Tag Archives: focus E15 campaign

We will not be silenced about the housing crisis

East London night of resistance – resistance goes on undeterred….

On Wednesday 28 October, Focus E15 campaign, East London Radical Assembly and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! organised a night of resistance in a local Stratford pub. After a great evening of film showings, discussion, poetry and music, the plan was to join the rough sleepers and homeless people overnight in the old Stratford Centre/mall to highlight the fact that rough sleepers are regularly kicked out of the mall and often spend the night in the grounds of the local church.

Suspiciously however, on the day of the event, a notice went up to say that the Stratford Centre would be closed from 11pm to 5am for ‘maintenance works’.  We  then found out that the police had been on the phone to the pub all afternoon, hassling them to cancel our social event and discussion about the escalating housing crisis. The pub realised that this was absurd and said no.  We are clear that this is Newham Labour council and the police  working together to intimidate the pub and silence our campaign. We also saw police ‘guarding’ the grounds of the local church at night, presumably to stop people from sleeping there.  Of course, when we arrived at the mall there was absolutely no sign of any maintenance work. The police guarded all entrances but we led a lively and noisy demonstration just outside and told passersby what was going on. A home made quilted banner declared our solidarity with homeless people and  as one Focus E15 campaigner clearly explained, ‘we are in solidarity with people facing homelessness and no intimidation by council or police will stop our campaign growing’.

What is happening to people with their housing is unacceptable. More and more people are sleeping rough or left in temporary accommodation for years on end whilst at the same time many homes are sitting empty, such as the 400 or so homes on the Carpenters Estate.  Robin Wales and Newham council encourage an Olympic legacy of gentrification on the one hand and evictions and social cleansing on the other. Let us not forget that Newham is one of  the  least affordable boroughs for private renting in the country and has one of the worst records in London for rehousing people out of the borough: last year Newham moved 423 homeless families out of London altogether.

It is not good enough to leave people to sleep rough on our streets. Say no to street homelessness and join our campaign by getting involved in organising with us and by coming down to our weekly street stall in Stratford on the Broadway outside Wilkos from 12-2pm. Make your voice count.

image

Advertisements

East London Night of Resistance says everyone needs a home! Join us.

On Wednesday 28 October, join Focus E15 campaign at the King Edward VII pub on the Broadway in Stratford, London E15 for East London Night of Resistance, co-hosted with East London  Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism and East London Radical Assembly.

At the end of the night, we will be going to Stratford Mall to give support to the homeless people of Stratford who seek warmth and shelter and  who are increasingly being moved on by police and security, as gentrification and social cleansing take hold of post-Olympic Stratford. Bring sleeping bags, thermos flasks and solidarity.
While the Carpenters Estate in Stratford has over 400 empty council homes, homelessness is on the increase. As if this scandal wasn’t bad enough, Newham is amongst the 15 least affordable areas for private renting in the country and has one of the worst records in London for rehousing people out of the borough. Last year it moved 423 homeless families out of London altogether.
Join us in the pub from 8pm and then  on the streets to help build the resistance.

Focus E15 campaign will be showing a short film called Squatters  which is about housing issues in London in the 1970s.

Pilar Lopez will be bringing folk music from Spanish freedom fighters. See pilarawa.wordpress.com for more information.
Janine Booth, a punk poet will be performing as well: https://m.facebook.comJanineBoothTheBigJ
Porcupine Dilemma will be playing a few acoustic numbers.

There  could even be a bar room sing-along!Please join our campaigners at the end of the evening when we will be leaving together to show solidarity with the homeless in Newham with a mass sleep out. For the most up to date information see the facebook event page

We will be asking for donations to cover the cost of this event.

No to social cleansing in Redbridge! Support Bianca to stay in her community

Stand in solidarity with Bianca on Monday 12 October. Bianca is being evicted. The baliffs are coming. She wants to be rehoused in her local community near to her support networks.
Either meet at her flat at from 8.30am or at the housing office in Illford at 9.30am.

Please be aware that the press will be there -bring your banners and your voices!

Bianca’s flat address is : 304, Chadwell Heath High Rd, Romford, RM6 6 AG. Meet there at 8.30am. Nearest station to Bianca’s flat is Chadwell Heath Station, or 86 bus.

