Tag Archives: Focus E15 hostel

Everyday people face evictions in Newham

Newham’s housing is a health risk
Newham is the most overcrowded borough in London with conditions for many residents increasingly best described as slum housing. In Olympic legacy Labour Newham, in the fifth richest country in the world, every day people face evictions, social cleansing and literally being dumped on the streets.  Below are just two examples of the consequences of what can happen when you remove social housing.

Jennifer is the mother of five children and a grandmother. On Wednesday 8 June she will be at Bridge House homelessness Unit in Stratford, east London in the borough of Newham. Jennifer is about to be made homeless for the second time in nine months. She has been in temporary accommodation for 14 years, shunted from pillar to post, and in this last home, didn’t even totally unpack when she moved in nine months ago because she didn’t think it would last. She is right, a housing association put her in private rented accommodation and now the landlord says no more, possession order has come, meeting at Bridge House and all the usual emotions of fear, insecurity, shame, powerlessness. What will Jennifer tell her son who is on the autistic spectrum and is just settling in yet another home, when they have to move again, what of her son doing GCSEs and anxious about his exams. These are the issues facing her again.

Focus E15 campaign is supporting Jennifer in her request for long term stable housing in Newham. Housing Justice for Jennifer!

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Jennifer, second from the right joins the Focus E15 street stall

On Saturday 4 June, Focus E15 campaign held its monthly public meeting. The theme was Housing is a Mental Health Issue. A speaker from Psychologists Against Austerity spoke of the direct and indirect effect of poor housing and overcrowding on our physical and mental health. At the end of the meeting we met Beverley, a resident of Focus E15 building, or Brimstone House as Newham Council would like it now to be known, who is facing eviction. She has physical and mental health needs.  On Tuesday 7 June, Beverley was told to leave Brimstone House. When they  first placed her in Brimstone House, Newham Council said it was interim accommodation while a decision was made on whether to provide her with housing. Her dog, vital to help her maintain her health, was not allowed in the room and Beverley had to give her dog away causing her great anguish. The council assessed her as ‘homeless and eligible but not priority need’. She has now had her Housing Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) stopped. On Wednesday 8 June they will come to evict her and with no duty to house her, Beverley will be on the streets.

When Robin Wales announced in April that Newham Council had bought Focus E15 hostel, Brimstone House, from East Thames Housing Association, he said: ‘We cannot turn down this unique opportunity which makes both financial sense at the same time as helping some of our most vulnerable residents.’ So tell us Robin Wales, Labour Mayor of Newham, how throwing vulnerable people out onto the streets with their belongings is helpful?

On Thursday 16 June, at the Municipal Journal Local Authority Awards, Newham Labour Council is up for an award for the best trading standards and environmental health and has been nominated in the best environmental health category. What a slap in the face for the Newham residents who know the reality.

Expose the shameful actions of this Labour council.  No one should be indefinitely in temporary accommodation! No one should be out on the streets!

Repopulate the Carpenters Estate where over 400 homes in Stratford lie empty.

Join Focus E15 campaign weekly stall every Saturday 12-2pm, on The Broadway, E15 outside Wilko’s.

Join the protest at the Municipal Journal Local Authority Awards  where both Newham and Lambeth are due to receive awards:
Thursday 16 June 6.30pm
Hilton Hotel London W1K 1BE  

Social housing not social cleansing!

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Living  out of bags at Focus E15 hostel – awaiting eviction.

 

 

 

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More Focus Mothers contact the campaign

Another one of the original mothers contacted the campaign to give her story of what really happened during the time she was served an eviction notice whilst living at Focus E15 hostel. She wishes to remain anonymous.

Q1: How did Newham council support you while you were living in and being evicted from Focus E15, nearly 3 years ago?

Personally I feel like there was no support from Newham council. We were initially given a list of landlords and we were told to find our own accommodation. We all were desperately calling and trying to find somewhere to live but we had no luck. Then out of nowhere I heard we were getting moved out of London,  this is when all the panic set in.

Not once did Newham council contact me or had meetings to explain what they were planning on doing – they basically left it up to the support workers at Focus hostel, and sometimes they couldn’t even give us answers.

Q2 This is a quote from Newham councils comment on our website; ” The council, working closely with East Thames, has gone above and beyond to help find suitable accommodation for all the supported young people … 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?

As for helping us find suitable accommodation- trying to send us away from our families and friends is not ‘helping’. If we didn’t come together as mothers and if we didn’t fight -only God knows where we would be right now. 

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Q3: Do you know of any residents that were socially cleansed or made homeless from Focus E15?

We were told to move out of London. The few who moved out of London – I’m sure they regret it and I believe the only reason they took the offer was because they felt they had no choice and others just wanted to get out of Focus ASAP, some might even regret moving so far away but the rest of us had to fight to stay in Newham/London with our families.

