We have a relatively large family by ‘normal standards’ but at the time we had the fifth child my husband was employed and earning a very healthy wage. He was made redundant but didn’t expect it would take long to find employment. As far as we were concerned our family was big enough and so another pregnancy was a huge surprise and to be carrying twins was a massive shock. We were living in a 3 bed private rent so knew that eventually we’d need to move to something bigger and approached the council to go on the waiting list. They told us we had to make an application for homelessness to be accepted onto the housing waiting list. We were told that if we refused to move into temporary accommodation then they wouldn’t accept us onto the housing list so we moved.Because we resisted their bullying tactics, we made ourselves a target for punishment. One of the tactics the council tried was to tell our landlord he needed to evict us (this was to ensure we had no choice but to go to the emergency housing they had lined up for us). The day before the eviction the landlord had rung us asking if we had heard from the council as no one was getting back to him and the last thing he wanted to do was evict us. Within hours he must have heard they weren’t going to pay him any more housing benefit and we had approx 15 hours notice before the bailiffs came knocking.So we had to move to the hostel. After being summoned to a meeting we have been told that the council will be discharging their duty to house us yet they are still forcing us to move again no doubt to wait until the last bag/box has been unpacked to throw us out again. They are saying we will be better off in the private sector yet there aren’t any affordable rents and living in a university town means large properties make more money for landlords to let out to students.In the hostel we are housed with other vulnerable people and this is just not suitable for families.To add to it all we have 5 girls sleeping in a room with 4 beds. We are told one will have to sleep on a mattress on the floor which wouldn’t leave any floor room for walking, let alone toys.If you are unemployed for what ever reason you are looked down upon for being a burden on the economy and don’t deserve anything. As for housing officers feeling that people ‘like us’ are bleeding the tax payer dry all I can say is that as far as I am aware we are all tax payers (VAT). Our hopes for the future are to have stability, to know we are secure for at least a fixed amount of time so we can actually have lives and focus on work and education.By telling our story we hope encourage others to speak out against the harsh treatments of councils, to highlight how housing officers are prepared to tell whatever lies it takes to manipulate the situation into their favour such as telling people they will only be in B&Bs for a couple of days that stretch into months. To be told you cannot appeal their decisions and to be grateful for whatever they handout! They prey on the isolation of people so it’s time people got together and exposed them for what they really are.
Report on the Newham Mayor’s Show
Focus E15 campaigners and their supporters went to the Mayor’s Newham Show on Sunday 12 July.
We wanted to let the Mayor of Newham, Robin Wales know that the campaign for affordable long term secure decent housing goes on and we will not sit by and watch people being evicted and sent out of London far from their communities and support networks.
Last year at the Newham show Robin Wales was verbally and physically aggressive to Focus E15 campaigners which led to an investigation by Newham Standards Committee that found the mayor guilty of a breach of code of conduct.
Unfortunately this year, the security staff were physically aggressive. They evicted Focus E15 campaigners from a public park in a brutal manner. Their heavy handed, rough treatment was totally disproportionate to the actions of the campaigners who were peacefully giving out leaflets to interested members of the public. One Focus E15 campaigner was wrestled to the ground by his throat and he and other activists were forcefully ejected from the park. Our banners and leaflets were confiscated and they even took our leaflets away from members of the public upon entrance. Yet we know that all people have a right to be informed about the housing crisis in Newham and many people at the Mayors show are affected by it. Why is the council trying to suppress leaflets about the housing crisis from the public?
Meanwhile, inside the Mayors show, council officials were busy distributing their own literature which boasted about how much money the council ‘saved’ due to 50 million pounds of cuts to our services. Let us remember that this council has spent £563m on LOBO (Lender Option Borrower Option) loans – the highest of any council in Britain – on which they continue to pay huge interest – amounting to almost 50 million pounds.
It is clear that Newham squanders money while people struggle for housing!
Once we were all evicted from the park we chanted, handed out leaflets and put up our banners outside. Our campaign is growing and reaching out to everyone. Stand with us. Say not to evictions! Repopulate the Carpenters Estate! Social housing not social cleansing!
Please take a look at this video which shows the outrageous way private security guards behaved during the Mayors Newham show. Facebook video.
Danila Caetano, a 22 year old with a 13 month old baby, came to the Focus E15 campaign street stall on Saturday 4 July. She has been living at Focus E15 hostel since 2011. This hostel is where the original group of mums started the Focus E15 campaign.
I am a single mum. Single mums get judged unfairly. The local authorities do not care about single mothers or their children.Living at Focus hostel is difficult with a young child, the flat is very small and cramped. The baby does not have enough space. I am living in one room really. I have a table next to my bed where we can eat. It is dangerous for the baby and when you have repairs needed to be done it takes East Thames ages to fix it. I had no hot water for the first 6 months of my pregnancy. They don’t care.I have suffered from depression. When you bring a child into the world you want to give her a decent life. I am so unhappy that my child is living in a cramped situation.The hostel is not suitable for children.I have lived in Newham since 2008. I have family and friends here. I am studying at Newham college and my baby goes to nursery in Newham. I would have no support network if I was to be moved out of London. It is already hard being a single mum and I would struggle to live somewhere else.
