On our street stall recently Focus E15 campaigners met Ibrahim, a refugee who was left to sleep on the streets of the borough of Newham for months due to the inadequacy of the council and their unwillingness to give refugees and other residents in the borough stable, secure housing. Unfortunately it is clear that Ibrahim’s story is not an isolated case.
A crisis in housing has been unfolding for decades and is only set to get worse when the Immigration Bill comes into law later this year. This Bill proposes to build on the measures in the Immigration Act and to extend document checks by landlords and banks to stop undocumented migrants from renting housing or opening a bank account. Landlords could have the powers to evict migrants without a court order making the present situation even worse.
The Focus E15 campaign believes that the recent request from the government to every council, asking them to house 10 Syrian refugee families, is not only inadequate, but shameful when the reason so many refugees from around the world have had to flee their homes is due to the wars waged in the interests of,(and financed by) our capital and country. We encourage people to stand together, as humans, to say 10 families per council is not enough. If our local council, Newham in East London really wanted to help refugees, they should rehouse people on the Carpenters Estate where 400 flats have been boarded up for several years.
We are demanding safe and secure housing for all who need it! So councils in London, in solidarity with people around the world needing safe stable homes, it is your responsibility to open the 22,000 empty homes in the capital and immediately start rehousing people.
Focus E15 campaign will be present at the demonstration for refugees in central London on Saturday 12 September. Please join us there.
We have recently heard that Ibrahim has now been given shelter in a hostel.This is because after passing our street stall he had the confidence to go to the housing office and not move until he was offered housing! Although a hostel is not ideal, it is safer and warmer than the streets. There are 100s of other like him who need support today. Please consider supporting the work of the Hackney Migrant Centre or RAMFEL (Refugee and Migrant Forum in Essex and East London)
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!
Earlier this month Katrina and some of her children travelled down to the stall from Colchester to get support and tell us about their housing situation there and the overcrowding they are facing at the hostel they are currently living in. We are very alarmed by the problems faced by her and other families who have lots of children. We do not think that such families should be split up or have children taken into care. Children need security, family life and decent housing.
This is Katrina’s story
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.