Category Archives: #housingcrisis

Rough sleeper found in doorway of Newham’s housing office.

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.

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Charlie in the centre who has been left to sleep rough by Newham council

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!

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The Focus E15 newsletter is out now

Tomorrow Saturday 30 January – Join Focus E15 contingent to: 

March Against the Housing Bill!

(there will be no Stratford stall outside Wilko’s).

Travel to the start together… meet Focus E15 at Stratford station at 11am (outside the exit that leads onto the bus station, near the train statue).

https://www.facebook.com/events/817880454987012/

The march, organised by Lambeth Housing Activists, starts from the Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Road, SE1 6HZ (nearest tube Lambeth North) and will march to Downing Street for 2pm.

See below re other events and actions related to opposing the Housing Bill.

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Tonight Friday 29 and tomorrow Saturday 30 January

Land of the Three Towers

A community theatre piece celebrating Focus E15 occupation of Carpenters Estate in 2014

https://www.cptheatre.co.uk/production/land-three-towers/

Congratulations to FYSA theatre company for the latest E15 performances. Reviewed below and more performances scheduled for later this year.

https://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/2016/e15-review-at-camden-peoples-theatre-london-a-rallying-cry/

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Two campaign events on Saturday 13 February 2016

Focus E15 campaign stall 12-2pm on the Broadway outside Wilkos in Stratford. 

We will be supporting the Radical Housing Network’s call for action against the housing bill. Come and speak out, leaflet  and use the open mic. Make plans, talk to people on the streets to make the housing movement grow. All welcome. Take part in East London Radical Assembly’s stall crawl and get involved with the housing movement in your area.

Focus E15 campaign meeting and the Immigration Bill 2.30-4.30pm

Bryant Street Methodist Church, Bryant Street, E15 4RU

Come and hear a speaker from RAMFEL – Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London  www.ramfel.org.uk/

Discussion in particular about the Immigration Bill and the impact on housing and planning future events.

Big Thank you to Simon from Architects for Social Housing who spoke about the housing bill at the last meeting.

https://architectsforsocialhousing.wordpress.com/

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HOUSING AND PLANNING BILL CALENDAR

26 January: 2nd Reading of the Bill in the House of Lords (first chance to discuss areas where amendments are needed, so start lobbying Lords before this date). Defend Council Housing lobbying Southwark Council offices at 160 Tooley Street (6.00pm).

30 January: March Against The Housing Bill, called by Lambeth Housing Activists (midday), from Imperial War Museum to Downing Street.

2 February: Defend Council Housing Protest outside Parliament (4.00pm), followed by testimony meeting (5.00-7.00pm), in Committee Room 4a.

6 February: Defend Council Housing organising meeting (11-1pm), Unite the Union, 128 Theobald’s Road.

9 February: Islington Hands Off Our Public Services Commission, public meeting on the Bill (7pm), Islington Town Hall, Upper Street.

10 February: Estimated date of Committee Stage of Bill in House of Lords. Detailed examination of the Bill lasting around two weeks.

13-14 February: We Love Council Housing, weekend of actions against the Bill called by the Radical Housing Network for the Valentine weekend.

24 February: Estimated date of the Report Stage of the Bill, when the House debates any committee amendments. This is shortly (that day or the following week) followed by the Third Reading, the last chance for the House to vote on amendments. Any amendments are then sent back to the Commons for consideration. Then the Bill is sent for Royal Assent.

13 March: Kill the Housing Bill (Act) / Call for Rent Control, National Demonstration called by Defend Council Housing.

16 April: People’s Assembly Against Austerity: March for Health, Homes, Jobs and Education, Central London.

5 May: Elections for London Mayor.

The Housing Bill, civil disobedience and the mothers of Argentina.

Focus E15 campaigner, Saskia writes:

With the imminent implementation of the Housing Bill, Focus E15 Campaign has been reviewing and asking what this legislation means for the growing housing movement.

