London Coalition Against Poverty general meeting this Friday

Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth are part of the London Coalition Against Poverty. Every couple of months, all the local housing action groups meet together as LCAP to share our experiences and tactics, to talk about the issues and problems we face, and to co-ordinate action on housing and other poverty issues. Everyone interested in organising and building mutual support and collective action on housing should come!

It will be hosted by Haringey Housing Action Group at 11am – 2pm and will be held at:

North London Community Centre
22 Moorefield Road
N17 6PY

Overground: Bruce Grove (or South Tottenham and then 15-min walk or get any bus up the High Road)
Tube: Seven Sisters, plus 10-15 min walk (or catch any bus going north up the High Road)
Buses: 123, 149, 243, 259, 279, 341, 349, 476, W4

We will arrange refreshments for the day.

Stop local school criminalising homeless people – support the squatters

support your local squat

Stop the IPO

Let the squatters stay

Stop criminalising homeless people

Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth are calling for support for the squatters currently living in the former Charles Edward Brooke school in Camberwell/Myatts Fields. Two long term HASL members live in the school, and many others in the squat crew have supported HASL actions and events. Now we want to show our support back to them. See below for quick online action!

The headmaster of St Gabriel’s college – which holds the lease for the former Charles Edward Brooke school which has been left empty and unused for over 2 years – along with Lambeth council’s legal services team, have served an Interim Possession Order on the squatters who moved into the empty building just before Christmas. An Interim Possession Order is one of the quickest and most brutal ways that someone can reclaim possession of their unused and neglected property. Once the IPO is served by the court (which is practically an automatic process), then it becomes a criminal offence to remain in the building 24 hours after it is served. Anyone remaining in the building can face a fine and / or prison. An IPO literally criminalises homeless people.

Why is a Christian school using such a punitive method to evict the squatters? The IPO’s quick eviction process means that many will struggle to find somewhere else to live and could end up street homeless. The IPO will cause deep hardship and distress to people who are simply trying to house themselves. Finally, why is the headmaster willing to pursue this costly procedure when he could come to a fair agreement?

We are appalled that a local school is treating fellow community members in housing need in such a way – that they are so cruelly making people homeless in order to keep their building empty.

We are calling on the headmaster of St Gabriel’s college and Lambeth council to stop the IPO and come to a fair agreement with the squatters. From the start, the squatters have attempted to make contact and an agreement with the headmaster. The headmaster failed to respond to a letter sent by HASL and London Coalition Against Poverty in support of the squatters and offering to work with St Gabriel’s school to organise together on housing and poverty issues that the school’s community face.

Squatters, tenants, and others in housing need – stick together! Homes Not Jails.

 

Please take two minutes to send an email to the headmaster expressing your support for the squatters and raising concern at the use of an IPO. You can use our template email below but feel free to write your own or add to the template. The IPO court hearing is the morning of Tuesday 12th January (we’re thinking of maybe organising court support so keep a look out!) so please contact him urgently so he can see all the support there is. Let him know that Lambeth residents hate homelessness and evictions! Please cc in HASL’s email too if you are happy to list your name in support at the bottom of this blog!

Lambeth council’s legal services helped to draft the IPO so don’t forget to send @lambeth_council and @cllr_peck at tweet or two.

Email addresses:

St Gabriel’s school headmaster – nbutler[at]saintgabrielscollege.org

HASL – haslemail[at]gmail.com

Dear headmaster,

I am writing to express my support for the people currently occupying the former Charles Edward Brooke secondary school. I am deeply concerned that you are pursuing the use of an Interim Possession Order which means that the occupiers will have very little time to find somewhere else to live, risking street homelessness; the quick eviction time is likely to cause significant distress and hardship to these people in housing need. An IPO criminalises and jails homeless people if they remain beyond the 24 hour deadline.

This is not an appropriate, fair or just way to treat homeless people. It must be stopped.

Please stop the IPO and come to a fair agreement with the occupiers and allow them to remain in the school until the school is being used again. We hope you will engage with the occupiers and make a formal response to Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (part of the London Coalition Against Poverty).

the housing crisis

Thanks to all those who have written in support so far, including:

David Williams
Thea Martin
Jacob Wills
Elliot McVeigh
Mark Temple
Philip Hucknall
Michael Richmond
Jean Blayrock
Michael Edwards
Fiona Vera Grey
Jack Dean
Marc Nellis
Thomas Gann
56a Bikespace
Ittai Welby
Sam Dolbear
Sara Cameron
Susan Koksal
Abigail Williams
Kiran Nihalani
Marie Lynam
Pierre Masci
Anna Machell
Jeanne Cornillon
Trace Newton
Robert Stearn
Lambeth Housing Activists
Jane Ferrie
Sevan Szekely
Liliana Dmitrovi
People’s Republic of Southwark
Nick Bano
Etnia M
Judy Goss
Seb Packham
Alice Austin-McAllister
Torla Evans
Valentina Furlong
Squatters Action for Secure Homes
Olga Winterbottom
Vittoria Cenacchi
Stephanie Webber
Lucas S

 