This shows the utter disregard that Newham Council and their business partners (East Thames and Tando) have for the residents of Focus E15 hostel. Children and families are being exposed to unhealthy conditions on a daily basis. I do not think that the place is suitable for young people to grow up in and this constitutes child cruelty of the highest order in a developed society.
Terry Paul, councillor Stratford – firstname.lastname@example.org
Lyn Brown, MP for West Ham – email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Florence Bangboye housing officer – Florence.email@example.com
Robin Wales – Mayor of Newham -firstname.lastname@example.org
Focus E15 campaign met a woman on the weekly stall on 27 June. This is her story:
“I am a 23 year old single Muslim mother of a four month old daughter. I have an eviction notice for 7 July from the B&B we are in. After that day my baby daughter and I will be homeless.
During my pregnancy I was living in a hostel. I was depressed most of the time and I wasn’t eating well and I had pelvic problems which meant I wasn’t able to get out of bed or climb the stairs, and my room in the hostel was on the top floor. Once I gave birth, Newham Council placed me in a B&B, not really suitable for a young baby.
Now I face eviction because the council say that I have made myself intentionally homeless by rejecting an offer that they found to be suitable for me in Basildon, Essex.
I went to view the property in Basildon and had a terrible time while I was there with verbal racist abuse and being told to go back to the place I came from etc. They made me feel unsettled and scared, unwanted and inferior to them. I felt like I was nothing and since that day my depression and anxiety have got worse.When I told Newham Council, they said I was not physically abused, that it could have been a one off, and that this wasn’t a good enough reason to refuse as the offer was a suitable one and that I had to either take the property in Basildon or leave the B&B.
I have family and friends in Newham who help me since I gave birth. The council don’t listen and don’t care. I’m scared for my daughter. The day she was born I made a promise to myself. I made a promise to protect her and always make sure she is looked after and safe and secure, to always make sure she is warm and always smiling.“
An eviction order has been sent to this young single mother and baby
Please share this story on Facebook and twitter. Tweet Newham Labour Council @newhamlondon
Details of eviction resistance on Tuesday 7 July to follow soon. Please check back
On Monday 15th June demonstrate outside Focus E15 hostel, Brimstone House, Victoria Street, Stratford, E15 4NX at 1.45pm and tell Newham Council and East Thames Housing Association to rehouse all the young people in the hostel who are facing an insecure future. Read our letter below which has information about what has been happening to the residents. We are sending a copy of this letter to:
Yvonne Arrowsmith, chief executive of East Thames – email@example.com
Terry Paul, councillor Stratford – firstname.lastname@example.org
Lyn Brown, MP for West Ham – email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Florence Bangboye housing officer -Florence.email@example.com
Robin Wales – Mayor of Newham -firstname.lastname@example.org
COPY OF THE LETTER FOLLOWS.
We are writing on behalf of Focus E15 campaign in support of the single residents in the Focus E15 hostel in Victoria Street, E15, who are in a very unsettling and frightening period with respect to the future of their housing situation.
The 99 young people left in Focus E15 foyer are being told that they have to move out in the next few months. They have visited Lyn Brown, MP, Terry Paul, councillor, have met with people from the council and from East Thames and of course are in contact with their support workers. They are being pushed from pillar to post, getting mixed messages and no answers. Many of the residents struggle with depression and anxiety, which is made worse by the lack of proper support in what is meant to be supported housing for vulnerable young people.
Currently every time a young person does move out of Focus E15 foyer they are not replaced. Instead families or older residents, who are told to pay more rent for the same size room, to a different landlord are being moved in. Is East Thames trying to wash their hands of all the vulnerable young people at the hostel?
At a recent Move On meeting, the young residents were told to look for properties in the privately-rented sector, but the only landlords they found who will accept DSS also want a guarantor who earns over £35,000. None of the young residents have contact with such a person. The young people in Focus E15 foyer do not have family that they can go back to.
They have been told that without full housing benefit they can only expect to have a room in a shared house with people they don’t know. The background experiences of most of the young people in Focus E15, housed there due to previous difficulties and need for support, means that they feel very anxious about the concept of living with strangers. With the upper limit being £73 a week, it is almost impossible to find somewhere in Newham and they face the frightening alternative of having to move miles away from all support and familiarity.
We are asking East Thames and Newham council to work together to find an urgent acceptable solution to the housing plight of these young vulnerable people from Focus E15 foyer. They want to move their lives forward in a positive way, they want to live independently.They want to be in training or employment.
