Our demands on May 1st 2023 : All families must be moved from 10 Victoria Street as a matter of urgency , into suitable and long term accommodation.
Rokhsana Fiaz, Mayor of Newham, stated at a council meeting one year ago that by May 2023 “I will be making sure all of those families with children will be moved out of Victoria Street and no other families will be placed there.” However this has not happened , adding to the remaining families sense of ‘moral injustice’ and growing anger. We will not stop campaigning until all the families are moved out of Victoria Street into suitable accommodation.
Open all empty homes in the borough to house homeless individuals and families. We are aware of empty and suitable council homes, in a borough with one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country. This is outrageous – open these council homes now!
Repair, refurbish and repopulate the Carpenters Estate. People need long-term council homes now, not shoddy Temporary Accommodation! In the interests of the community and the planet, we say repair, refurbish and repopulate this estate with long-term council tenants!
End the use of ‘intentional homelessness’. We call on Newham Council to reject the malicious practice of labelling individuals and parents ‘intentionally homeless’. No one is intentionally homeless and the council must stop using this tool to shirk their responsibilities on homelessness. Furthermore, the use of threats by housing officers to parents such as we will rehouse your children and not you must cease immediately.
We say to Newham Council – resist or resign! Join the campaign on the streets next Saturday from 12-2pm outside Wilkos on the Broadway in Stratford to plan the next actions!
On Sunday 7 February, a mother of two in Brimstone House, 10 Victoria Street, E15, could take it no more and shared very personal photos of her home to illustrate the contempt that Newham council has for families crammed into the shoddy, overcrowded, damp rooms in this building.
For two years, she has put up with damp, with mould, with inadequate and expensive heating appliances, with a cramped situation whereby she has to share a bed with her children, with no bedroom for her children to sleep in, no room to study for the older one now of school age, no privacy for her.
Then came the rain and in it came. Now the children’s books were ruined, now the mattress was all wet and all their bedding affected. She packed up the room into boxes and bags to safeguard what was left and she asked a family also living in similar conditions in the building if they could take her children overnight, which they kindly did. The next night, she found space on the kitchen floor to put the children down to sleep.
Being an active part of Focus E15 campaign, this brave, resilient mother put out the message to others. Tweeting Newham council got a response, she was contacted and there was a promise of a visit to see and sort out the problems….
But this mother of two is clear, you can sort out the leak but you cannot fix the endemic problems of Brimstone House. The only way to reverse the negligence of extended stays in this appalling living situation, is to move people out to decent homes. Until then, the huge toll on adults’ and children’s mental and physical health will continue.
Focus E15 campaign knows that there are empty homes around Newham, and shockingly, has to repeat again and again and again what everyone, including Rokhsana Fiaz, Mayor of Newham, knows only too well – there are over 400 empty council homes on the Carpenters Estate, deliberately left empty for well over a decade, less than a mile from Brimstone House.
Residents of Brimstone House have voiced their issues loud and clear over and over again. In a recent exchange, mothers of young children expressed some of the issues they are struggling with in Brimstone House, in lockdown and with extreme difficulty getting replies from housing officers now that Bridge House and other housing offices are shut.
The constant merry-go-round of temporary and emergency housing:‘Moving again with my child….we have been living in a hotel, then a friend’s house and then various shared houses. It’s been a physically exhausting year living in London, we have been moved five times already.’
The lack of security: ‘It’s really hard to see a way out of this … and then the empty horrible threats that they will remove our children. All this is magnified by constant insecurity, knowing we’re at their mercy and they really can do what they want. If the council was someone’s partner, they would say it’s an abusive relationship.’
Being forced into tiny spaces in lockdown in a pandemic: ‘It’s so narrow and the ceiling is very low, I feel boxed in. You can see the end of my feet is where the TV is supposed to go, glued to our eyes!’
Knowing there are empty homes nearby:‘There is no way they can possibly justify not opening the Carpenters Estate and many others during this pandemic, I hope at some point we see someone held accountable for purposely keeping houses shut whilst knowing that we have been having a housing crisis for many many years.’
