Category Archives: overcrowding

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

 

Advertisements

Children forced to live in appalling conditions

On Monday 27th June 2016, Boundary House residents went to Waltham Forest council’s housing office, Cedar House, to fight back against the appalling conditions they have been forced to live in.

Boundary House is a block of one-bedroom flats of ‘temporary accommodation’ in Welwyn Garden City which is outside London. From there it is a long and expensive commute back to Walthamstow where most of its current residents are from. The distance and cost means that residents are isolated from their family, friends and support networks, with one mother of two being forced to quit her job in London, as she could no longer afford the commute.

The conditions there are terrible, with mould, cockroaches, overcrowding and dangerous faulty appliances. One resident, pregnant and living with her young daughter, had to survive the winter with no heating. Still today, their heating has not been fixed.

On the third floor of Boundary house there is a young mother living with her now four month old baby, who was delivered by C-section. As there are no lifts in the block of flats, and the block is not safe or secure enough to leave the pushchair down stairs, every time this mother wants to go out she must carry her baby in the pushchair up and down three flights of stairs. The strain of this has meant that she has not been able to fully heal from the operation.

Boundary House was not built with families in mind. Nonetheless, Waltham Forest council have been sending their constituents to this accommodation and have done nothing to ensure the properties are fit for purpose. When Boundary House residents tried to raise these issues to Waltham Forest council, they have received little, if any, responses to their letters, phone calls and emails.

wp-1467227705659.jpg
Boundary House residents prepare to march to the housing office

This is why on Monday 27th of June, Boundary House residents decided enough if enough. Supported by Focus E15, and others,  we marched on the housing office, as a united community to demand to speak to someone who could act upon our demands. When we arrived,  security tried to refuse us entrance into the office. But we did not stand for it and insisted to be let it. Once the security had conceded to our demands to enter, we were told the Director of housing would not be able meet us. We refused to accept this and told them we would not move until Boundary House residents were able to speak to someone in charge.

It did not take long for the council to concede, and we won a group meeting with the Director of Housing for Waltham Forest Council, whom some Boundary House residents have been trying to get in contact with for over two years. We were taken to a conference room, and every resident had the chance to tell their story, express their concerns, fears and frustrations, and to demand the Waltham Forest Council treat its residents with respect and dignity.

In the meeting, the Director of Housing agreed to listen to our demands, to investigate the appalling conditions of Boundary House, and to hold another meeting in the coming weeks to update Boundary House residents as to what actions they have taken improve from the current conditions. This is a small victory of Boundary House Residents.

The action has demonstrated that when we fight together, they cannot ignore us! We will continue to fight, to make sure that Waltham Forest council holds true to their words, and we will continue to demand that Waltham Forest council bring Boundary House residents back to London.

SOCIAL HOUSING NOT SOCIAL CLEANSING!
Joins us on our street stall in Stratford outside Wilkos on the Broadway on Saturday from 12pm.

 

New research paper about Focus E15: a nomadic war machine?

 

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

 

Brave Colchester family speak out about council intimidation

Earlier this month Katrina and some of her children travelled down to the stall from Colchester to get support and tell us about their housing situation there and the overcrowding they are facing at the hostel they are currently living in. We are very alarmed by the problems faced by her and other  families who have lots of children. We do not think that such families should be split up or have children taken into care. Children need security, family life and decent housing.
This is Katrina’s story
We have a relatively large family by ‘normal standards’ but at the time we had the fifth child my husband was employed and earning a very healthy wage. He was made redundant but didn’t expect it would take long to find employment. As far as we were concerned our family was big enough and  so another pregnancy was a huge surprise and to be carrying twins was a massive shock. We were living in a 3 bed private rent so knew that eventually we’d need to move to something bigger and approached the council to go on the waiting list. They told us we had to make an application for homelessness to be accepted onto the housing waiting list. We were told that if we refused to move into temporary accommodation then they wouldn’t accept us onto the housing list so we moved.
Because we resisted their bullying tactics, we made ourselves a target for punishment. One of the tactics the council tried was to tell our landlord he needed to evict us (this was to ensure we had no choice but to go to the emergency housing they had lined up for us). The day before the eviction the landlord had rung us asking if we had heard from the council  as no one was getting back to him and the last thing he wanted to do was evict us. Within hours he must have heard they weren’t going to pay him any more housing benefit and we had approx 15 hours notice before the bailiffs came knocking.
So we had to move to the hostel. After being summoned to a meeting we have been told that the council will be discharging their duty to house us yet they are still forcing us to move again no doubt to wait until the last bag/box has been unpacked to throw us out again. They are saying we will be better off in the private sector yet there aren’t any affordable rents and living in a university town means large properties make more money for landlords to let out to students.
In the hostel we are housed with other vulnerable people and this is just not suitable for families.To add to it all we have 5 girls sleeping in a room with 4 beds. We are told one will have to sleep on a mattress on the floor which wouldn’t leave any floor room for walking, let alone toys.
If you are unemployed for what ever reason you are looked down upon for being a burden on the economy and don’t deserve anything. As for housing officers feeling that people ‘like us’ are bleeding the tax payer dry all I can say is that as far as I am aware we are all tax payers (VAT). Our hopes for the future are to have stability, to know we are secure for at least a fixed amount of time so we can actually have lives and focus on work and education.
By telling our story we hope encourage others to speak out against the harsh treatments of councils, to highlight how housing officers are prepared to tell whatever lies it takes to manipulate the situation into their favour such as telling people they will only be in B&Bs for a couple of days that stretch into months. To be told you cannot appeal their decisions and to be grateful for whatever they handout! They prey on the isolation of people so it’s time people got together and exposed them for what they really are.