*** Update ***

Against hundreds of messages in support of the squatters, a courtroom packed full of supporters and calls for St Gabriel’s school to engage and work towards a better solution, the court issued an IPO on 12th January, 2016. In the lead-up to the day in court, the headmaster of the school had been sending responses to supporters that were misleading. In the interest of maintaining the record on this case, some facts are as follows:

  • The headmaster chose to go to court to get an IPO to threaten homeless people with jail instead of speaking to the squatters and coming to an agreement to arrange a suitable time for them to leave on their own terms. With regards to access to the site, the squatters had been willing to negotiate for the school’s staff and building contractors to access the site when they needed to. The school did not require an empty building in order to apply for planning permission, so the squatters presence was in no way slowing down their plans. The school had been empty for over two years – it’s quite a coincidence that as soon as people move in to use the building as a home, that the school’s plans are suddenly ready to launch.
  • There was asbestos in the school, but one of the first things the squatters did upon entering was locate any disturbed asbestos and seal these rooms off. Lots of the school had been safe to live in as there is no disturbed asbestos. If the headmaster was so concerned for their health, surely he would have made more efforts to communicate with the squatters about the asbestos. Everyone needs and deserves safe, secure homes. Even the possibility of the presence of asbestos is deeply concerning for anyone, but the reality is often that people have no other option. In this case, we were confident that the building was indeed safe at the time it was occupied given the precautions that were being taken.
  • Finally, the headmaster stated that the squatters could get help from Lambeth Housing Office. This seems to suggest that by forcibly evicting the squatters he was actually helping them to get higher priority for accommodation. Of course, this is totally incorrect. If it were so simple to get help and housing from the council there wouldn’t be rising homelessness in the borough and people stuck in poor quality housing. The council have no legal obligation to provide any housing for the squatters because many of them would not be considered in ‘priority need’. This is exactly why people are forced to squat because there are few other options. They could try and join the housing waiting list of 20,000 other Lambeth households and maybe get social housing (if there’s any left) in 2030. HASL and LCAP did offer to provide housing support to the school’s community as the headmaster’s understanding of homelessness and the housing help available was clearly not so good.

 

Unlawful and aggressive gatekeeping at Lambeth – justice for ML

ML HASL action

After two full days at Lambeth’s Olive Morris house trying to get temporary accommodation, including a supportive gathering by HASL on Friday morning, ML, a HASL member and English for Action student was finally given temporary accommodation. On arrival at the temporary accommodation out in Lewisham, it turned out there were cockroaches in the property. After the appalling treatment and gatekeeping by the council, the cockroaches were not our biggest worry, but they are a depressing sign of the poor quality temporary accommodation that local councils and poverty profiteering agencies think they can get away issuing to hundreds of thousands of homeless people across the country.

As well as the cockcroaches, the accommodation is unsuitable for the family because it is far away from their local community in Lambeth. Lambeth do not appear to have done a needs assessment of the family when issuing this temporary accommodation. A needs assessment is important to make sure any accommodation takes into account the children’s education and welfare and ML’s access needs. We are calling on Lambeth council to provide ML and her family with suitable temporary accommodation and place the family in band A to make sure they can access secure social housing urgently. We believe that everyone has the right to secure, safe, quality, social housing.

On day one at the housing office, ML and her buddy from English for Action were told they must provide ‘evidence’ of her homelessness – this is contrary to homelessness law which says the council only need ‘reason to believe’ someone is homeless and in priority need in order to provide temporary accommodation. ML and her buddy stood their ground and challenged this gatekeeping only to be told that there were no staff there that day to open up a homelessness application and organise interim housing – despite the legal obligation that local councils provide this.

But sadly the aggressive gatekeeping by Lambeth council was not limited to those two full days at the housing office. ML had first approached Lambeth council for housing help in May 2015 because of severe overcrowding in her home but back then she had been unlawfully turned away on two occasions. Lambeth’s council’s gatekeeping meant that from May until December, the family have unnecessarily suffered the incredibly overcrowded conditions causing them a great deal of stress. In December, another person living in the shared accommodation physically assaulted ML. Again, this attack would not have happened had Lambeth taken action back in May when ML first visited them to raise the overcrowding. Here the deeply serious consequences of gatekeeping and unsuitable housing became incredibly apparent – yet when they visited the housing office this month because the situation had become even more urgent and unsafe for the family, Lambeth tried to turn them away again.

Back in May, ML also approached her local MP for support in challenging Lambeth council’s unlawful gatekeeping. Shamefully, instead of being concerned about the conduct of the local housing office and the appalling and exploitative conditions of the private rented sector in her constituency, Kate Hoey instead interrogated ML about where she was from and why she had come to the UK. Kate Hoey’s lack of support for her constituents housing situation can only be explained as blatant racism.

HASL are calling on Lambeth to place the family into band A so that they can access suitable social housing urgently. Had Lambeth given the housing help it should have back in May, the family would have been able to access social housing by now. The current unsuitable temporary accommodation and the aggressive gatekeeping and ordeal the family were subjected to by the housing office also mean that Lambeth must help them get the suitable social housing they urgently need.    

