Category Archives: News

Young people like Charlie forced to live on the streets as housing crisis escalates

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.

charlies warningIntimidation 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

 

 

Latest News from Focus E15 Campaign

Focus E15 campaign on the streets every Saturday
join us on the stall 12-2pm outside Wilko’s on the Broadway, Stratford E15

Saturday 27 February – campaign meeting 2.30-4.30pm
Bryant Street Methodist Church, Bryant Street, E15 4RU

Street homelessness on the increase…
Last week on the stall we met Charlie who is 20 years old and has been homeless for two years.
Read about him on our blog.
https://focuse15.org/2016/02/21/rough-sleeper-found-in-doorway-of-newhams-housing-office/

This article was published in the Guardian today
http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/feb/25/homeless-number-people-sleeping-rough-england-rises-almost-a-third-in-a-year
The number of people sleeping rough in England on any one night has doubled since 2010 and increased by 30% in the last year, with an estimated 3,569 people now sleeping on the streets across England, according to new government figures.

Social cleansing – fight for decent housing for those sent to Boundary House in Welwyn Garden City
Newham has sent families with young children to appalling overcrowded bedsits in Welwyn Garden City – read this piece by Kate Belgrave and come and support Elina, one of the last residents in Boundary House, fighting for her and her children’s right to decent accommodation near her support networks. Don’t let these families fight alone, make our disgust public.
http://www.katebelgrave.com/2016/02/the-one-where-the-council-officer-hangs-up-the-phone-on-a-homeless-woman/

Brimstone House / Focus E15 hostel, where Focus E15 campaign originated with the collective strength of the single mothers facing social cleansing, has East Thames Housing Association residents who were placed there originally by Newham Council as vulnerable young adults in need of supported living. Those remaining have now received threatening High Court letters about bailiffs. Newham cannot wash their hands of these young people and must house them locally. Join Focus E15 campaign to give them support and make our outrage known.

Cuts budget unanimously approved by Labour councillors
Having thought about all that – think of Robin Wales, mayor of Newham and his cuts budget.
On 22 February Newham Labour council met with a full public gallery of…16 people. After the handpicked 16 had entered the public gallery, the rest were put in the Lister Room with a screen to see the procedings. Very distorted sound meant difficulty understanding all the contributions. If it wasn’t for Councillor Clark who spoke of the housing crisis with rising temporary accommodation, unsutainable cost of temporary accommodation and the people moved out of borough and out of London, then housing would hardly have been mentioned by Labour Mayor Robin Wales. He spoke of his new proposal of ‘Fairer Rent’ due to come in, blamed the problems on the asuterity programme from our Tory government and promised that there would be no cuts in meaningful services, lots of money for improving roads, pavements and lighting and patted himself on the back saying he was ‘proud of this outstanding budget’. It was agreed unanimously by all the councillors present. Somehow they have reduced a £54m cuts to £37m cuts and all seemed happy with the plan to cut the back services without affecting frontline services (how?) and that Robin Wales will review anything that is brought to him.

Well we have to bring things to Robin Wales’ attention – the homelessness, those being sent out of Newham away from family, friends, schools and support networks, the vicious Housing Bill and the Immigration Bill and the 400 empty homes on the Carpenters Estate that must be used immediately to house people in need.

In Neighbouring Walthamstow, 63 properties from Butterfields estate, recently bought by property company Butterfields E17, are being advertised for sale as empty properties while tenants are still there, some who have lived there for decades.
http://www.guardian-series.co.uk/news/14283428.Protests_over_evictions_from_housing_estate_after_charity_sells_on_to_developers/

Come to our stalls and meetings, add your ideas for action, support those struggling for housing in your area and let’s get together, solidarity is strength.

Triathlon Olympic homes put up the rent by 23%. Where will Sharon live now?

Last Saturday we were approached at our street stall by a woman called Sharon who is living in the new Olympic ‘East village’. It is horrid to think that this new housing complex has been built on the site of one of Europe’s largest housing co-ops, known as Clays Lane,home to around 450 people. Clays Lane was compulsory purchased to make way for the 2012 London Olympics. Sharon use to live at Clays Lane and in a strange twist of fate, she was rehoused  on the site of her former home 14 months ago.

This new housing in the Olympic village  is managed by Triathlon Homes. Triathlon is a public/private partnership, boasting on its website that it provides over 1000 ‘affordable’ homes. However what this means is that it charges huge rent at 80% market rate and to top it all, in March 2015, Sharon’s rent  was actually raised by a staggering 23%. Who  on earth can afford such a massive hike? How much profit does this housing association need? When the market dictates housing policy, no one living in social housing is safe or secure.

