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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!

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Focus E15 hostel residents speak out again

Poor conditions and evictions continue to plague Focus E15 building, despite what Newham Council says.

Focus E15 building has been bought by Newham council and Newham Council’s media team have responded with a comment to Sam and Jasmin’s post about this purchase. In this comment (only posted on the Campaign’s website) the council tries to negate all the reasons why the mothers from Focus E15 hostel had to fight for their right to stay in the city in 2013 when Newham Council were evicting people out of London. It was this, alongside hastily revoked eviction letters from East Thames Housing Association, which was the spark that lit the Focus E15 Campaign for decent housing for all.

After the campaign occupied empty flats on the Carpenters Estate in 2014 to highlight the outrage of hundreds of available homes left empty for years, Robin Wales was forced to make an apology in the Guardian newspaper for the way the mothers were treated. Two years on, Newham Council has said that it has bought Focus E15 building ‘to provide homes for those who need them most’.

However  the Campaign has recently spoken to residents who say that some continue to be threatened with eviction whilst others are stuck in the squalid, cramped, inappropriate rooms of the Focus E15 building. People with complex mental health issues who have been shunted around by Newham council for years are facing an uncertain future.

As one resident who spoke to the campaign said:

“I should be living. This is not living. This is just existing… That is Newham Council for you. They’ve destroyed my life.”

Help support the residents of Focus E15 building who are speaking out.

Come to our campaign meeting, Saturday 7 May, 2.30-4.30pm, Sylvia’s Corner, 97 Aldworth Road E15 4DN.

Decent secure housing for all!    Stop evictions!      Stop social cleansing!

 

Was this always your plan Mayor Robin Wales?

Two of the original mothers who founded the Focus E15 campaign, Sam and Jasmin, respond  angrily below to the latest news in Newham Recorder that the hostel known as Focus E15 Foyer is to be bought by Newham council.  Back in 2013 Focus E15 hostel was where Sam and Jasmin and the other mothers were all living at the time they were handed eviction notices by their housing association East Thames. This was because Newham council cut a funding  stream that had supported the vulnerable young people living in the hostel. The young mothers were told by Newham council to pack their bags and get out of the city.

Read Sam and Jasmin’s response to the ‘sudden’ news of the sale of this hostel to the council:

Robin Wales this is ridiculous, even for you. Your council has given no assistance to the 210 young vulnerable people  at Focus E15 hostel and at least 40 babies have been evicted from there during the last three years. You have called us names. You have tried to silence us. You told the mums from the hostel that it is not suitable for anyone to live in and needs to come down.

You have knowingly let families be split across separate rooms throughout the building, you let elderly and people with disabilities live on stupid floor levels  -when the lifts never work, whilst rents have been doubled.  

You cut the support for  vulnerable residents  -that was possibly the only thing useful about dumping us in a prison like hostel and now you are taking credit for saving it! How dare you Robin! You made life hell for so many of residents who lived in that building and were evicted. Some were moved out of London and others live on the streets.

Now you announce you are the saviour making it yours! What a disgrace of a human being – you should be ashamed of yourself.  You say “We cannot turn down this unique opportunity which makes both financial sense at the same time as helping some of our most vulnerable residents.” You make us sick! Are you talking about the same people your colleagues from the Labour party said were not ‘vulnerable’ but ‘needy’?  Do you remember that you said to us that “if you can’t afford to live in Newham – you can’t afford to live in Newham”!

Was this  always part of your plan three years ago Robin? You have no care for the homeless or vulnerable people, they are not rich enough for you. As for it making financial sense – what about all of those living in B&B’s at stupid rents, what about those forced to live in Welwyn Garden City and what about the 410 flats on the Carpenters Estate which the council has  left empty for the last 10 years? The flats on the Carpenters are much more suitable to live in than the tiny cramped bedsits of Focus E15 hostel. As you should know!

What about investing some of your £80,000 a year expenses back into the borough you “care” about so much! You are corrupt! You do not care about working class people, you socially cleanse them. Newham does not want you, Newham does not need you! Newham is not a place for you to “live work or stay”.  You are nothing but the Sheriff of Newham ROBIN the poor. Shame on you!