From her flat we will be organising free cabs to take people to the housing office when Bianca has her housing meeting at 9.30am.

Housing office address is: The Housing Advice Centre, 17-23 Clements Road, Ilford IG1 1AG This is the second meeting point and we will be there at 9.30am.Nearest Station to the housing office is: Ilford Station
Bus 25 86 145 147 169 W19

We urge Redbridge council to look carefully at the needs of this young family who have a child with hypermobility needs. They want to move forward with their lives in a positive way. Bianca’s child needs to remain in her school where she has completed her reception year and made friends.

Remember the council must exhaust all local possibilites first before they rehouse Bianca out of the borough.
Demand that Bianca and her children are rehoused in the local area! Email: housing.options@redbridge.gov.uk

Bianca and her children need somewhere to live near to her child's school.
Bianca and her children need somewhere to live near to her child’s school.

100s of people unite to march against evictions in Stratford with Focus E15 Campaign

A march against evictions awoke the heart of Stratford in the East End of London last Saturday when local people, political groups and campaigns took to the streets to demand decent housing for all. The march was militant, diverse and empowering, full of noise, speeches and lively chants. It was led by the original Focus E15 mothers and their families plus others who face being shoved out of London due to a manufactured housing crisis. A local mother, Bianca Ford who is being evicted  with her children on October 12 in Redbridge said she had never been on a march before but marching with others who care about housing issues had given her the confidence to speak out. Afterwards she said that the march had been a ‘real buzz’. Residents from the Focus E15 hostel were also uplifted by the gathering of people and felt like they could speak out about their current housing fears. This shows that our active solidarity brings courage to people, inspiring them to take action.

Ghassem from Asylum Clinic spoke about  migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and the racism and discrimination they face in housing. Class War stormed into Foxtons letting agency, drawing attention to rip off house prices, agency fees and high rents. They were congratulated for taking this action by many on the march. People also became angry and vocal when we passed by Bridge House, Newham’s homelessness housing office: a homemade banner was hung over the entrance demanding Newham Labour council stop social cleansing. Squatters rights were also championed and Sisters Uncut made the links between housing security and the importance of fighting against domestic violence.



Newham Labour Party was criticised for its role in the housing crisis and comrades in the Revolutionary Communist Group were on the megaphone when the march passed by a boarded up Newham Labour Party office.There was no one to be seen, perhaps they were hiding behind the boards…

The march finished up on the Carpenters estate because 3 tower blocks on the estate are still virtually empty. 400 flats have been left to rot by Newham labour party in the middle of one of the worst housing crisis this country has seen in a long time and one that continues to affect the most vulnerable people in our communities. Both Sam and Jasmin from the campaign spoke about the actions the campaign has taken to place the housing crisis on the political agenda in Newham and beyond. They then untied 100s of balloons which symbolized the 50,000 people who have been forced to move out of borough  (in London) during the past 3 years.

Why we are marching against evictions

You are invited to the second  anniversary birthday of the Focus E15 campaign for decent housing for all. Join us to March Against Evictions 12pm Saturday 19 September 2015 at Stratford Park, West Ham Lane, London E15 4PT.
Bring whistles, horns, sound systems, drums and pots and pans!
We will not be cleansed and we will not be silenced!
Campaigner and Focus E15 mother Jasmin Stone said:
“The housing crisis continues, with no major political party offering viable solutions. 126 families are evicted every day across the country. We continue to demand the repopulation of the Carpenters Estate, an immediate end to decanting and evictions of residents from the Estate, long term and secure tenancies for all, and of course, social housing, not social cleansing.

In the two years the Focus E15 campaign has gone from strength to strength, with a weekly street stall in Stratford, and occupations of East Thames Housing Association show flat, an open top bus with petitions for Boris Johnson and regular challenges to Labour Mayor Robin Wales – all contributing towards to the growing national profile of housing activists. Last year the Focus E15 campaign sprung to national attention during the two-week occupation of empty homes on the Carpenters Estate in September 2014.

Campaigners gather at the weekly street stall in Stratford to demand decent housing
Campaigners gather at the weekly street stall in Stratford to demand decent housing

This year, join us for a vibrant afternoon of marching, music and noise for people of all ages. Be sure to bring whistles, horns, sound systems, drums and pots and pans. We will not be cleansed and not be silenced. We will continue to expose the reality of the housing crisis. Join us! Make your voices heard on the open mic throughout the march!

