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Young mothers occupy Newham council to fight for social housing for all: Focus E15

On Friday, a group of young Stratford mums occupied the East Thames Housing Association building (and showroom) and Newham council's housing offices as part of their ongoing fight for decent social housing in Newham.

Their fight is becoming more and more relevant to anyone who does not have secure housing - which includes a great many people.

These two videos are from the occupation.

First video - the women occupied Newham council housing offices and explained the awful problems that people are having finding housing:


Second video: The women occupied the East Thames Housing Association (and a small showroom flat the HA has in its foyer):

These young women have been battling Newham council for accommodation for themselves and their small children for about six months. They are all classed as homeless.

At the moment, the young women live in Newham’s Focus E15 foyer – a hostel which has about 16 flats for young parents and about 210 flats across the complex. It’s supposed to be temporary accommodation. Some of the women have been living there for years. Concerns have been raised about the health standards at the hostel - the women say there are rats, mice and problems with mould and ventilation. Some of the children in the hostel are as young as three months.

The women's options for permanent housing are not good. They're dealing with so many of the problems that face people who are either on low incomes, or benefits and who are trying to find secure housing.

Their options include: trying to find social housing in a borough which has 24,000 people on its waiting list and recently changed its allocations policy to prioritise ex-servicepeople and people in work over people not in work.

Or they they can hope to be housed in private accommodation - in an era where private landlords like Fergus and Judith Wilson are asking their housing benefit tenants to leave because, as Fergus Wilson informed the Guardian recently: “”All the landlords will tell you that there is so much default now with housing benefit tenants that you are just simply better off with somebody working.” So that option is not an option.

The other option is that Newham will house the women many miles out of the borough - miles away away from the family members who could provide childcare while the women worked. Places like Hastings, or Birmingham, are often suggested as options. Except that may not be the case, either. Jeremy Birch, leader of Hastings council says that Hastings is not keen on taking people who are benefits generally. He can't stop London boroughs housing people in Hastings' private rental sector, but he says that:

“We’re a deprived community in the south east, who are trying to reduce the amount of benefit dependency in our own borough. While we welcome anyone who wants to come to Hastings to move here, we are not happy that we would be taking further people who were benefit dependent. That is putting extra pressure on the services that we’ve got in the town.” He also says that the council had specific housing projects which exclude people who are not in work.

It was very interesting on Friday to see how many people who were waiting in the housing offices to hear about their own housing options joined in conversation with these mothers as they set up their protest. One woman in the waiting room started to cry - she revealed that she was homeless. Another woman who had a young baby with her said she'd been told she'd be sent to Birmingham, miles away from anyone she knew. Other people who were waiting in the queue cheered and applauded when the protestors arrived and explained their campaign for housing.

So many people are affected by this. There are people everywhere, with nowhere secure to live and not much hope of finding a place either.

Focus E15 mums facebook page.


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