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

 

Rough sleeper found in doorway of Newham’s housing office.

Charlie is 20 years old and has been homeless for over 2 years and he has now been street homeless  for 7 months.  He is originally from Southend and became homeless after his mother told him to leave the family house and not come back.

charlie
Charlie in the centre who has been left to sleep rough by Newham council

Charlie  has been sleeping in the doorway of Bridge House housing office in Stratford, as this is where he felt most safe at night. After a few weeks of seeing Charlie sleeping rough, the security guard brought someone from the housing office to see him.  This housing officer told Charlie there was nothing that could be done to help him because he is not ‘priority need’ which was the same line  he was fed in Southend.   Bear in mind that Southend council spent millions on the new pier and Newham council have left 3 tower blocks on the Carpenters Estate virtually empty for several years.

However, a week later Charlie received good news: he was told by a housing officer at Bridge House that in fact they may be able to find him somewhere to live after all.  They took his phone number and said they would be in touch. He immediately got his hopes up.

That was over 6 weeks ago now and Charlie has heard nothing since.  He still remains on the streets of Newham and is just one of the growing number of  rough sleepers in London:  last year 7,000 people slept rough in London.

Focus E15 campaign met Charlie on our weekly street stall when he came to sign our petition and buy a social housing badge. It is unacceptable that  a young man like Charlie remains vulnerable on the streets whilst at the same time thousands and thousands of homes in the capital lie empty.

“Homelessness is a devastating experience with significant impacts for an individual’s health and wellbeing. Mental and physical health problems can be caused or exacerbated by rough sleeping. Homelessness is also dangerous, with homeless people 13 times more likely to be a victim of crime than the general public. Shockingly, the average age of death for a homeless person is just 47 –  30 years younger than the national average.” St Mungo’s

Newham council must make sure our young people are safe and can move forward with their lives.
House Charlie now and stop making people homeless!

Social Housing not Social Cleansing!

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The Focus E15 newsletter is out now

Tomorrow Saturday 30 January – Join Focus E15 contingent to: 

March Against the Housing Bill!

(there will be no Stratford stall outside Wilko’s).

Travel to the start together… meet Focus E15 at Stratford station at 11am (outside the exit that leads onto the bus station, near the train statue).

https://www.facebook.com/events/817880454987012/

The march, organised by Lambeth Housing Activists, starts from the Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Road, SE1 6HZ (nearest tube Lambeth North) and will march to Downing Street for 2pm.

See below re other events and actions related to opposing the Housing Bill.

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Tonight Friday 29 and tomorrow Saturday 30 January

Land of the Three Towers

A community theatre piece celebrating Focus E15 occupation of Carpenters Estate in 2014

https://www.cptheatre.co.uk/production/land-three-towers/

Congratulations to FYSA theatre company for the latest E15 performances. Reviewed below and more performances scheduled for later this year.

https://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/2016/e15-review-at-camden-peoples-theatre-london-a-rallying-cry/

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Two campaign events on Saturday 13 February 2016

Focus E15 campaign stall 12-2pm on the Broadway outside Wilkos in Stratford. 

We will be supporting the Radical Housing Network’s call for action against the housing bill. Come and speak out, leaflet  and use the open mic. Make plans, talk to people on the streets to make the housing movement grow. All welcome. Take part in East London Radical Assembly’s stall crawl and get involved with the housing movement in your area.

Focus E15 campaign meeting and the Immigration Bill 2.30-4.30pm

Bryant Street Methodist Church, Bryant Street, E15 4RU

Come and hear a speaker from RAMFEL – Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London  www.ramfel.org.uk/

Discussion in particular about the Immigration Bill and the impact on housing and planning future events.

Big Thank you to Simon from Architects for Social Housing who spoke about the housing bill at the last meeting.

https://architectsforsocialhousing.wordpress.com/

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HOUSING AND PLANNING BILL CALENDAR

26 January: 2nd Reading of the Bill in the House of Lords (first chance to discuss areas where amendments are needed, so start lobbying Lords before this date). Defend Council Housing lobbying Southwark Council offices at 160 Tooley Street (6.00pm).

