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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Focus E15
Focus E15 London.png
Focus E15 logo
Named afterFocus E15 Hostel
Formation2013
Founded atFocus E15 Hostel
TypeHousing action group
PurposeHousing rights
Location
  • Newham, London
Websitefocuse15.org

Focus E15 is a campaign group formed in London in 2013 by a group of mothers threatened with eviction from their emergency accommodation. E15 is the postcode of the Stratford district in east London. Having successfully won their own battle, the group has occupied various buildings and supported different individual struggles in order to protest against the local housing policy of Newham Council and for housing rights more generally.

Formation

Focus E15 was formed when the East Thames Housing Association (ETHA) served notices of eviction to 29 mothers living in the Focus E15 hostel for young homeless people. The mothers, who were all under 25, campaigned against Newham Council's decision to cut funding for the hostel and its suggestion that they took rented accommodation in other, far away cities such as Birmingham or Manchester.[1]

Members of the group run a weekly help and advice stall on Saturdays on Stratford High Street. In 2015, they tried to talk to the mayor of Newham, Robin Wales, at the Mayor's Newham show in a local park but were escorted away by security guards. This lack of an adequate response led them towards direct action and protest occupations, which attracted mainstream media attention.[2] Robin Wales was later censured for failing to show appropriate respect to a member of the public by the council's standards advisory committee. He was also asked to attend a mediated meeting with members of Focus E15.[3]

The group's first occupation was at the East Thames Housing Association building in Stratford in January 2014. Mothers pushing children in buggies entered the offices and occupied the show flat. The fake living space was converted into a space for a children's party.[2]

Awarded funds to create a social networking hub, Focus E15 rented a corner shop in Stratford and called it Sylvia's Corner. The name is a reference to east London socialist and suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst.[4]

Carpenters Estate

'Repopulate the Carpenters' banner at the Focus E15 street stall
'Repopulate the Carpenters' banner at the Focus E15 street stall

The group occupied empty flats in a block on Doran Walk on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford in September 2014. One flat was used a social centre and visited by hundreds of people in its short lifetime.[2] The protest action drew a lot of media attention and highlighted that even though the houses had been empty for between 4 and 8 years, they were in good condition and could be lived in.[2][5][6][7] This was seen as scandalous by Focus E15 since at that time there were 16,000 people on the waiting list for an apartment in Newham.[8]

Newham Council immediately went to court in order to obtain an eviction order and refused to listen to the demands of Focus E15. The Council stated that the Carpenters Estate was standing empty because it was too expensive to renovate and the plan was to redevelop it.[5] The squatters were described as "agitators and hangers on" by a local councillor.[6] The occupation and courtcase were both visited by Russell Brand, who spoke in support of the mothers.[9]

The Council was granted a repossession order and a deal was made that the squatters would leave by October 7. Focus E15 took this as a victory, since the mayor apologised for the way they had at first been treated and promised that 40 homeless people could move back onto the estate to live there until it was demolished.[10] Ultimately, most of the young women were rehoused within the borough as they had requested, but in privately rented accommodation and on 12-month contracts.[11]

The building which housed the Focus E15 Hostel was eventually bought by Newham Council in 2016. Mayor of Newham Robin Wales said this would make it easier to care for some of the borough's most vulnerable residents.[12]

Individual cases

Offer to live in Edgware

Zineb Saafan and her three children were evicted from a privately rented house in Stratford with two weeks' notice. The council at first said she would be rehoused locally, but then offered emergency accommodation in Edgware in north west London. Saafan refused this offer, finding it too far to travel both to take the children to their schools and to commute for her job as a cleaner at the council offices. The council then said she had made herself intentionally homeless and called the police to escort her out of the housing office.[13]

Saafan and her children ended up sleeping the night on the floor of Forest Gate police station. When she contacted Focus E15 for help, she was offered emergency accommodation locally.[13]

Arrested on suspicion of squatting

In 2015, a mother (Jane Wood) and daughter were evicted from their council flat in Kerrison Road, Stratford, because Wood had lost her housing benefit and therefore fallen behind in rental payments. Focus E15 pledged to help them and occupied their flat in April 2015.[14] The occupation was called Jane Come Home, in reference to the film Cathy Come Home.[15]

Focus E15 redecorated the flat and held a 'welcome home' party. With the help of her wider family the mother offered to repay her debt but was not permitted to do so. She was then invited to a meeting at the council offices and while she was out the council attempted to repossess the flat. Jasmin Stone, a 20 year old participant in Focus E15, was in the flat at the time and was arrested on suspicion of squatting in a residential building.[16]