Q4: Where do you think you will be living in a years time?

Who knows where I will be in a year. Anything can happen from now until then.

Focus E15 campaign will be publishing more interviews with the original Focus E15 mothers over the next 10 days.

Social Housing! Not Social Cleansing!

 

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!

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!

 

Newham Mayor’s security behave like crocodiles

Below is our response that we are sending to the Newham Recorder regarding their recent article and the outrageous comments from council spokespeople about Focus E15 campaigners. Please also scroll down to watch the latest video about the Mayors Newham show.

Dear Newham Recorder,
The spokespeople from Newham council were clearly not in the park judging by their comments. We did not go ‘with the sole intention of disrupting this fun day, causing upset to families with…aggressive and confrontational behaviour’. We went to talk to people and to give out leaflets, hardly an aggressive crime in a public park. As Ben Geraghty from the campaign, quoted in your article says, our ‘intention was to raise awareness’.

In fact we barely had time to talk to anyone before we were rounded on by aggressive APS security staff, who snatched away our leaflets and placards before herding, dragging and pushing us out of the park. The video which shows this action has now been seen by over 14,000 people on facebook.

The security staff certainly did not evict us to ‘ensure the safety of the members of the public’ or because of any ‘threatening behaviour’ on our part. Such council statements are an attempt to draw attention away from the aggression shown by their security. Everyone we spoke to inside the Newham Show showed great interest and support for the campaign because the housing crisis in Newham is affecting so many people.

Focus E15 campaign wanted to leaflet  people attending the Mayor’s Newham Show to let them know the facts about Newham: Labour Mayor Robin Wales is an unashamed advocate of gentrification, a supporter of sanctioning and kicking out the poor and most vulnerable. Under his rule, over 400 homes on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford remain empty and around the borough many more homes are boarded up, while homeless people whom the council has a statutory duty to house, are forced out of London.

The security staff were told to remove us as quickly as possible  to prevent us giving out information to people and to stop Robin Wales being embarrassed again. Last year, at the same event, Mayor Robin Wales himself was so physically and verbally aggressive to members of the Focus E15 campaign, that it was taken up by the Newham Standards Committee, and their investigation concluded with him being found guilty of a breach of the code of conduct.

Outrageously the council distributed their own leaflets at the Newham Show which read ‘£50m, that’s how much the council has to save next year’ and council employees were going around asking people what services should be cut. This is a council that sides with big business, banks and property speculators, while cutting social housing and continuing a policy of social cleansing.

We should remember that Newham has one of the highest rates of poverty of any London borough and, since 2012/13, it also has one of the highest levels of LOBO (Lender Option Borrower Option) loan debt in the country. Newham has  spent £563m on borrowing money which in turn  has generated  huge interest repayments: the council  owes over £40m in LOBO debt and this is likely to rise. For some reason, Newham council have refused to disclose the loan contracts when requested to under the FOI Act.

Services for the people of Newham should not be cut. Focus E15 campaign will not be silenced by aggressive security staff. We will continue to highlight the housing crisis in Newham  and side with all those in housing need.

This video shows more footage from the Mayor’s Newham Show:

Stuck in limbo at Focus E15 hostel

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.

This is Danila’s story.
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.
Danila is one of many young residents of Focus E15 foyer, stuck in limbo, neither evicted nor given the support to be able to move out and fearful that they will be sent out of London as Newham continues to carry out social cleansing.
Newham Council and East Thames Housing Association need to work together to house the young people and children of Focus E15 hostel in decent, long term, affordable and appropriate housing.
Eye-witness report from Focus E15 hostel
On 25 June there was a fight that led to the reception area being covered with blood and glass.
The father of a family of four, all living in Focus E15 hostel, told Focus E15 campaign that it wasn’t until 4 July, nine days later, that the floor was cleaned. In his words:
 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.
Contact the following people to voice your concern:
Yvonne Arrowsmith, chief executive of East Thames – yvonne.arrowsmith@east-thames.co.uk
Terry Paul, councillor Stratford – terence_paul@hotmail.com
Lyn Brown, MP for West Ham – brownl@parliament.uk; lyn@lynbrown.org.uk
Florence Bangboye housing officer – Florence.bamgboye@newham.gov.uk
Robin Wales – Mayor of Newham -mayor@newham.gov.uk

Rehouse the residents from Focus E15 hostel! Stop destroying the lives of young people.

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 – yvonne.arrowsmith@east-thames.co.uk
Terry Paul, councillor Stratford – terence_paul@hotmail.com
Lyn Brown, MP for West Ham – brownl@parliament.uk; lyn@lynbrown.org.uk
Florence Bangboye housing officer -Florence.bamgboye@newham.gov.uk
Robin Wales – Mayor of Newham -mayor@newham.gov.uk

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.