Tag Archives: focus E15 campaign

Artist view of tiny homes

Victoria Street – no place for children

In May 2022, Labour Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, under pressure from Focus E15 campaign, was forced to say that all families with children will be moved out of Brimstone House, Victoria Street by May 2023. 

Victoria Street is a building designed for single young people and now those same rooms/flats are being used by Newham Labour council to house families with children in emergency and temporary accommodation.

Those living in Victoria Street with children are struggling. Those families who have been moved out are also experiencing the appalling conditions of the private rented sector, the poorly-maintained council sector and the ongoing issues of temporary accommodation with insecurity and anxiety about the future and long term stability, job, support networks, schooling. 

Currently more than a quarter of all renters in Britain, overwhelmingly the poorest families, live in substandard, badly insulated homes, vulnerable to cold damp and mould. With the rising fuel costs and the impossibility of adequately heating homes, the impact on children’s heath and development will be devastating. 

Below a resident speaks about what it means to live in a cramped overcrowded space with a child in Brimstone House, Victoria Street. Readers will see the aerial drawing of the space that this mother and her nine year old child live in, forced to share a bed, and with no place to do homework and no space to play, while the tiny table they eat off, is also the mother’s workspace as she works from home. These small rooms are called one-bedroom flats, meaning families don’t count as being overcrowded and get nowhere on the bidding system. 

Tiny cramped room in Victoria Street hostel. Photos by Edward Saunders-Forde
Andrew Cooper’s drawing depict the cramped conditions at the hostel in Victoria Street.
Scale drawing of a space (called a one-bedroom flat) where mother (height 1.65m) and nine year old daughter (height 1.4m) live. They have to share the double bed. 

Interview with the resident with Focus E15 campaign follows:

What is it like living in such a cramped place?

There is no space in the box bedroom to put in a chest of drawers for our clothes, so it is in the kitchen and then they call it a lounge/living area and tell me legally I have two rooms to sleep in. That is what they said when I challenged the fact that I have to share a double bed with my daughter. What a ridiculous story this is. My kitchen is a corridor. No way is this a one-bedroom flat. 

There is no storage, how do you manage with your belongings?

One chest of drawers, one tiny wardrobe, not enough for two people. That is only enough if you are on holiday for a few days with summer clothes. We are not allowed to bring in any of our own furniture, not that it would fit anyway, so we have my stuff and my daughter’s stuff – including clothes, towels, toiletries, shoes, school books, school work, pencil and pens, toys, everything – in boxes. All our household is in boxes, all around the place, making it even more difficult to walk around the tiny space. 

Describe the psychological effect of living in such a cramped place in Victoria Street.

I feel so anxious every time I have to ask my daughter to move away from the kitchen table so that I can pass and reach some of my clothes. She will move to the room full of boxes and then I need to reach something else and have to ask her to move again. She is upset, thinks she is always in the way, as if her presence is a problem for me. It is so hard to explain and she is tired of living like this. I feel so down and depressed. I don’t know how long I can cope without stability and without space for living. 

Can you say something about the past and the future?

I feel like the council is not telling me the whole truth and hiding important information and in general it feels like they work against me rather than with me. Being homeless is stressful and scary and with so many other issues such as being a single parent, financial insecurity, health issues, relationship difficulties. No one asks to be homeless, but then when it happens you feel you are a burden. I feel powerless. We have had to move around for years. This all seems ignored by the council. Priority on the bidding system is random. They are playing with our lives. 

Where is my baby going to go?

A mother at Victoria Street hostel is sharing a double bed with her two year old child. There is no space in the one room she has been allocated by Newham Labour council for her soon to be born baby and cot. She is due to give birth in 10 days and is extremely worried about how her baby will sleep.

Paediatric advice clearly states that a new born baby should not share a double bed and should be sleeping in a cot or moses basket.

We demand that this family are immediately moved into long term safe and affordable accommodation where there is space for a cot and room for the family to live. Moving is the only course of action that will provide the safety and security the children and mother so desperately need. Otherwise the baby will be in a dangerous situation.

Newham residents disrupt council meeting due to mounting concerns about living conditions.

Victoria Street! No place for children!

At Newham’s well-attended public Annual Council Meeting on Wednesday 25 May, mothers and children of 10 Victoria Street, Stratford E15 (formerly called Brimstone House and Focus E15 foyer) stood up with banners and placards to make their voices heard about the unacceptable conditions in the building. They were brave and strong acting in solidarity together.