Being at the mercy of a system riven by division and discrimination:‘And they purposely trap us in the illusion of their ‘fair’ system. If we don’t have jobs, they call us lazy, when we do get a job or try to pursue our education, they make it nearly impossible…Unfortunately a lot of people are either dismissive or insensitive, they don’t actually see just how oppressing and soul destroying this system is.’
The women show their strength and resilience: ‘Persevering in adversity is one of the many life skills we are passing down to our kids simply by living the best we can in these situations…’
The conversation ends on a positive note:‘All they want is to distract us and make our lives not meaningful, they do not want us to achieve our goals because they know we are coming back to fight. All we need is NOT to keep quiet, we should continue to use our voice, and I believe with the support of Focus E15 campaign together we will win, they will hear our voice!’
Focus E15 campaigners are heartbroken to learn of the death of our young comrade Chelsie, in Newham on Tuesday 10 March 2020, aged 18 years old. Chelsie’s death is an enormous loss to the campaign. She was a crucial part of the Focus E15 campaign family, and our thoughts, solidarity and love are with Jasmin, Janice, Kayleigh and Safia, Chelsie’s parents and siblings and all of her family and friends at this terrible time.
Since the inception of Focus E15 campaign over 6 years ago, Chelsie, then aged 12, has been one of our youngest campaigners. The courage and dedication shown by the original group of young mothers who refused to be moved out of London and stood up to Newham council and East Thames Housing Association, made an impression on Chelsie because she understood that these young women should be housed in their communities near their support networks and families. It was not long before she was demanding ‘social housing, not social cleansing’ as she took a stand against the corruption of Newham Labour council. Surrounded by discussion, debate and action, Chelsie got more involved and she demonstrated against the vermin-infested overcrowded housing in a neighbouring borough by excitedly dressing up as a cockroach on a lively street protest outside Theori Housing. Her enthusiasm and sense of fun lifted campaign spirits.
Chelsie’s interaction with campaign life illustrates how, in a campaign, everyone has a place, a role, something to bring, abilities and talents to share. From the small detail of having a laugh on the street stall that Chelsie instigated, to her role in helping make childcare possible so that everyone could participate fully, it was Chelsie who stepped up with ongoing support in a myriad of ways. A regular street stall supporter, Chelsie did face-painting for children in Summer and cinema trips in Winter, never complaining when she had to see the same film one more time. Talented at drawing and painting, Chelsie collaborated with our campaign artist Andrew in making political banners. On the Carpenters Estate at a big public meeting, Chelsie, took part in a performance of a puppet show alongside Andrew and Jasmin. She had helped write the script and showed her understanding of the class forces at play in the struggle for decent housing. Chelsie recently helped re-organise our office space to provide a much-needed children’s play area, so that those fighting for the right to be housed could take part in meetings and discussions while their children were looked after in a child-friendly environment.
We can all learn from her patience, generosity, sense of fun and kindness she showed to young children who she loved and who loved her. We will also always remember Chelsie’s love of animals, the fun facts she taught us, and how happy she was when the regular Saturday street stall dog arrived – sprinting the last bit of pavement to reach Chelsie, wearing her trademark bright colours.
While we mourn Chelsie’s death, we also celebrate Chelsie’s life. Chelsie helped us understand that together we can make a difference and she was part of the feeling of solidarity and comradeship that is so important in Focus E15 campaign. Her contribution to the campaign teaches us also, that there must always be space for the ideas and the contribution of our young people.
We will never forget Chelsie’s commitment and loyalty to the campaign.
Focus E15 campaigners send our love to everyone affected by Chelsie’s death.
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.
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:
The Focus E15 campaign is appalled by the recent bullying tactics of Newham Labour council and the police who worked hand in hand to intimidate peaceful housing protesters involved in the ‘Jane Come Home’ political occupation. We proudly stand by Jane Wood who bravely reoccupied her home on Saturday 11 April after being tossed aside by Newham council. The flat was raided by police on Monday 13 April. It is clear that by arresting Jasmin Stone, one of the most prominent members of our campaign, the authorities in Newham are trying to intimidate us.
