’s Housing Crisis and its Activisms’, co-edited by Paul Watt (Birkbeck) and Anna Minton (UEL).
Speakers at the conference include contributors to the Special Feature, alongside Aditya Chakrabortty, Senior Economics Commentator at The Guardian, and Sian Berry, Green Party Mayoral candidate. Dawn Foster, Michael Edwards, Stuart Hodkinson, Focus E15, Save Cressingham, Architects for Social Housing, 35% Campaign, Radical Housing Network and many more. For full programme visit: http://bit.ly/1MBFf3V
The conference is also a way of celebrating the 20th anniversary of CITY, a journal which has consistently been at the forefront of radical urban scholarship under the editorship of Bob Catterall.
Registration is essential. For full programme and to reserve your place please visit: http://bit.ly/1MBFf3V
Ticket cost (payable on the day):
Waged – £5
Student – £3
Unwaged – Free
Newham Labour Council – where can Charlie live now?
On a Saturday afternoon in February 2016, a young man called Charlie approached the Focus E15 campaign stall, drawn to the campaign’s message of decent housing for all. Charlie has been street homeless for some years. He approached the stall because he wanted to show his solidarity with the campaign and was keen to buy a social housing not social cleansing badge. Since then, Charlie has become a regular on our street stall, getting to know the campaigners and gaining the confidence to attend his first ever public demonstration which was against the Housing and Planning Bill last month. There he joined in with thousands of others demanding housing justice for all. He took the microphone during the march and could be heard telling the politicians implementing the pernicious bill to “stick it!”
Focus E15 campaign supports Charlie in his demand to be housed. He can not move forward with his life living rough on the streets because he is stuck in a cycle of despair and anxiety. It is young people like Charlie that are the group now most at risk of living in poverty. Nearly half of people living in homeless accommodation services are aged between 16- 24. Not getting the vital support they need at this crucial time in their lives has a damaging impact on employment, education, health and well being, and, they are also likely to experience homelessness at an older age (Homeless Link 2015).
The campaign was outraged to learn that on 22 March, in the early hours of the morning, Charlie, whilst sleeping rough, received a visit from several officials, two of which were from Newham council. He was handed a ‘rough sleeping warning notice’. He was told to immediately move on due to his ‘anti-social behaviour of sleeping’ and bedding down in the ‘wrong location’. Charlie felt intimidated. A warning notice stated that in order to avoid receiving a Community Protection Notice Charlie should leave the place they found him – within five minutes of being told. Furthermore it was stated that he should not return and not bed down on any land or empty building in the borough of Newham. Charlie was worried. He was was then told that if he does not comply, he will be fined and if he does not pay the fine he will go to court and get a bigger fine.
Intimidation of vulnerable young people is not acceptable. Charlie has to sleep somewhere. Sleeping and having a stable home is a human need and a human right! This is why ‘market forces’ should not be left to dictate housing planning and allocation – because housing is a vital public resource. Homes like those on the Carpenters Estate should not be left empty in the midst of a housing crisis. Newham Council has a duty to help Charlie and the rising number of rough sleepers in the borough.
While our lawyers get to work on this warning letter, we appeal to Newham Labour council to find a solution for Charlie as soon as possible because his situation is desperate.
Repopulate the Carpenters Estate in Stratford! Let young men like Charlie live! He needs a chance and he needs a home!
Please share this story and tweet at Newhamlondon to raise awareness of street homelessness
Charlie is 20 years old and has been homeless for over 2 years and he has now been street homeless for 7 months. He is originally from Southend and became homeless after his mother told him to leave the family house and not come back.
Charlie has been sleeping in the doorway of Bridge House housing office in Stratford, as this is where he felt most safe at night. After a few weeks of seeing Charlie sleeping rough, the security guard brought someone from the housing office to see him. This housing officer told Charlie there was nothing that could be done to help him because he is not ‘priority need’ which was the same line he was fed in Southend. Bear in mind that Southend council spent millions on the new pier and Newham council have left 3 tower blocks on the Carpenters Estate virtually empty for several years.
However, a week later Charlie received good news: he was told by a housing officer at Bridge House that in fact they may be able to find him somewhere to live after all. They took his phone number and said they would be in touch. He immediately got his hopes up.
That was over 6 weeks ago now and Charlie has heard nothing since. He still remains on the streets of Newham and is just one of the growing number of rough sleepers in London: last year 7,000 people slept rough in London.
Focus E15 campaign met Charlie on our weekly street stall when he came to sign our petition and buy a social housing badge. It is unacceptable that a young man like Charlie remains vulnerable on the streets whilst at the same time thousands and thousands of homes in the capital lie empty.
“Homelessness is a devastating experience with significant impacts for an individual’s health and wellbeing. Mental and physical health problems can be caused or exacerbated by rough sleeping. Homelessness is also dangerous, with homeless people 13 times more likely to be a victim of crime than the general public. Shockingly, the average age of death for a homeless person is just 47 – 30 years younger than the national average.” St Mungo’s
Newham council must make sure our young people are safe and can move forward with their lives.
House Charlie now and stop making people homeless!
Social Housing not Social Cleansing!