Category Archives: social cleansing

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!

 

Voices of Focus E15 mums nearly 3 years on

The Focus E15 campaign has been catching up with some ex residents from Focus E15 hostel, asking them how they feel about Newham councils recent comment on a previous blog post on this website. In this comment, the council claim that they have “ gone above and beyond to help find suitable accommodation for all the supported young people living in the foyer (Focus E15 hostel)“.

The first to be interviewed about this statement is  Keira Josephs, a mother & ex Focus E15 resident.

Q1: How did Newham council support you while you were living in and being evicted from Focus E15 hostel, nearly 3 years ago? 
They didn’t support me at all. If it weren’t for the mothers of Focus E15 coming together and starting a petition we would have ended up out of London. Even when we came together they were still messing around with some of us. I was first offered a place in the olympic village which I was eligible for as I was a student and entitled to a two bed, but they withdrew the offer with out reason and then offered me a property in Birmingham which I refused as it was too far away from my support system.
Q2: This is a quote from Newham councils statement; “The council, working closely with East Thames, has gone above and beyond to help find suitable accommodation for all the supported young people living in the foyer. 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? 
No this is not true and this statement makes me very disheartened and concerned as to who they actually did help. If they really supported the mothers and babies they would have made sure we got council properties.Instead most of us were thrown into private accommodation – which isn’t affordable – if we did want to go into full time work.
 
We were not and still are not mothers who want to sit and claim benefits. These are young mothers who are still pushing and trying to make something of themselves – for their children’s sake so why not give us that extra stepping stone?
 
I’ve been in this accommodation for two years now. Newham council removed me off the bidding register which I had been on since I was 17 and I still have another year before I can register to go onto Barking and Dagenham’s bidding register. I was getting to the top of the list and they just took me off just like that! So yet again I say, if they were helping and “going beyond”, why am I in this two bed, not under any borough, just living in accommodation that is priced at £1000 a month? Does this sound like suitable accommodation for a single mother of three who doesn’t receive financial support from her family?
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Kiera, campaigning to stay near her support networks October 2013
Q3: Do you know of any residents that were socially cleansed or made homeless from Focus E15?
Not everyone that wanted to stay in London found a place, in fact some people were being moved out of London discreetly before we began the petition. Another girl –  a mother and baby (but living in the actual block instead of being moved to the mother and baby unit), she only got a place in London because luckily her father was able to help put down a deposit for rent.
 
I’m not sure if any one was made homeless, but we would have been – had we not put together the petition and started campaigning. The council were not willing to find us anywhere within London and that was being told to us over and over so I will not stand for them taking credit for something which they played no part in!
Q4: Where do you think you will be living next year?
 I’m already closer to Essex a place I didn’t desire to go. At this rate I may not even live in England in the next year! They’re not expanding and investing in the community for the people of the communities sake: it’s for the sake of tourists and money!
 wp-1463432041366.jpg                          Focus E15 mothers demanded social housing not social cleansing!

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

 

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.