In June this year, Sharon  was diagnosed with a  genetic heart condition. She also lost some of her left vision in both eyes and was registered as visually impaired. Such life changing health conditions meant that Sharon’s life became more challenging and difficult. She lost her job.  She is responsible for her son, a 13 year old boy who attends the local school. However Triathlon housing will not accommodate or allow for such changes of personal circumstances. Sharon has been told that she is not eligible to claim housing benefit for the type of housing provided by Triathlon in the Olympic village. It seems as if the housing association is conspiring with Newham Council to push out people on low incomes or those on benefits and to ‘socially cleanse’ the Olympic Village.

Sharon has been giving a notice to quit. However she wants to stay where she is. She does not want to be forced out of Newham and lose her connections with  her friends or the hospital where she undergoes check ups and treatment for her condition. We urge Triathlon housing and all  ‘social landlords’ to have a heart and to treat people as human beings that need stable shelter for themselves and their children. Sharon should not have to move again. Moving house when you are visually impaired can be difficult as it is hard to adjust to new surroundings. When children keep moving schools they can fall behind with their education and lose formative friendships.  Let her son continue with his education at his local school.

This  personal story illustrates  why our campaign is demanding Social housing not social cleansing!
Join us on our street stall on Saturday, 12pm -2pm on the Broadway in Stratford outside Wilkos.
Come to our March Against Evictions on September 19th, 12pm Stratford Park, West Ham Lane

Please consider asking Triathon to provide long term housing that people can truly afford. Let Sharon stay!

Email: info@triathlonhomes.com

Newham Mayor’s security behave like crocodiles

Below is our response that we are sending to the Newham Recorder regarding their recent article and the outrageous comments from council spokespeople about Focus E15 campaigners. Please also scroll down to watch the latest video about the Mayors Newham show.

Dear Newham Recorder,
The spokespeople from Newham council were clearly not in the park judging by their comments. We did not go ‘with the sole intention of disrupting this fun day, causing upset to families with…aggressive and confrontational behaviour’. We went to talk to people and to give out leaflets, hardly an aggressive crime in a public park. As Ben Geraghty from the campaign, quoted in your article says, our ‘intention was to raise awareness’.

In fact we barely had time to talk to anyone before we were rounded on by aggressive APS security staff, who snatched away our leaflets and placards before herding, dragging and pushing us out of the park. The video which shows this action has now been seen by over 14,000 people on facebook.

The security staff certainly did not evict us to ‘ensure the safety of the members of the public’ or because of any ‘threatening behaviour’ on our part. Such council statements are an attempt to draw attention away from the aggression shown by their security. Everyone we spoke to inside the Newham Show showed great interest and support for the campaign because the housing crisis in Newham is affecting so many people.

Focus E15 campaign wanted to leaflet  people attending the Mayor’s Newham Show to let them know the facts about Newham: Labour Mayor Robin Wales is an unashamed advocate of gentrification, a supporter of sanctioning and kicking out the poor and most vulnerable. Under his rule, over 400 homes on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford remain empty and around the borough many more homes are boarded up, while homeless people whom the council has a statutory duty to house, are forced out of London.

The security staff were told to remove us as quickly as possible  to prevent us giving out information to people and to stop Robin Wales being embarrassed again. Last year, at the same event, Mayor Robin Wales himself was so physically and verbally aggressive to members of the Focus E15 campaign, that it was taken up by the Newham Standards Committee, and their investigation concluded with him being found guilty of a breach of the code of conduct.

Outrageously the council distributed their own leaflets at the Newham Show which read ‘£50m, that’s how much the council has to save next year’ and council employees were going around asking people what services should be cut. This is a council that sides with big business, banks and property speculators, while cutting social housing and continuing a policy of social cleansing.

We should remember that Newham has one of the highest rates of poverty of any London borough and, since 2012/13, it also has one of the highest levels of LOBO (Lender Option Borrower Option) loan debt in the country. Newham has  spent £563m on borrowing money which in turn  has generated  huge interest repayments: the council  owes over £40m in LOBO debt and this is likely to rise. For some reason, Newham council have refused to disclose the loan contracts when requested to under the FOI Act.

Services for the people of Newham should not be cut. Focus E15 campaign will not be silenced by aggressive security staff. We will continue to highlight the housing crisis in Newham  and side with all those in housing need.

This video shows more footage from the Mayor’s Newham Show:

Evicted for handing out leaflets at a public park during Mayors Show

Report on the Newham Mayor’s Show

Focus E15 campaigners and their supporters went to the Mayor’s Newham Show on Sunday 12 July.

We wanted to let  the Mayor of Newham, Robin Wales know that the campaign for affordable long term secure decent housing goes on and we will not sit by and watch people being evicted and sent out of London far from their communities and support networks.

Last year at the Newham show Robin Wales was verbally and physically aggressive to Focus E15 campaigners which led to an investigation by Newham Standards Committee that found the mayor guilty of a breach of code of conduct.

