Category Archives: social cleansing

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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Working class women face court fees as evictions keep rising

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.

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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!

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

Bring Abigail and her children back home to London!

Watch the videos, read the text below and support Focus E15 campaign in the renewed pressure and demands on Waltham Forest council to stop social cleansing to Boundary House in Welwyn Garden City.  We  are demanding an end to Abigail’s isolation. 

In March 2014 Abigail approached Waltham Forest council to help find accommodation. Her previous landlord was about to evict her as she was pregnant and he didn’t want a baby in his property. Abigail was told by the council that they had found her emergency temporary accommodation, a one bedroom apartment, in Welwyn garden city.

When Abigail arrived at the new property, it was clear the accommodation was not suitable for her and her unborn daughter.  It wasn’t a one bedroom apartment as she was told, but a very small studio flat with a kitchenette, living room and bedroom all in the same room. The room had problems with damp, mould, cockroaches and dangerous faulty appliances (Abigail and her children have spent the last two winters with no working heating). Heavily pregnant when moving in, and then with a new-born baby and a pushchair soon after, the room Abigail was given was on the 3rdstory, and the block of accommodation has no lifts.

Watch the video as Abigail explains more about her situation:

Welwyn Garden City, where Abigail was placed, is over 20 miles and an expensive train ride away from Abigail’s family, community and place of work in Walthamstow.  Outrageously, this means Abigail has had to spend 80% of her wages on travel, whilst being separated from her support networks, and removed from the place she knows as home.

This year marks 3 years since Abigail’s placement in Welwyn Garden City- when she was initially moved she was told it would be a few month, maximum. She has been doing everything she can to move back home; speaking to councillors, housing officers, and continually bidding for suitable properties closer to her loved ones. But unfortunately, her attempts have been unsuccessful, and Waltham Forest Council are unwilling to help.

In September 2016, Abigail gave birth to her second beautiful daughter, who has recently been diagnosed as having Congenital Melanocytic Naevus (CMN), a type of birthmark. Unfortunately complications of CMN can include neurological problems in the brain or spinal cord and malignant melanoma. This means that the baby must attend regular check-ups with her doctor, and specialists at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

With the recent diagnosing of Abigail’s second daughter’s condition, it has become even more urgent that she is brought back to London, back to her support networks, so her family and friends can support her and her daughters. Abigail will need help with childcare, family to attend appointments with her, and loved ones around to support her in stressful and scary times.

This family cannot get the support they need living miles away from their community, it is time they are brought back home. That is why Focus E15 campaign is supporting an online petition to demand Waltham Forest Council bring Abigail and her daughters back to London, and to provide this family with a safe and decent home. Please sign and share the petition across your networks:
https://www.change.org/p/waltham-forest-council-bring-abigail-and-her-kids-back-home

Thank you. Together we are stronger!

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!

 

NOT the Mayor’s Newham Show -Sunday street stall

Join the campaign on Sunday July 10 at  Newham Town Hall, Barking Road, East Ham from 3pm onwards.

Focus E15 campaign will be setting up a street stall at Newham Town Hall this Sunday at 3pm to shine a spotlight on Newham’s housing crisis during the Mayor’s Newham Show. Last year campaigners were forcibly removed from the show as they spoke out against evictions and social cleansing. This year we will celebrate our resistance by setting up a special street stall outside the town hall. During the street stall we will be speaking out against evictions and highlighting that:

Newham has the most empty properties out of any London borough, around 1,318 properties are lying empty – the total value of these empty properties stands at almost £470m.

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In September 2015 Focus E15 organised a March Against Evictions that took place in Newham

In 2015, 244 families from Newham were permanently sent out of London, with Newham Council citing that there was no space or money to house them in the borough.

If these issues matter to you, come and join out street stall outside East Ham town hall. If you have not been to the street stall before, just come and say hello if you are passing to go to the Newham Show. Join the campaign to demand that the empty properties in Newham are opened up to those who need them most. Put human being first! Stop sending people out of London.Decent homes for everyone!
Join the special street stall this Sunday and make your voices heard with Focus E15 campaign.

Please help spread the word and keep up to date with this event by joining the facebook event

Social Housing, NOT social cleansing!

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.

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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.

 

Emergency – housing is a mental health issue.

On 21st May, to mark the end of Mental Health Awareness Week, Focus E15 Campaign held a demonstration in Stratford to force a spotlight onto Newham council who have left empty homes boarded up on the Carpenters Estate  and to make a link that the current housing crisis is having an adverse effect on people’s mental health.  

Many people took the opportunity to use the open microphone. Speeches, live music, chanting and an impromptu march  highlighted the link between mental health and housing insecurity. The point was also made that taking collective action is empowering and good for our mental wellbeing.

Passerby stopped to hear how people are being decanted, evicted, abandoned and forced out of their homes at catastrophic rates  – currently someone in England is threatened with eviction every 90 seconds. Newham has the highest number of households in temporary accommodation of any London borough and the devastating consequences that housing conditions are having on people’s mental health should be obvious. To constantly worry that the roof over your head will not be there tomorrow is traumaticThe stress and isolation that comes from housing insecurity is causing a mental health crisis.

Dangerous and overcrowded accommodation; temporary housing, isolation from family and friends, evictions, homelessness, social cleansing, children out of school, job losses: these are the issues so many people are facing and they are making people sick. As people are evicted from their homes and socially cleansed out of London, they are not only being forced into places that are making them ill, but they are cut off from the very support networks that keep them healthy. 