What is clear from the hours spent at our weekly street stall in East London is that a lot of people do not know what this bill is about. This should not come as a great shock because our experience with key housing information is that the media, local councils and the government cover up the realities of this manufactured  crisis in housing -after all  to be educated is to be free, right?  If the public truly knew and recognised the amount of homes lying empty in their street, borough and country, how long would the propaganda about the need to build more homes, but not being able to due to austerity, really stand up?

The question is how does the housing movement move forward with a deliberately uninformed public as the most  draconian housing legislation in recent British history gets pushed through parliament? Of course our job is to inform people, but what else can we do to convince people to take the action that is needed to repel this bill, boost the housing movement and put the working class on the front foot in the historical fight for suitable housing? We need civil disobedience and a refusal to cooperate with this daylight robbery. We need those forced with massive council rent hikes to refuse to pay them, to be prepared to stand in front of the state in the courts, and to win.

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Focus E15 campaign will be on the March Against the Housing Bill on the 30th January.  This will not be a march which will stop the Housing Bill.  People are not yet coming out  onto the streets in great numbers.  However, let this be a march to show people that when the reality of the housing bill drops through their letter box, their best chance is to join the housing activists they glanced at in the newspaper and in  their news feed, because there will be people who are ready to fight with them.  After all, this was in essence how our campaign began.

Recently at our bimonthly  campaign meeting, we had an excellent presentation about a study looking at the similarities between our campaign and the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (the mothers of the disappeared children in the 70s and 80s in Argentina).  We heard that mothers first challenged the ‘problem’  – by writing letters, complaining to MPs and local representatives and it was when this process failed that the mothers, in both campaigns, became politicised.  Also, significantly, in both struggles there were political activists and others working in the campaign from the start, (some affected by the issues directly, some not) who were ready to give their support -which in turn gave political confidence to the mothers. This helped to give  these campaigns their weight, strength and longevity – the Argentinian mothers continue to fight to this day.

Those that attend the march on the 30th January should be this political weight in the coming period. When the ‘solutions’ the working class are offered fail – then we can be sure 2016 will be the year of unrest the housing movement needs.

Solidarity
Saskia

The Housing and Planning Bill 2015 will put an end to the possibility of decent housing for all; it will see the end of council housing and social housing, while encouraging an unregulated corrupt private rental sector.More and more people will be forced into overcrowded, damp, unsafe housing, taking Britain back to the conditions of over 70 years ago, before the modern welfare state was developed.

We must get together and fight for the right to decent, affordable, secure housing.

Join the Focus E15 campaign on the march to Kill the Housing Bill which is being called for by Lambeth Housing Activists on Saturday January 30th.

Start from Imperial War Museum 12pm ( SE1 6HZ)

March to Cameron’s publicly funded home in Downing Street for 2pm.

 

 

 

Families are speaking out against social cleansing

Recently some of our campaigners travelled to Welwyn Garden City to meet people who have been sent out of Newham. We were shocked at the conditions that families with children are expected to live in.  The rents a very high, even for just one room and people are  really struggling financially.  It is a grim reality for those who find themselves without their support networks when their children are unwell or when they need help.

Read the stories of Luis and  Elina and their families below, examples of the many families forced out of Newham to Welwyn Garden City. Luis has a housing meeting on Monday 14 December, check our facebook page for updates on Luis after the meeting.

People are being moved out of Newham in a process which is being referred to as social cleansing. Last year over 400 families were moved out of Newham. Recently we me Luis who was sent to Welwyn Garden City. Luis made the journey down to meet us on our street stall because his housing situation is desperate and he does not know what will happen next. He worries about the future. He lives with his partner and four children in damp, cramped and inappropriate accommodation: the family is split up between two studio flats, which is not suitable for family life.

Newham council placed them in this accommodation over two years ago along with many other families. All the flats in his block have problems with damp and are very expensive to rent. Newham Labour Council is still responsible for the fate of all these families in terms of housing.