30 January: March Against The Housing Bill, called by Lambeth Housing Activists (midday), from Imperial War Museum to Downing Street.

2 February: Defend Council Housing Protest outside Parliament (4.00pm), followed by testimony meeting (5.00-7.00pm), in Committee Room 4a.

6 February: Defend Council Housing organising meeting (11-1pm), Unite the Union, 128 Theobald’s Road.

9 February: Islington Hands Off Our Public Services Commission, public meeting on the Bill (7pm), Islington Town Hall, Upper Street.

10 February: Estimated date of Committee Stage of Bill in House of Lords. Detailed examination of the Bill lasting around two weeks.

13-14 February: We Love Council Housing, weekend of actions against the Bill called by the Radical Housing Network for the Valentine weekend.

24 February: Estimated date of the Report Stage of the Bill, when the House debates any committee amendments. This is shortly (that day or the following week) followed by the Third Reading, the last chance for the House to vote on amendments. Any amendments are then sent back to the Commons for consideration. Then the Bill is sent for Royal Assent.

13 March: Kill the Housing Bill (Act) / Call for Rent Control, National Demonstration called by Defend Council Housing.

16 April: People’s Assembly Against Austerity: March for Health, Homes, Jobs and Education, Central London.

5 May: Elections for London Mayor.

Families are speaking out against social cleansing

Recently some of our campaigners travelled to Welwyn Garden City to meet people who have been sent out of Newham. We were shocked at the conditions that families with children are expected to live in.  The rents a very high, even for just one room and people are  really struggling financially.  It is a grim reality for those who find themselves without their support networks when their children are unwell or when they need help.

Read the stories of Luis and  Elina and their families below, examples of the many families forced out of Newham to Welwyn Garden City. Luis has a housing meeting on Monday 14 December, check our facebook page for updates on Luis after the meeting.

People are being moved out of Newham in a process which is being referred to as social cleansing. Last year over 400 families were moved out of Newham. Recently we me Luis who was sent to Welwyn Garden City. Luis made the journey down to meet us on our street stall because his housing situation is desperate and he does not know what will happen next. He worries about the future. He lives with his partner and four children in damp, cramped and inappropriate accommodation: the family is split up between two studio flats, which is not suitable for family life.

Newham council placed them in this accommodation over two years ago along with many other families. All the flats in his block have problems with damp and are very expensive to rent. Newham Labour Council is still responsible for the fate of all these families in terms of housing.

It is an impossible situation for Luis because his rent has just gone up and he is expected to pay council tax twice over (on each of the studio flats). With mounting arrears, Luis doesn’t stand a chance financially.The stress on living like this is taking its toll on several members of the family because Newham council has said that Luis will be making himself ‘intentionally homeless’ if he does not pay the increased weekly rent. No father would make his family intentionally homeless – Luis just needs a chance to get his life back in order and live in accommodation that is suitable and healthy for his children.

Luis wants to solve his housing issues and has pressed for a meeting with Newham’s housing officer and has been given a meeting on Monday 14 December at 10.30am at Bridge House in Stratford E15.

Focus E15 campaign supports Luis and his family and their right to decent, affordable, long term, secure housing in Newham which is where they were living, where they have connections and support. Never let it be forgotten that the Carpenters Estate has over 400 empty homes and there are many people who needs these homes today.
Solidarity with Luis and all those in housing difficulty.
No one is intentionally homeless!
Stop social cleansing!

Update from Elina in Welwyn Garden City

I am single mum with 3 small children. I have been sent to Welwyn Garden city by Newham Council as a result of social cleansing. Not only am I am battling with my housing situation but I have been asking the agency (who runs the building where I am housed and are   called Theory Ltd), to repair or replace my washing machine. Theory Ltd often fail to do repairs or take a very long time. The first time it took 6 months to fix my washing machine.

The closest public laundrette is 40 minutes away  from the flat. At the moment I am having problems with my washing machine again. It is in the same room where we all live, eat and sleep. Its making a very loud noise and is scaring the kids. There is damage to the drum and it needs to be fixed or replaced I think.