Jane Wood, a Newham resident, was evicted from her flat by the council on the 24 of March alongside her 14 year old daughter. The eviction was a terrible shock for Jane, she had been living in the flat for 21 years. Now she was homeless. Jane decided that the only way that Newham council would listen to her was if she took direct action. On Saturday 11 April, with chants of ‘Jane Come Home’, we marched to a house-warming party in Jane’s old flat. The brief occupation of the flat was a joyfully defiant gesture attracting press attention. Jane was deeply touched by the support from the community around her who were quick to show their solidarity by bringing all types of food, furniture and cooking equipment into the occupied flat.
On the same day the local Labour MP, Lyn Brown, responding to growing pressure, tweeted that Jane should phone her. Jane did, twice, but only got an answermachine. By Monday 13 April the authorities in Newham were furious and running scared of the powerful message of direct action embodied by Jane and the other campaigners. The council then acted in the most underhand way possible: they asked Jane to attend a housing appointment, whilst at the same time unleashing police and council officials in order to break into the flat. A terrifying ordeal for the people left inside the flat.
After over ten minutes of violence, smashing through the front door, with children screaming, the police began intimidating the women – aggressive and threatening to take the children into care. It was at this point that Jasmin Stone from Focus E15 was arrested inside the flat, on suspicion of squatting, a ridiculous charge on many fronts especially when considering the council knows exactly where Jasmin lives. We have been advised that the police and council have acted unlawfully: they did not acquire a possession order from a court to enter the flat. Jane may also have had some rights as a former tenant but Newham Labour council just wanted to shut down the protest by any means possible. Fast.
Jasmin was taken in an unmarked police car to Waltham Forest Custody Centre outside which a growing crowd gathered. A banner was unfurled with the clear message ‘Free Jasmin Stone – Let Jane Come Home’. Whilst the solicitor negotiated inside, Focus E15 campaign supporters chanted, danced and sang outside.
Jasmin was greeted with a huge cheer when she stepped free from the custody centre, bailed pending further enquiries to a date in mid May and banned from attending Jane’s former flat, a clear sign of the political nature of this arrest.
What about Jane? Jane’s first offer from the council was an uninhabitable temporary flat in a neighbouring borough that she rejected as unfit for her and her teenage daughter to live in. By the time of the next discussion with the council housing department, the staff had obviously seen the news and read the papers and started to make offers of a longer term council tenancy, this is yet to be confirmed.
The campaign is overwhelmed by all the support that has come flooding in since Jane’s second eviction and Jasmin’s release. Thank you to all those who have sent messages of solidarity. We will not be shaken in our belief that housing is a human right. Everyone deserves a decent home to live in.
No more evictions!
No to political intimidation!
Stop social cleansing!
Yesterday there were two rallies to end the housing crisis.
One was in Westminster led by Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem, Greens and of course Nigel Farage and his UKIP party – a rally hastily called before the party scramble for the upcoming election. The other was in an estate in Barnet where hundreds of members and supporters of grassroots campaigns came out to fight for the Sweets Way Estate, debated housing and opened up 2 more homes for residents to re-occupy. ‘Homes for Britain’ had contacted Focus E15 campaign not to speak on their rally alongside these parties, but to ‘borrow’ one of our banners. We do not exist to legitimise false campaigns.
These demonstrations represent two different fights in Britain – the fight being led by those who already have a voice and the fight being led by those who don’t. The Focus E15 Campaign call on people not to vote for any party which has pledged to continue austerity. This fight will not begin and end with a few broken pledges in parliament, with a few choice words spoken at a rally in Westminster. It has already begun with the Sweets Way Estate, Focus E15 Campaign, with New Era, Our West Hendon, The Aylesbury Estate and many more. The fight will continue with every eviction resisted and petition created, house occupied and banner made. It will be led by those directly affected and it will win.