It is an impossible situation for Luis because his rent has just gone up and he is expected to pay council tax twice over (on each of the studio flats). With mounting arrears, Luis doesn’t stand a chance financially.The stress on living like this is taking its toll on several members of the family because Newham council has said that Luis will be making himself ‘intentionally homeless’ if he does not pay the increased weekly rent. No father would make his family intentionally homeless – Luis just needs a chance to get his life back in order and live in accommodation that is suitable and healthy for his children.

Luis wants to solve his housing issues and has pressed for a meeting with Newham’s housing officer and has been given a meeting on Monday 14 December at 10.30am at Bridge House in Stratford E15.

Focus E15 campaign supports Luis and his family and their right to decent, affordable, long term, secure housing in Newham which is where they were living, where they have connections and support. Never let it be forgotten that the Carpenters Estate has over 400 empty homes and there are many people who needs these homes today.
Solidarity with Luis and all those in housing difficulty.
No one is intentionally homeless!
Stop social cleansing!

Update from Elina in Welwyn Garden City

I am single mum with 3 small children. I have been sent to Welwyn Garden city by Newham Council as a result of social cleansing. Not only am I am battling with my housing situation but I have been asking the agency (who runs the building where I am housed and are   called Theory Ltd), to repair or replace my washing machine. Theory Ltd often fail to do repairs or take a very long time. The first time it took 6 months to fix my washing machine.

The closest public laundrette is 40 minutes away  from the flat. At the moment I am having problems with my washing machine again. It is in the same room where we all live, eat and sleep. Its making a very loud noise and is scaring the kids. There is damage to the drum and it needs to be fixed or replaced I think.

I reported the problem to the agency about 2 weeks ago. Today I called them again and a woman in the agency told me there is nothing on their files about this problem. When I called Newham council a man told me that if there is a problem with the washing machine he will ask the agency to remove it but it is not their responsibility to provide us with another one. I can not afford to get another one and with children there is always so much washing to be done.

I think that Newham council does not care about the people who voted for them. They and the housing agency get payed well.  Yet we can’t afford very basic things like washing machines.

“Absurd” Newham council and police seize campaign table

The Focus E15 table is innocent – release it now!

On Saturday 5 December, Focus E15 campaign was holding its regular weekly street stall in Stratford. As usual the campaign had been drawing attention to the housing crisis in Newham where around 5,000 people live in temporary accommodation and where 400 homes lie empty on the Carpenters Estate.

With 40 minutes left to go, a Newham Law Enforcement officer called John Oddie, accompanied by several police, confronted the campaigners, in what was obviously a pre-planned operation.

Having  already told the SWP stall to remove their table, the police and law enforcement demanded that we pack up immediately or else they would seize our table, banner and sound system, quoting the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (regarding the sound system) and the London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2003 (regarding the banner and table). However, we were determined that they would not close down our street presence and demanded that our table should be allowed to stay.  It was not obstructing anyone and the shopping street is very wide.

The stall has been there, same time, same place, for over two years every week! So why, the campaigners demanded to know, was today the day they chose to harass and threaten Focus E15 campaign’s presence on the streets? Could it be because there is renewed resistance to the council after Newham delivered a blow to the Carpenters Estate  by closing down the Tenants Management Organisation last week in an underhand way.

Newham council has borrowed over £500m from the banks, more than any other local authority, and is now paying back millions  of pounds in interest each year.  Outrageously,  over the next 70 years,  this will mean that the council will end up paying back over £1bn  in  interest to the banks,  a blatant squandering of public money.

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Campaigners tried to negotiate with the council and police. We had not received any complaints by passers-by on the shopping street , but the council and police were determined to make their point and used their force to seize  the table.  As one  Focus E15 campaigner who was there explained:

“It was so ridiculous and absurd seeing the police and council seizing our campaign table  and bundling it into a  police van  as if it were a person being taken to a police station. At the same time we recognise the seriousness of being targeted by the council in this way, but we will not be intimidated. And  we want our table back Newham!”

Once the police and council  enforcement officer had left with the table, Focus E15 campaigners and other passers-by   continued to use their voices and give out leaflets about what had just happened. We will not be intimidated or silenced!