Thank you to everyone who stood together in our community to raise these important issues. The fight back continues. Collective action makes us stronger and gives us back our mental health! In the words of a campaigner on the day:

No political party has any solutions. Families are being evicted every day. People are getting ill. Children are suffering. This is a rich country but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at what is happening to the most vulnerable people and their housing. We must stand together to avoid drowning.’

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Community solidarity for the Focus E15 action – Housing is a mental health issue May 21st 2016

 

Housing is a mental health issue: Root Shock and the London housing crisis

At our last campaign meeting Joe Hoover from City University  talked about human rights and housing, drawing on work of activist groups such as ONE DC in  Washington DC, and other groups in Chicago. He provided us with shocking figures of US homelessness, displacement, decanting, racism and then talked about the resistance and inspiration given by movements in Brazil, South Africa and tactics used. The discussion included making links to what is going on in London and Newham in particular and Joe spoke of Rootshock and the human/psychological suffering imposed by being torn from one’s roots.

Read Joe’s guest blogpost below, where he explains more about this concept of Root Shock. 

 

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. In Newham Council, and other councils across the UK, there will be a week of events to highlight the importance of mental health. There is, however, a troubling absence on their calendar of events. Newham Council is not talking about housing as a mental health issue. In fact, Newham Council, like councils across London, is undermining the mental health of the individuals and communities they are tasked with serving.

Mental health difficulties can make it hard for individuals to find and keep a secure home, but the types of homes and communities we build also have a profound effect on our mental well being. In London our public officials and government bodies too often fail to meet the housing needs of the most vulnerable, but to make matters worse they are making more and more Londoners vulnerable to displacement. While planners and developers speak of “regeneration” or “renewal”, the communities that are losing their homes know this process as displacement, as social cleansing. When we destroy buildings and rebuild urban centres in the interest of investors over residents, we harm communities and individuals. Displacement is a collective psychological trauma.

Dr Mindy Fullilove has developed the idea of root shock (http://www.rootshock.org) to describe the ‘traumatic stress reaction to the loss of some or all of one’s emotional ecosystem.’ What she describes is the loss of our sense of place in the world, the loss of our community, when we are forced out of homes by war, disaster or urban renewal. When we are forced from our community, and when communities themselves are destroyed, our attachment to our home is severed. We lose the bond between person and beloved space. As our attachments are severed we are also taken away from our familiar environment, which is a psychological and social injury. When we lose our familiarity with our environment we lose the detailed cognitive knowledge we have of places, people and ourselves. Finally, as we are taken from the places and people we know well, our sense of identity suffers. The cumulative effect of this loss is what Dr Fullilove calls root shock, and its consequences are far reaching for communities and individuals that have been uprooted.

The trauma of root shock increases an individual’s vulnerability to violence, substance abuse, physical illness and mental illness. As has been documented in The Sprit Level (https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/resources/the-spirit-level), we know that inequality is bad for our health, but when we add the loss of homes the harm of poverty and inequality is made worse. When communities lose their emotional ecosystems and place in the world, it exposes individuals to violence and economic hardship when they are moved to deprived areas, and to isolation as they are separated from friends, families and networks of care.

If we do not recognise the trauma of displacement we cannot address the harm done by removing people from their homes. We have to stop seeing the destruction of communities as a business investment and recognise it as an injury, committed against individuals. Recognising housing as a mental health issue means focusing on preventing this trauma. Dr Fullilove talks about the need for prevention as a strategy of resistance: primary prevention should seek to protect homes and communities from destruction; secondary prevention should seek to limit the devastation to communities already under threat; and tertiary prevention should seek to rebuild communities damaged by displacement.

 

Thinking of housing as a central element of our emotional ecosystem reveals that our public officials and institutions are failing us. We must demand that Newham Council, and councils across London, serve the needs of the people and build healthy communities.

By Joe Hoover.

More Focus Mothers contact the campaign

Another one of the original mothers contacted the campaign to give her story of what really happened during the time she was served an eviction notice whilst living at Focus E15 hostel. She wishes to remain anonymous.

Q1: How did Newham council support you while you were living in and being evicted from Focus E15, nearly 3 years ago?

Personally I feel like there was no support from Newham council. We were initially given a list of landlords and we were told to find our own accommodation. We all were desperately calling and trying to find somewhere to live but we had no luck. Then out of nowhere I heard we were getting moved out of London,  this is when all the panic set in.

Not once did Newham council contact me or had meetings to explain what they were planning on doing – they basically left it up to the support workers at Focus hostel, and sometimes they couldn’t even give us answers.

Q2 This is a quote from Newham councils comment on our website; ” The council, working closely with East Thames, has gone above and beyond to help find suitable accommodation for all the supported young people … Many found move on accommodation of their own while East Thames and the council helped many more.”  Is this accurate and how does it make you feel?

As for helping us find suitable accommodation- trying to send us away from our families and friends is not ‘helping’. If we didn’t come together as mothers and if we didn’t fight -only God knows where we would be right now. 

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Q3: Do you know of any residents that were socially cleansed or made homeless from Focus E15?

We were told to move out of London. The few who moved out of London – I’m sure they regret it and I believe the only reason they took the offer was because they felt they had no choice and others just wanted to get out of Focus ASAP, some might even regret moving so far away but the rest of us had to fight to stay in Newham/London with our families.

Q4: Where do you think you will be living in a years time?

Who knows where I will be in a year. Anything can happen from now until then.

Focus E15 campaign will be publishing more interviews with the original Focus E15 mothers over the next 10 days.

Social Housing! Not Social Cleansing!