Unfortunately this year, the security staff were physically aggressive. They evicted Focus E15 campaigners from a public park in a brutal manner. Their heavy handed, rough treatment was totally disproportionate to the actions of the campaigners who were peacefully giving out leaflets to interested members of the public. One Focus E15 campaigner was wrestled to the ground by his throat and he and other activists were forcefully ejected from the park. Our banners and leaflets were confiscated and they even took our leaflets away from members of the public upon entrance. Yet we know that all people have a right to be informed about the housing crisis in Newham and many people at the Mayors show are affected by it. Why is the council trying to suppress leaflets about the housing crisis from the public?

Meanwhile, inside the Mayors show, council officials were busy distributing their own literature which boasted about how much money the council ‘saved’ due to 50 million pounds of cuts to our services. Let us remember that this council has spent £563m on LOBO (Lender Option Borrower Option) loans – the highest of any council in Britain – on which they continue to pay huge interest – amounting to almost 50 million pounds.

It is clear that Newham squanders money while people struggle for housing!

Once we were all evicted from the park we chanted, handed out leaflets and put up our banners outside. Our campaign is growing and reaching out to everyone. Stand with us. Say not to evictions! Repopulate the Carpenters Estate! Social housing not social cleansing!

Please take a look at this video which shows the outrageous way private security guards behaved during the Mayors  Newham show.  Facebook video.

Mum and her baby allowed to stay on in B&B

The young woman and baby who was threatened with eviction from her B&B when she refused to be moved to the outskirts of Basildon (due to racist abuse) is no longer being evicted tomorrow, Tuesday 7 July.

Her case has been highlighted by Focus E15 campaign and other eviction resistance housing activists.

Today Newham council phoned her up to say that they will continue payment for the B&B until there is a decision from her appeal.

She will keep us updated on her housing situation.
She and her baby still need to be housed in a decent long term affordable stable home.

Onwards!
Keep up the pressure!
Social Housing! Not Social Cleansing!

Racist abuse in Basildon dismissed by Newham Council.

 

Focus E15 campaign met a woman on the weekly stall on 27 June. This is her  story:

I am a 23 year old single Muslim mother of a four month old daughter. I have an eviction notice for 7 July from the B&B we are in. After that day my baby daughter and I will be homeless.

During my pregnancy I was living in a hostel. I was depressed most of the time and I wasn’t eating well and I had pelvic problems which meant I wasn’t able to get out of bed or climb the stairs, and my room in the hostel was on the top floor. Once I gave birth, Newham Council placed me in a B&B, not really suitable for a young baby.

Now I face eviction because the council say that I have made myself intentionally homeless by rejecting an offer that they found to be suitable for me in Basildon, Essex.

I went to view the property in Basildon and had a terrible time while I was there with verbal racist abuse and being told to go back to the place I came from etc. They made me feel unsettled and scared, unwanted and inferior to them. I felt like I was nothing and since that day my depression and anxiety have got worse.When I told Newham Council, they said I was not physically abused, that it could have been a one off, and that this wasn’t a good enough reason to refuse as the offer was a suitable one and that I had to either take the property in Basildon or leave the B&B.

I have family and friends in Newham who help me since I gave birth. The council don’t listen and don’t care. I’m scared for my daughter. The day she was born I made a promise to myself. I made a promise to protect her and always make sure she is looked after and safe and secure, to always make sure she is warm and always smiling.

An eviction order has been sent to this young single mother and baby

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

Details of eviction resistance on Tuesday 7 July to follow soon. Please check back

Rehouse the residents from Focus E15 hostel! Stop destroying the lives of young people.

On Monday 15th June demonstrate outside Focus E15 hostel, Brimstone House, Victoria Street, Stratford, E15 4NX at 1.45pm and tell Newham Council and East Thames Housing Association to rehouse all the young people in the hostel who are facing an insecure future. Read our letter below which has information about what has been happening to the residents. We are sending a copy of this letter to:

Yvonne Arrowsmith, chief executive of East Thames – yvonne.arrowsmith@east-thames.co.uk
Terry Paul, councillor Stratford – terence_paul@hotmail.com
Lyn Brown, MP for West Ham – brownl@parliament.uk; lyn@lynbrown.org.uk
Florence Bangboye housing officer -Florence.bamgboye@newham.gov.uk
Robin Wales – Mayor of Newham -mayor@newham.gov.uk

COPY OF THE LETTER FOLLOWS.
We are writing on behalf of Focus E15 campaign in support of the single residents in the Focus E15 hostel in Victoria Street, E15, who are in a very unsettling and frightening period with respect to the future of their housing situation.