For years residents, supported by Focus E15 campaign, have documented every day life at the hostel – cramped,unlivable for families, appalling accommodation with mattresses that give backache and living conditions that lead to depression, damp and stuffy rooms, no privacy for women forced to change in front of their sons. Parents and children of all ages are forced to share beds together due to lack of space, there is aggressive security on the door and no space for children to play. Children and adults with disabilities live in unsuitable and distressing conditions and fire alarms go off through the night.

This is the horror of emergency accommodation that merges into temporary and can last for years. It is no place for children and families because it is a building designed for single young adults and living like this is effecting everyone’s mental health.

As the interruption of the council meeting began, security ran forward to silence the campaigners and take the banners away, but their voices were heard above the commotion explaining to the large crowd why this was necessary and that the appalling living conditions for so many in the borough must not be below the radar and buried from public view.

Residents from Victoria Street protesting at length of stay at the hostel and the effect it is having on their children.

The Labour Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz stepped down from the podium and came over. She officially stopped the meeting and took the campaigners downstairs with a few of her entourage to another room. The Mayor apologised for there not being any resolution to Victoria Street since she came into office for her first term in 2018 – embarrassing, shameful and morally unjust were her words. She admitted that housing services are a mess.

Then, significantly, Rokhsana Fiaz, Mayor of Newham, said that she would go back to the main meeting and in her address would announce the ending of the placement of families with children in Victoria Street. She pledged that by the end of the first year of this term, she would work to have all families rehoused from Victoria Street. Residents cheered.

Labour-run Newham council has the highest number of children in the country living in poverty, the highest level of homelessness, the highest number of households in temporary accommodation, more households on its housing waiting list than any other London council, and the worst overcrowding at 25.2% of households. There are also empty homes all around the borough and council homes that have been left to rot.

This is a key moment to note these promises and hold the Mayor firmly to them.

Victory to the families of Victoria Street! Collective action is the way forward. Housing justice for all now!

Join Focus E15 campaign on the weekly stall outside Wilko’s on Stratford Broadway, Saturdays 12-2pm.

Residents join in solidarity and raise their collective spritits to say rehouse us now!

Residents say NO to redevelopment plans: ‘We must fight for the people, the planet and our beloved Carpenters Estate’

A resident of the Carpenters Estate, Stratford, Newham, London E15, speaks out:

From the day I was born, I have lived on the Carpenters Estate. 
It was also home to my Mother, Grandfather, Grandmother and Great Grandmother, along with Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, childhood friends and so on. 

It has been a special place for me and my past generations, so you can see why the place means so much to me.

I reached many milestones on Carpenters, I learnt to ride a bike on this estate, had my first kiss (cringe), began nursery and even took my first steps here. Carpenters had and still has a great community of elderly and young people.

A lot of us went to Carpenters primary school and then would all play out afterwards on the beautiful green spaces we have on the estate, plus the park and cage, where we would arrange some serious football matches and the different blocks would go up against each other.

We never had any trouble around here, we was like one big family that all looked out for each other. 

Summer-times were the best, because all us kids will play outside until the street lights came on, one of our favourite activities being our 100m races down the slope at the back of Dennison point.

These are beautiful memories of an estate that Newham council now wants to demolish. Like we are now seeing with many inner London boroughs, they want to take away the authenticity of our great East End and get rid of beautiful homes to replace them with new-builds. The homes they are proposing are nowhere near the standard of homes that we already have here.

Newham is already very populated as it is, and the council want to overcrowd Stratford even more, shelving people on top of each other between plasterboard, where the walls are so thin, you can literally hear your neighbours farting next door.
There are many over 60s still residing on the estate, and after a life of working hard, they do not want the stress and pressure of having to leave a place that many have called home for there whole life. 
Tragically a lot of residents have died from the uncertainty and stress that they will have to move from their beloved homes and it is unacceptable.

It is very sad that in this day and age profit is more valuable than a human life.
Not to mention the horrendous carbon footprint this will have on our already crippled environment, that the pollution from demolition and rebuilding will produce. 
With Newham having one of the highest pollution levels in the country, it is very concerning that Newham council’s proposed plans have no consideration towards making the global climate crisis any better.
Yes I do believe we have to move with the times, but what I don’t believe in is liveable durable homes that are already here being knocked down to build new ones.
I don’t believe in the elderly being forced to move, or stressed to death, and The Carpenters Estate being demolished to make way for more overcrowding and pollution.

I vote for refurbishment over demolition and community over capitalism. 

So I will be voting NO to demolition and hope others will too.

We must fight for the people, the planet and our beloved Carpenters Estate.

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.

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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.