The charge against Stone was dropped less than 24 hours before her court appearance in May 2015.[15]

Police station occupation

Four members of Focus E15 occupied the empty East Ham police station for one day in 2016 to highlight the availability of empty buildings in the borough and to protest evictions. They left peacefully at the end of the day and there were no arrests.[17]

Bedsit in Welwyn Garden City

Newham resident Elina Garrick and her three children were forced to accept a single room as emergency accommodation in Boundary House in Welwyn Garden City. Welwyn is in Hertfordshire, outside London. She was told it would be temporary but ended up living there for 18 months.[18] After complaining to the council and asking Focus E15 for assistance, she was first offered accommodation in Birmingham and then moved to Basildon in Essex. Newham Council have since stopped using Boundary House.[19]

Offer to live in Birmingham

Sara Abdullah, a Newham resident for 12 years, was living in emergency conditions for 6 months before being offered accommodation in Birmingham, a city over 100 miles away. When she requested a review of this decision she was told that it was an appropriate one. Alongside other groups, Focus E15 supported Sara in her request to be rehoused locally.[20]

If she had accepted the offer to move to Birmingham, Abdullah would have lost her job and she would have had to move her son to a different school. Since she refused the offer, she was made intentionally homeless by the council and denied a right to appeal, twice. She then challenged the decision in court and won the right to appeal.[21]

In popular culture

  • Lung theatre company performed the play E15 on the Northern Stage at Summerhall, at the 2016 Edinburgh Festival. It was a verbatim account of the Focus E15 campaign, with a young cast and a theatre decked out with banners and slogans.[23] Written by Helen Monks and directed by Matt Woodhead, the play then transferred to the Battersea Arts Centre, which had originally commissioned the piece.[24]
  • An all-female theatre troupe called You should see the other guy toured their piece Land of the Three Towers across various London housing estates threatened with eviction. The play told the story of Focus E15, but the directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott saw the relevance for other housing struggles. The play's dialogue is taken verbatim from documentary footage of the Focus E15 occupation.[25]
  • The all-female Rebel Choir was formed out of Focus E15. It has run workshops and has performed alongside other choirs at the Women’s Strike Assembly in central London on 8 March, 2018 on International Women's Day.[26]
  • To celebrate International Women's Day in 2018, cassette and digital formats of a music compilation were made available as a fundraiser for Focus E15. It was arranged by the online radio station NTS.[27]

Participatory action research

Between September 2015 and April 2016, Focus E15 members took part in and advised on participatory action research performed by Dr Kate Hardy (University of Leeds) and Dr Tom Gillespie (University of Sheffield). This resulted in an online report which was supported by the Sociological Review Foundation. It was funded by the Feminist Review Trust and Leeds Social Sciences Impact Acceleration Account. The report gave the results of 64 interviews with people who had contacted Newham Council in the preceding year about issues concerning housing or homelessness. It found that Newham Council had both one of the highest numbers of people in temporary accommodation in the capital and one of the highest numbers of homeless people rehoused in places outside London.[28]

New mayor

The new mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz (elected 2018), promised to rehouse displaced people and also to give residents more of a voice on matters such as the future of the Carpenters Estate.[29]

However, in 2019, a woman living in Victoria House (the building which formerly housed the Focus E15 hostel) was hand-delivered a paper note threatening her with homelessness. Fiaz commented that the incident "undermines every thing we are working towards. I feel massively let down and ashamed that this happened."[30]