At the end of the march we will meet on the Carpenters Estate, the site of the 2014 Focus E15 Open House occupation, to highlight that it is full of perfectly good social housing that has been emptied and boarded up because Newham council wants to sell off the land to a private developer.

 We will finish on the Carpenters Estate with a finale to give solidarity to the more than 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the last three years.
When and where?
Assemble: 12pm
Saturday 19 September Stratford Park, West Ham Lane, London E15 4PT

For those who want to join us for the last part of the march, meet us at Bridge House, 320 Stratford High St, E15 1EP. We will be arriving there at around 1.30-1.45pm.
Nearest station: Stratford overground,tube, and DLR
Stratford
Buses: 25, 86, 69, 104, 262, 238

Hashtags we will be using on the day are #MarchAgainstEvictions and #housingcrisis

A letter to Jeremy Corbyn about social cleansing

A few nights ago, one of the founders of the Focus E15 campaign, Jasmin Stone, sat down to write a letter to the new leader of the Labour party. This is what she wrote:
Dear Jeremy,
Congratulations on your winning the leadership of the Labour Party. I was pleased that in your victory speech you spoke of the need to fight social cleansing, something that as you know we have been fighting against for the last two years in Newham. You may remember that when we met in 2014 at an interview at Russia Today, we briefly spoke about the issue. On the 19 September, Focus E15 will be marching for housing and celebrating two years of our campaign fighting social cleansing, evictions and private landlords. The Focus E15 campaign has highlighted the housing crisis and has defiantly raised as much awareness possible. We have been in the press world wide as our struggle relates to millions of people and is led by those affected, feeling the brunt of austerity. I know this is short notice but it would be great if you could please either spare the time to speak to the march or send a message of support for it and for our campaign.
In solidarity
Jasmin Stone
On behalf of the Focus E15 campaign.
Please do march with the Focus E15 campaign on Saturday 19 September. Meet 12pm Stratford park on West Ham Lane. E15 4PT Join the facebook event to get up to date information about the march.

Lyn Brown MP says – stop ringing me. We say – stop social cleansing!

A few weeks ago we met some local residents at our street stall in Stratford. This is their housing story.

Sabrina and Matthew have two children aged 13 and 16 years – both at school in Canning Town, borough of Newham, east London.

Their private landlord sold up and they were evicted. After putting their belongings into storage and going to Bridge House (Newham council housing office), they were offered a two-bedroom home in East Ham. They were told there were a few steps up to the door as Matthew walks with a crutch, however in reality there were several flights of stairs involved. Worse still was that the property was in no fit state for anyone to move into, with vomit and blood on the furnishings. Sabrina and Matthew said no. They returned to Bridge House, pleaded to be seen and were offered a place in Luton. This is impossible for their teenagers who are in important stages of their education. Sabrina and Matthew said no. The staff at Bridge House told them they would have to go to Sabrina’s mother for two weeks – two months later they have heard nothing and are now in an overcrowded flat with Sabrina’s mother having had to refuse her offer of a downsize as the family are all there.

Sabrina’s mother contacted local MP Lyn Brown to ask for advice and support for her daughter and family. There has been no support and all she has been told by Lyn Brown’s personal assistant is to stop ringing every day. Councillors Alan Griffiths and Bryan Collier have told them to look for private-rented accommodation.

With little support from their elected representatives and unsuitable housing being offered, Sabrina has decided to take the brave step of joining others who refuse to let this housing crisis be conducted behind closed doors and to tell her story so that others can understand what families are going through in the post Olympic Labour borough of Newham under the watch of mayor Robin Wales.

Focus E15 campaign gives Sabrina, Matthew and their children our full support, we say to Newham council: keep families local to their community, their support networks and their children’s schools. Stop social cleansing and repopulate the Carpenters Estate in Stratford, where hundreds of flats still lie empty and must be filled as soon as possible with people who need housing.