Share this blog post and join Focus E15 campaign on the street next Saturday. Come with your pop up tables! Let us have a big  presence at our campaign stall and defend our democratic right to protest.

Saturday 12 December,12-2pm on the Broadway, outside Wilko’s in Stratford E15.

Together we will build this housing campaign, defend our right to protest and continue to demand that the Carpenters Estate is repopulated.

 

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Carpenter’s Estate Tenant’s Management Organisation being starved of funds by Newham Council

An urgent message from the Tenant’s Management Organisation on the Carpenter’s Estate:

We have reason to suspect Newham council is wilfully engineering the closure of the Tenant’s Management Organisation despite a 91% residents’ vote to continue the organisation for another 5 years. The council have declared us insolvent and closed as of tomorrow (1st December) without due explanation or external audit

Newham Council has been unlawfully withholding funds to the CTMO since the 1st October 2015 (to the sum of 191,880). Our view is that Newham council is purposefully doing so knowing that our funds are limited. Since Newham Council are both our only source of funding and our only creditors we believe that they are constructing the abolition of the CTMO to expedite their eventual sale of the Carpenter’s Estate.

The CTMO runs a vibrant community centre at the heart of the Carpenters Estate that provides residents with a number of services including a soup kitchen a free IT suite and a meeting space for several residents’ groups.

We have been told that the CTMO will no longer exist as of tomorrow (1st December) the staff have been transferred without consultation to work for Newham Council. What will happen to the community centre and the services it provides to residents is unclear.

Signed by the TMO and Residents of Carpenters Estate.

CTMO is also directly employed by the CTMO’s board, which Newham Council have so far refused to consult with, as would be necessary when attempting to transfer staff. The CTMO has refused to accept any terms from the council until they go through the board.  A council officer will now be based on the CMTO’s site, reporting directly to her line manager at the council.

Please help us by spreading this message far and wide and join us at our strategy meeting on Saturday 5th December at the CTMO centre 17 Doran Walk, Stratford at 2.30pm.

We will not be silenced about the housing crisis

East London night of resistance – resistance goes on undeterred….

On Wednesday 28 October, Focus E15 campaign, East London Radical Assembly and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! organised a night of resistance in a local Stratford pub. After a great evening of film showings, discussion, poetry and music, the plan was to join the rough sleepers and homeless people overnight in the old Stratford Centre/mall to highlight the fact that rough sleepers are regularly kicked out of the mall and often spend the night in the grounds of the local church.

Suspiciously however, on the day of the event, a notice went up to say that the Stratford Centre would be closed from 11pm to 5am for ‘maintenance works’.  We  then found out that the police had been on the phone to the pub all afternoon, hassling them to cancel our social event and discussion about the escalating housing crisis. The pub realised that this was absurd and said no.  We are clear that this is Newham Labour council and the police  working together to intimidate the pub and silence our campaign. We also saw police ‘guarding’ the grounds of the local church at night, presumably to stop people from sleeping there.  Of course, when we arrived at the mall there was absolutely no sign of any maintenance work. The police guarded all entrances but we led a lively and noisy demonstration just outside and told passersby what was going on. A home made quilted banner declared our solidarity with homeless people and  as one Focus E15 campaigner clearly explained, ‘we are in solidarity with people facing homelessness and no intimidation by council or police will stop our campaign growing’.

What is happening to people with their housing is unacceptable. More and more people are sleeping rough or left in temporary accommodation for years on end whilst at the same time many homes are sitting empty, such as the 400 or so homes on the Carpenters Estate.  Robin Wales and Newham council encourage an Olympic legacy of gentrification on the one hand and evictions and social cleansing on the other. Let us not forget that Newham is one of  the  least affordable boroughs for private renting in the country and has one of the worst records in London for rehousing people out of the borough: last year Newham moved 423 homeless families out of London altogether.