The 99 young people left in Focus E15 foyer are being told that they have to move out in the next few months. They have visited Lyn Brown, MP, Terry Paul, councillor, have met with people from the council and from East Thames and of course are in contact with their support workers. They are being pushed from pillar to post, getting mixed messages and no answers. Many of the residents struggle with depression and anxiety, which is made worse by the lack of proper support in what is meant to be supported housing for vulnerable young people.

Currently every time a young person does move out of Focus E15 foyer they are not replaced. Instead families or older residents, who are told to pay more rent for the same size room, to a different landlord are being moved in. Is East Thames trying to wash their hands of all the vulnerable young people at the hostel?

At a recent Move On meeting, the young residents were told to look for properties in the privately-rented sector, but the only landlords they found who will accept DSS also want a guarantor who earns over £35,000. None of the young residents have contact with such a person. The young people in Focus E15 foyer do not have family that they can go back to.

They have been told that without full housing benefit they can only expect to have a room in a shared house with people they don’t know. The background experiences of most of the young people in Focus E15, housed there due to previous difficulties and need for support, means that they feel very anxious about the concept of living with strangers. With the upper limit being £73 a week, it is almost impossible to find somewhere in Newham and they face the frightening alternative of having to move miles away from all support and familiarity.

We are asking East Thames and Newham council to work together to find an urgent acceptable solution to the housing plight of these young vulnerable people from Focus E15 foyer. They want to move their lives forward in a positive way, they want to live independently.They want to be in training or employment.

We know that East Thames prides itself on providing social housing and that Newham council has empty properties that should be opened up and used for housing.

We look forward to hearing from you,

Focus E15 campaign organising committee.

URGENT ACTION: No to homelessness! Tell Redbridge council to house the vulnerable.

On our street stall on Saturday 6 June 2015 we were approached by a young man of 22 years old called Azam. His story below illustrates just one of many who are now homeless. He is asking for support at his housing meeting in Ilford on Monday 8th June at 2.30pm, at the Housing Office, 28-42 Clements Rd, Ilford IG1 1BA. Please come and tell Redbridge council that no one should be left without a home.

Azam’s story  
“My family disowned me and threw me out of  my family home when I was 17. I had mental health issues and was seen by a psychiatric team. A social worker helped me to get a room in a hotel. I stayed there for 4 months. I then moved into supported housing due to mental health issues but the housing was difficult due to the mix of people there. I had a diagnosis of bi polar at the time. An incident occurred and a fight broke out and I was imprisoned.
I lost my supported housing at Genesis  because I was put in prison for 3 months.I had no support from the prison services to get rehoused when they let me out.

I came out of prison in March 20th 2015 and I have been homeless ever since. It is scary not having a secure home. I felt suicidal and did not know what I was going to do. I have been trying to get into hostels but nothing ever works out. I think the housing situation is making me unwell. I would  like a room of my own that is safe and secure and not too expensive.

I use to work and want to find a job. My hopes for the future including getting a job as a graphic designer but I can only do this in I have somewhere to live.

David Cameron promises to cut down on homelessness but the state of London is not acceptable. Not matter what has happened to people everyone deserves a place to live that is secure and stable.”

Please support Azam at his housing meeting on Monday 8th June at 2.30pm, at the Housing Office, 28-42 Clements Rd, Ilford IG1 1BA. Bring your banners and tell Redbridge council that homelessness is not acceptable!

Azam pictured in the center of the picture supporting our demands for social housing
Azam pictured in the center of the picture supporting our demands for social housing for all!
social housing not social cleansing

Mothers and children lives adversely affected by short term housing! Protest Friday 1pm Bridge House.

Last year, a single mother from Newham, who has 3 children, was moved by Newham council and housed outside of London in Hertfordshire. Now, over one year later, her temporary contract has ended and she has been offered yet another short term contract, but this time in another new place outside of London, in an poorly maintained house in Birmingham, which has rotting cupboards and broken gates. How many times will she be shoved from pillar to post?

This mother’s plight shows the utter insecurity of current housing policies and the disruption that is caused by social cleansing. Single mothers face enough pressure without housing insecurity thrown in on top. Their children’s lives are also being adversely affected by not having a secure and stable home environment. This is how social exclusion begins as families are unable to fully take part in their communities due to constantly having to move, they are left isolated when placed 100s of miles away from their wider family and support. Children lose friendships due to being forced to change schools time and time again.

The Focus E15 campaign supports the right of single mothers to bring up their children in a long term secure environment near to their support networks and extended families. Stop playing political football with their lives.

Please support this mother who is asking to be housed near to her support networks in London or to be left to stay in Hertfordshire where her oldest child is at school. You can give support and solidarity  for this mother at her housing appointment on Friday 29 May, 1pm. Come and stand outside Bridge House 320 Stratford High Street, Stratford E15 1EP in solidarity.

Tell Newham council that single mothers deserve our support and should not be left stranded!

Keep Us In London
Council must show that they have exhausted local possibilities before housing people outside of London