Sabrina and family will be joining us on the March against Evictions on Saturday 19 September – join us, meet 12 midday Stratford Park, West Ham Lane, E15 4PT https://www.facebook.com/events/463931240434645/

Refugee left on the streets by Newham Council + racist private landlords. Who can help Ibrahim now?

IMG_20150822_145500188 (2)

Last Saturday on our street stall we met a refugee called Ibrahim. He wanted to tell us his story. This is what he said:

When I first got to London I was put into home office accommodation called NASS which is based in Newham. I stayed there from September 2014 – April 2015 whilst the Home Office decided if they would give me refugee status.  Once this status was granted, I was given 28 days to leave, open a bank account, find a home, etc. It took me a long time to open a bank account even though I had all the official documents and support from the Refugee Council.  This meant I could not get any benefits, so I was alone without money, without a job, no national insurance number and no roof over my head.

The Refugee Council gave me an official letter stating that I was completely homeless, and with this I went to Newham Council who told me to come back at 9 am the next day.  I made sure I slept rough close by that night, so I was first in line at the housing office in the morning, and I started queuing at 7am.  When they met me, they got me a translator and took down my story.  They took my contact details, gave me a ‘Housing Options’ letter which listed 3 hostels, and said they would be in touch.  I went to the hostels straight away, but they had no space for me, so I waited for the phone call from the council.

After 2 weeks, I wondered why no one had rang me.  It turns out at the previous meeting, the council had written my phone number down wrong. No one apologised to me for this.  They gave me another letter, but there was no translator present this time so I didn’t understand what it meant – my friend read it for me later and it said they acknowledged that I was street homeless, but that they would not offer me housing.  They told me to look for private accommodation.

My friend phoned one of the hostels up a few weeks ago on my behalf, and they said they had been trying to get in touch with me as a space had opened there, but because the council had not corrected the wrong phone number on their system, I never got the message.  I was told by the hostel that  if my friend hadn’t rang up that day I would be completely off their records.

I try to look for private accommodation, but it is a struggle as deposits are very high and many landlords don’t take DSS.  I got close to getting a room once but they heard my voice, and because I have trouble speaking English, they refused to go any further. To get private accommodation I have to save for a deposit, but it is hard to get a job when you are sleeping on the streets and have no address – people don’t employ you.  I also have to get an English speaking friend who has a ‘good accent’ to phone landlords, as they don’t accept me when I phone.

 I have now been street homeless for 5 months, with no end in sight.  I try and sleep during the day in a park near the Olympic stadium, and keep awake all night for safety.  When it rains I sleep in the police station.  I walk very far each day. I have to get to my college course and to work training courses.  I have no income aside from money the Refugee Council can afford to give me from their petty cash – sometimes £10 a week, sometimes £20.  I struggle as I have to top my phone up a lot to call landlords, so don’t eat much.  I try to stay clean and well dressed to get a job, and wash in the local Mosque, which they allow as I am Muslim.

Focus E15 campaign stands with Ibrahim in his fight for housing. Many refugees face escalated difficulties and racism and get very little support from anyone. Currently Ibrahim sleeps on the streets near the Olympic Park whilst homes lie empty on the Carpenters Estate, and many other places around London.  It is unacceptable for any Council to fail to support the most vulnerable in their borough, including refugees.
Ibrahim’s  words were translated for us by the Asylum Clinic, who we met with Ibrahim whilst they passed our stall, after getting basic supplies for their clinic to help Refugees.
 
Please share Ibrahim’s story on Facebook and twitter. Tweet and demand action from Newham Labour Council @newhamlondon
 

Tell Redbridge council that Bianca + 2 children need a local home.

Last Saturday on our street stall we met another young mother in urgent housing need called Bianca Ford. The private landlord is selling her home in Chadwell Heath.

Bianca and her children need somewhere to live near to her child's school.
Bianca and her children need somewhere to live near to her child’s school.

A court order has been issued and she has been given an eviction notice meaning that Bianca is now nervously waiting for the bailiffs to come knocking. Redbridge council have told her that she may be moved out of the area into Bed and Breakfast accommodation. She has to wait until she is homeless to find out, in about 4 weeks time.