References

  1. ^ Finchett-Maddock, Lucy. "Their Law: The New Energies of UK Squats, Social Centres and Eviction Resistances in the Fight Against Expropriation (Part 2 of 2)". Critical Legal Thinking. Archived from the original on 12 April 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d Watt (2016). "A Nomadic War Machine in the Metropolis: En/Countering London's 21st Century Housing Crisis with Focus E15". City. 20 (2): 297–320.
  3. ^ Prynn, Jonathan (3 February 2015). "Newham Mayor sees red at woman campaigning for homeless single mothers". Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 24 March 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  4. ^ Focus E15. "Sylvia's Corner". Focus E15. Archived from the original on 24 March 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Mothers campaign group to leave Newham flats". BBC. London. 2014-10-02. Archived from the original on 2019-03-29. Retrieved 2019-03-27.
  6. ^ a b Amara, Pavan (28 September 2015). "E15 'occupation': We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents fighting eviction after occupying empty homes". Independent. Archived from the original on 29 March 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  7. ^ Kwei, Sarah (2014-10-05). "Focus E15 Mums have fought for the right to a home. This is only the start". Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 2019-03-24. Retrieved 2019-03-27.
  8. ^ Holdsworth, Rachel (2014). "Focus E15 Protest Highlights Housing Going To Waste". Londonist. London. Archived from the original on 2019-03-29. Retrieved 2019-03-27.
  9. ^ Selby, Jenn (2014-10-03). "Russell Brand supports Focus E15 single mums' campaign to battle eviction from social housing in east London". Independent. London. Archived from the original on 2019-03-29. Retrieved 2019-03-27.
  10. ^ Wales, Robin (6 October 2014). "I apologise to the Focus E15 families, but this is a London housing crisis". Guardian. Archived from the original on 24 March 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  11. ^ Prymface (9 July 2014). "Meet the young single mothers facing eviction". Telegraph. Archived from the original on 14 April 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  12. ^ Burns, Iain (21 April 2016). "Focus E15 Hostel bought by Newham Council to help 'most vulnerable residents'". Newham Recorder. Archived from the original on 29 March 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  13. ^ a b Wellman, Alex (19 January 2015). "Mum and kids sleep on police station floor after being made homeless". Mirror. Archived from the original on 14 April 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  14. ^ Booth, Robert (2015-03-14). "Focus E15 housing activist arrested on suspicion of squatting". Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 2019-03-29. Retrieved 2019-03-27.
  15. ^ a b Ramiro, Joana (12 May 2015). "Charge dropped for Focus E15 activist". Morning Star. Archived from the original on 12 April 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  16. ^ Collinson, Rachel (14 April 2015). "Four legs good, two legs better… The tragedy of unopposed "revolutionaries"". Newham Green Party. Archived from the original on 12 April 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  17. ^ Burns, Iain (13 July 2016). "Focus E15 protesters take over former East Ham police station". Newham Recorder. Archived from the original on 14 April 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  18. ^ Bloomer, Natalie (14 March 2016). "Family of four crammed into a bedsit: The reality of Britain's housing crisis". politics.co.uk. Archived from the original on 14 April 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  19. ^ Hopps, Kat (8 April 2016). "Newham mums forced into homelessness and poor accommodation because of housing crisis". Newham Recorder. Archived from the original on 14 April 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  20. ^ Long, Rhiannon (9 March 2018). "Protesters disrupt council meeting over Stratford mother being evicted to Birmingham". Newham Recorder. Archived from the original on 29 March 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  21. ^ Long, Rhiannon (29 July 2018). "Mother made intentionally homeless by Newham Council after she refused to move to Birmingham wins right to appeal decision". Newham Recorder. Archived from the original on 29 March 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  22. ^ Hurd, Jess (7 October 2014). "The Focus E15 protests – in pictures". Guardian. Archived from the original on 24 March 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  23. ^ Gardner, Lyn (5 August 2016). "E15 at Edinburgh festival review – young mums speak out in Newham protest play". Guardian. Archived from the original on 14 April 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  24. ^ Hitchings, Henry (20 March 2017). "E15, theatre review: Urgent, big-hearted response to the housing crisis". Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 14 April 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  25. ^ Snaith, Emma (30 January 2017). "Social housing not social cleansing: the theatre group touring London estates to resist evictions". Red Pepper. Archived from the original on 14 April 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  26. ^ Smith, Gwen (5 March 2018). "Rebel Choir, Deep Throat and Lips: the feminist singing groups causing a din". Guardian. Archived from the original on 14 April 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  27. ^ Eede, Christian (8 March 2018). "Weaponise Your Sound IWD Comp". The Quietus. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  28. ^ Hardy, Kate; Gillespie, Tom. "Homelessness, health and housing". E15 Report. Archived from the original on 29 March 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  29. ^ Jone, Nye (27 December 2018). "How 'placemaking' is tearing apart social housing communities". Guardian. Archived from the original on 9 April 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
  30. ^ Burford, Rachael (19 March 2019). "Woman living in hostel is threatened with homelessness in 'shocking note' delivered by council worker". Newham Recorder. Archived from the original on 29 March 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2019.
This page was last edited on 3 December 2020, at 19:14
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