It is not good enough to leave people to sleep rough on our streets. Say no to street homelessness and join our campaign by getting involved in organising with us and by coming down to our weekly street stall in Stratford on the Broadway outside Wilkos from 12-2pm. Make your voice count.

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East London Night of Resistance says everyone needs a home! Join us.

On Wednesday 28 October, join Focus E15 campaign at the King Edward VII pub on the Broadway in Stratford, London E15 for East London Night of Resistance, co-hosted with East London  Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism and East London Radical Assembly.

At the end of the night, we will be going to Stratford Mall to give support to the homeless people of Stratford who seek warmth and shelter and  who are increasingly being moved on by police and security, as gentrification and social cleansing take hold of post-Olympic Stratford. Bring sleeping bags, thermos flasks and solidarity.
While the Carpenters Estate in Stratford has over 400 empty council homes, homelessness is on the increase. As if this scandal wasn’t bad enough, Newham is amongst the 15 least affordable areas for private renting in the country and has one of the worst records in London for rehousing people out of the borough. Last year it moved 423 homeless families out of London altogether.
Join us in the pub from 8pm and then  on the streets to help build the resistance.

Focus E15 campaign will be showing a short film called Squatters  which is about housing issues in London in the 1970s.

Pilar Lopez will be bringing folk music from Spanish freedom fighters. See pilarawa.wordpress.com for more information.
Janine Booth, a punk poet will be performing as well: https://m.facebook.comJanineBoothTheBigJ
Porcupine Dilemma will be playing a few acoustic numbers.

There  could even be a bar room sing-along!Please join our campaigners at the end of the evening when we will be leaving together to show solidarity with the homeless in Newham with a mass sleep out. For the most up to date information see the facebook event page

We will be asking for donations to cover the cost of this event.

Why we are marching against evictions

You are invited to the second  anniversary birthday of the Focus E15 campaign for decent housing for all. Join us to March Against Evictions 12pm Saturday 19 September 2015 at Stratford Park, West Ham Lane, London E15 4PT.
Bring whistles, horns, sound systems, drums and pots and pans!
We will not be cleansed and we will not be silenced!
Campaigner and Focus E15 mother Jasmin Stone said:
“The housing crisis continues, with no major political party offering viable solutions. 126 families are evicted every day across the country. We continue to demand the repopulation of the Carpenters Estate, an immediate end to decanting and evictions of residents from the Estate, long term and secure tenancies for all, and of course, social housing, not social cleansing.

In the two years the Focus E15 campaign has gone from strength to strength, with a weekly street stall in Stratford, and occupations of East Thames Housing Association show flat, an open top bus with petitions for Boris Johnson and regular challenges to Labour Mayor Robin Wales – all contributing towards to the growing national profile of housing activists. Last year the Focus E15 campaign sprung to national attention during the two-week occupation of empty homes on the Carpenters Estate in September 2014.

Campaigners gather at the weekly street stall in Stratford to demand decent housing
Campaigners gather at the weekly street stall in Stratford to demand decent housing

This year, join us for a vibrant afternoon of marching, music and noise for people of all ages. Be sure to bring whistles, horns, sound systems, drums and pots and pans. We will not be cleansed and not be silenced. We will continue to expose the reality of the housing crisis. Join us! Make your voices heard on the open mic throughout the march!

At the end of the march we will meet on the Carpenters Estate, the site of the 2014 Focus E15 Open House occupation, to highlight that it is full of perfectly good social housing that has been emptied and boarded up because Newham council wants to sell off the land to a private developer.

 We will finish on the Carpenters Estate with a finale to give solidarity to the more than 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the last three years.
When and where?
Assemble: 12pm
Saturday 19 September Stratford Park, West Ham Lane, London E15 4PT

For those who want to join us for the last part of the march, meet us at Bridge House, 320 Stratford High St, E15 1EP. We will be arriving there at around 1.30-1.45pm.
Nearest station: Stratford overground,tube, and DLR
Stratford
Buses: 25, 86, 69, 104, 262, 238

Hashtags we will be using on the day are #MarchAgainstEvictions and #housingcrisis