Bianca Ford is an articulate  young single mother who is 23 years old. She is responsible for two children. Her youngest child is only 9 months and her oldest child is 5 and is due to start back at the local primary school in September. Her 5 year old is registered as having a disability. Having a child with health needs is one of the reason why Bianca wants to retain links to the local area so that her child can keep receiving regular treatment from the physiotherapist. If she was moved to a different borough, Bianca has been told it could take up to  8 months for her child to start receiving treatment again. Such a long waiting time would be detrimental to her child’s development.

Bianco wants to see her children thrive, to settle, to have friends and be happy. She also wants them both to grow up with the love and guidance of her wider family who live in the area. Bianca is also responsible for helping out her mother who has epileptic fits and sometimes needs Bianca to look after her. Who will help her if Bianca is moved away?

Getting news that you are going to be evicted is distressing. When her landlord told her he was going to sell her home, Bianca’s world was turned upside down. We need long term, secure social housing so people can form networks of friendship and support. Bianca has already spent time in a B&B  when she was pregnant and she does not want to return to living in temporary housing that is unsuitable for her children.

Bianca dreams about going to university, to get a job and  to help children with disabilities. As a single mother of two children, how can she apply for a university place if she does not know where she is going to be living, or if she is being moved around constantly?

We urge Redbridge council to look carefully at the needs of this young family who have a child with a disability. They want to move forward with their lives in a positive way. Bianca’s child needs to remain in her school where she has completed her reception year and made friends.

Please consider emailing Redbridge Council to highlight this case and the urgency of this family’s situation.

Please be ready to stand with Bianca when the bailiffs come. We are asking people to go to the housing office in Redbridge to support Bianca and her children during her housing meeting. Stay tuned for more updates.

Demand social housing, not social cleansing!

email: housing.options@redbridge.gov.uk

UPDATE
Please be ready to stand with Bianca outside Redbridge Housing Office on Monday 12 October. Look out for further updates

Triathlon Olympic homes put up the rent by 23%. Where will Sharon live now?

Last Saturday we were approached at our street stall by a woman called Sharon who is living in the new Olympic ‘East village’. It is horrid to think that this new housing complex has been built on the site of one of Europe’s largest housing co-ops, known as Clays Lane,home to around 450 people. Clays Lane was compulsory purchased to make way for the 2012 London Olympics. Sharon use to live at Clays Lane and in a strange twist of fate, she was rehoused  on the site of her former home 14 months ago.

This new housing in the Olympic village  is managed by Triathlon Homes. Triathlon is a public/private partnership, boasting on its website that it provides over 1000 ‘affordable’ homes. However what this means is that it charges huge rent at 80% market rate and to top it all, in March 2015, Sharon’s rent  was actually raised by a staggering 23%. Who  on earth can afford such a massive hike? How much profit does this housing association need? When the market dictates housing policy, no one living in social housing is safe or secure.

In June this year, Sharon  was diagnosed with a  genetic heart condition. She also lost some of her left vision in both eyes and was registered as visually impaired. Such life changing health conditions meant that Sharon’s life became more challenging and difficult. She lost her job.  She is responsible for her son, a 13 year old boy who attends the local school. However Triathlon housing will not accommodate or allow for such changes of personal circumstances. Sharon has been told that she is not eligible to claim housing benefit for the type of housing provided by Triathlon in the Olympic village. It seems as if the housing association is conspiring with Newham Council to push out people on low incomes or those on benefits and to ‘socially cleanse’ the Olympic Village.

Sharon has been giving a notice to quit. However she wants to stay where she is. She does not want to be forced out of Newham and lose her connections with  her friends or the hospital where she undergoes check ups and treatment for her condition. We urge Triathlon housing and all  ‘social landlords’ to have a heart and to treat people as human beings that need stable shelter for themselves and their children. Sharon should not have to move again. Moving house when you are visually impaired can be difficult as it is hard to adjust to new surroundings. When children keep moving schools they can fall behind with their education and lose formative friendships.  Let her son continue with his education at his local school.

This  personal story illustrates  why our campaign is demanding Social housing not social cleansing!
Join us on our street stall on Saturday, 12pm -2pm on the Broadway in Stratford outside Wilkos.
Come to our March Against Evictions on September 19th, 12pm Stratford Park, West Ham Lane

Please consider asking Triathon to provide long term housing that people can truly afford. Let Sharon stay!

Email: info@triathlonhomes.com