I reported the problem to the agency about 2 weeks ago. Today I called them again and a woman in the agency told me there is nothing on their files about this problem. When I called Newham council a man told me that if there is a problem with the washing machine he will ask the agency to remove it but it is not their responsibility to provide us with another one. I can not afford to get another one and with children there is always so much washing to be done.

I think that Newham council does not care about the people who voted for them. They and the housing agency get payed well.  Yet we can’t afford very basic things like washing machines.

Carpenter’s Estate Tenant’s Management Organisation being starved of funds by Newham Council

An urgent message from the Tenant’s Management Organisation on the Carpenter’s Estate:

We have reason to suspect Newham council is wilfully engineering the closure of the Tenant’s Management Organisation despite a 91% residents’ vote to continue the organisation for another 5 years. The council have declared us insolvent and closed as of tomorrow (1st December) without due explanation or external audit

Newham Council has been unlawfully withholding funds to the CTMO since the 1st October 2015 (to the sum of 191,880). Our view is that Newham council is purposefully doing so knowing that our funds are limited. Since Newham Council are both our only source of funding and our only creditors we believe that they are constructing the abolition of the CTMO to expedite their eventual sale of the Carpenter’s Estate.

The CTMO runs a vibrant community centre at the heart of the Carpenters Estate that provides residents with a number of services including a soup kitchen a free IT suite and a meeting space for several residents’ groups.

We have been told that the CTMO will no longer exist as of tomorrow (1st December) the staff have been transferred without consultation to work for Newham Council. What will happen to the community centre and the services it provides to residents is unclear.

Signed by the TMO and Residents of Carpenters Estate.

CTMO is also directly employed by the CTMO’s board, which Newham Council have so far refused to consult with, as would be necessary when attempting to transfer staff. The CTMO has refused to accept any terms from the council until they go through the board.  A council officer will now be based on the CMTO’s site, reporting directly to her line manager at the council.

Please help us by spreading this message far and wide and join us at our strategy meeting on Saturday 5th December at the CTMO centre 17 Doran Walk, Stratford at 2.30pm.

Syed and Syeda’s case

We have been living in a property for the last two years in East Ham, which has been in complete disrepair throughout our tenancy and the landlord and estate agent (Elliot Davis of Green Street) has resisted doing any of the necessary repairs.

The house is full of damp, with a bed bug infestation, and the substandard condition of wallpapers and paint has been causing health hazards to my family. I have two children under the age of two living in this property who have continuously been bitten by bugs, and our GP has provided us with multiple medical letters regarding these, which we have sent to the estate agents with no results. The conditions have also had a major impact on the mental health of my family, which we have letters to prove

At the start of 2015 the landlord increased the rent without undertaking any of the repairs, and at this point the estate agent (Elliot Davis) came to visit our property for the first time since we had moved in. He witnessed the poor conditions and promised to get the repair works started instantly. On this promise, we signed the new tenancy agreement with increased rent, but all that was done was the kitchen and front door was repainted.

We contacted the estate agents (Elloit Davis) about this but were told that, as usual, the landlord was on holiday in Spain and wouldn’t be available for two months. At this point, we decided to withhold our rent to pressure the estate agents into carrying out the necessary repairs and that we would inform the council. They responded by sending us an eviction notice.

In July the estate agent (Elliot Davis) sent over builders without informing us beforehand, who started to pain over the damp to cover it, who also damaged some of our clothes and possessions with paint.

Since we have informed the council, they arranged a visit to inspect the conditions of the property and invited the landlord and estate agents (Elliot Davis) to attend, but they were not present. The estate agents have been given a week to respond, but we have heard nothing.

We are demanding the following:

A refund on some of our rent over the last two years as we are not prepared to pay to live in sub-standard conditions

The landlord and/ or estate agents (Elliot Davis) to pay the legal costs we have incurred in hiring a solicitor to handle our case

That our home is made livable and suitable for a family with young children

Syed, Syeda and the Focus E15 Campaign

Bed bug bite on my Elder Daughter's arm 002 Dampness Hole in the Wall Wallpaper coming off due to Dampness