We know that East Thames prides itself on providing social housing and that Newham council has empty properties that should be opened up and used for housing.
We look forward to hearing from you,
Focus E15 campaign organising committee.
On our street stall on Saturday 6 June 2015 we were approached by a young man of 22 years old called Azam. His story below illustrates just one of many who are now homeless. He is asking for support at his housing meeting in Ilford on Monday 8th June at 2.30pm, at the Housing Office, 28-42 Clements Rd, Ilford IG1 1BA. Please come and tell Redbridge council that no one should be left without a home.
“My family disowned me and threw me out of my family home when I was 17. I had mental health issues and was seen by a psychiatric team. A social worker helped me to get a room in a hotel. I stayed there for 4 months. I then moved into supported housing due to mental health issues but the housing was difficult due to the mix of people there. I had a diagnosis of bi polar at the time. An incident occurred and a fight broke out and I was imprisoned.
I lost my supported housing at Genesis because I was put in prison for 3 months.I had no support from the prison services to get rehoused when they let me out.
I came out of prison in March 20th 2015 and I have been homeless ever since. It is scary not having a secure home. I felt suicidal and did not know what I was going to do. I have been trying to get into hostels but nothing ever works out. I think the housing situation is making me unwell. I would like a room of my own that is safe and secure and not too expensive.
I use to work and want to find a job. My hopes for the future including getting a job as a graphic designer but I can only do this in I have somewhere to live.
David Cameron promises to cut down on homelessness but the state of London is not acceptable. Not matter what has happened to people everyone deserves a place to live that is secure and stable.”
Please support Azam at his housing meeting on Monday 8th June at 2.30pm, at the Housing Office, 28-42 Clements Rd, Ilford IG1 1BA. Bring your banners and tell Redbridge council that homelessness is not acceptable!
Last year, a single mother from Newham, who has 3 children, was moved by Newham council and housed outside of London in Hertfordshire. Now, over one year later, her temporary contract has ended and she has been offered yet another short term contract, but this time in another new place outside of London, in an poorly maintained house in Birmingham, which has rotting cupboards and broken gates. How many times will she be shoved from pillar to post?
This mother’s plight shows the utter insecurity of current housing policies and the disruption that is caused by social cleansing. Single mothers face enough pressure without housing insecurity thrown in on top. Their children’s lives are also being adversely affected by not having a secure and stable home environment. This is how social exclusion begins as families are unable to fully take part in their communities due to constantly having to move, they are left isolated when placed 100s of miles away from their wider family and support. Children lose friendships due to being forced to change schools time and time again.
The Focus E15 campaign supports the right of single mothers to bring up their children in a long term secure environment near to their support networks and extended families. Stop playing political football with their lives.
Please support this mother who is asking to be housed near to her support networks in London or to be left to stay in Hertfordshire where her oldest child is at school. You can give support and solidarity for this mother at her housing appointment on Friday 29 May, 1pm. Come and stand outside Bridge House 320 Stratford High Street, Stratford E15 1EP in solidarity.
Tell Newham council that single mothers deserve our support and should not be left stranded!
On 13 April, Jasmin Stone of Focus E15 campaign was arrested on suspicion of squatting in a raid organised by Newham council and police. There followed a loud and militant demonstration at the police station where she was held and she was bailed to attend a police station in mid May. We have just heard that no charges will be brought against her.
The lead up to the police and council action was Focus E15 campaign supporting Jane Wood who had lived in Newham council accommodation, east London, for almost 21 years. On 24 March she and her 14-year-old daughter were evicted by bailiffs for rent arrears resulting from complex personal and medical circumstances leading to her Employment Support Allowance being stopped. At the last minute, when her family rallied around and offered to pay the outstanding debt, the Labour council refused to take the money, call off the bailiffs or allow Jane to keep her home.
Newham council is led by Labour Mayor Robin Wales, an unashamed advocate of gentrification, supporter of sanctioning and kicking out the poor and most vulnerable. Under his rule, 400 homes on the Carpenters’ Estate remain empty, while homeless people whom the council is compelled to house are forced to move out of London.
This is an example of political policing and a targeted arrest in an attempt to silence and intimidate political activists.
We will not accept the criminalisation of those who fight for social housing and against social cleansing.
Focus E15 campaign will be celebrating this victory on the weekly Focus E15 stall this Saturday 16 May from 12-2pm on The Broadway, Stratford E15, outside Wilko’s.
Come and join us.
Saturday 25 April 3-6pm
CUT HAIR NOT HOMES!
All hairdressers welcome to take part
Come and have a free hair cut on the Carpenters Estate.
Homes are lying empty while people are sent out of London by the Labour council who claim there is nowhere for people to live in Newham.
Join us on the Carpenters Estate
Doran Walk E15 2JT…
Cut Hair Not Homes!
Repopulate the Carpenters Estate!
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!