ML was finally able to get temporary housing from Lambeth last Friday – but only with the support of a buddy and the presence of HASL members who turned up to show their support for ML and to collectively challenge Lambeth’s treatment and gatekeeping. Whilst we’re proud of our collective action – it shouldn’t take twenty people and two days for a homeless application to be started. How many others have Lambeth turned away and mistreated?

HASL often encounter unlawful gatekeeping, but this was particularly persistent and aggressive. This particular case of gatekeeping is reminiscent of the days spent at Southwark housing office earlier this year.

HASL’s 2015 – getting ready for 2016

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It’s been another busy year for HASL. It’s exciting to see how we’re growing and how much we’ve achieved together this year. Despite our efforts, the housing crisis is undoubtedly getting worse but we are getting important wins, looking out for each other, building collective support and solidarity, and challenging the root causes of the housing crisis and poverty together.

Everyone in HASL gives their time for free. We are a group largely made up of people facing homeless and bad housing, so we organise HASL whilst struggling with housing and poverty issues – making our achievements even more impressive. We know that by struggling together and supporting each other we can fight for good housing for ourselves and everyone. We know this works because we’ve seen the direct impacts of our collective actions winning housing for people, getting people housed back in their community, and stopping bailiffs. As we often say to people ‘don’t struggle alone’. We want to do even more in 2016 and we hope you can join us! Come along to our regular meetings and lunch clubs to meet the group and organise together!

These are just some of the things we’ve been up to this year. It doesn’t include  the numerous letters we’ve written to councils together demanding homeless appointments, advice and rights information we’ve shared, buddying at the housing office, legal workshops we’ve organised, and the vital support and understanding people give to each other in meetings.

A massive thanks to everyone who has been involved in HASL and everyone who has supported us!

January

We joined thousands of others from across London at the March for Homes and showed support for the Aylesbury estate occupation.

February

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Town hall occupation to challenge Lambeth council’s social housing allocations policy which pushes homeless people into the private rented sector. We called for social housing not social cleansing!

Bailiffs were having a fancy ball – housing groups from across London disrupted it.

March

HASL lunch club

Our first HASL lunch club at Art Nouveau in Brixton

We buddied one of our members for days at Southwark’s Peckham housing office and finally got her housed. Some of the most aggressive gatekeeping we have come across and the beginning of our campaign at Southwark to put an end to this and the culture of disrespect there.

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Yum – coco pops outside the Marriot hotel, County Hall

We gatecrashed Lambeth council leader Lib Peck’s fancy breakfast with developers.

After a number of protests at the housing office and town hall with HASL and Lambeth Housing Activists, Lambeth council accept a full homeless duty for Gustavo. Later on in the year, with our support, Gustavo finally got secure social housing in his local area.

April

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HASL on the march.

We joined thousands of people at the Reclaim Brixton anti-gentrification protest

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HASL is two years old! Birthday celebration and lunch club.

We joined the launch of the Oxford Tenants Union to talk about London Coalition Against Poverty (which we’re a part of) and how we organsie.

May

We ran a housing rights workshop with English for Action students.

photo credit: People's Republic of Southwark

photo credit: People’s Republic of Southwark

Eviction resistance with Aminata stopping Southwark council evicting her from their own temporary accommodation.

June

We joined an ESOL and housing conference attended by ESOL teachers and students and by housing groups across London to discuss and plan how we can work together more.

Caught Southwark gatekeeping as someone was being unlawfully turned away. Supported the man and his young son to get the housing they were entitled to.

During a leafleting session, we met someone who was due to be evicted by bailiffs a couple of days later. We were able to point her to the local law centre Advising London to get legal support to stop the eviction.

Lunch club at Bike Curious, Elephant and Castle

Freedom of Information request research by HASL published on Novara Wire showing how councils are forcing homeless households out of London.

July

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Summer lunch club with London Campaign Against Police and State Violence in Burgess Park

A week of leafleting outside Southwark’s Peckham housing office to talk with people, hand out Know Your Rights information and to challenge gatekeeping.

August

Antenna collective organised a benefit night for us at Brixton East.

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Summer lunch club with London Campaign Against Police and State Violence and screen printing HASL t-shirts and bags!

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We occupied Southwark town hall to demand Ruth and her family are housed back in Southwark.

September

We joined a panel at Right to Remain’s annual conference

Lunch club at DIY Space for London and Homelessness rights training

October

We did a housing rights workshop with the Independent Workers of Great Britain Language Exchange class

Supported Aminata resist eviction from Southwark council’s temporary housing

Month of leafleting and support outside Southwark’s Peckham housing office to challenge gatekeeping

November

Month of leafleting at Southwark housing office continued

We spoke at Radical Housing Network conference

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Shut down a Lend Lease Sales Event for Elephant Park (built on the ruins of the Heygate Estate) with our friends, Fight For Aylesbury.

December

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Benefit gig at the beautiful Downtown squat

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Eviction resistance at Dorchester court in support of Roz

LCAP end of year celebration photo

London Coalition Against Poverty end of year celebration lunch club

ML HASL action

Action to support ML challenge Lambeth council’s gatekeeping

Eviction resistance success at Dorchester court

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Big thanks to everyone who turned out to support Roz and the Dorchester court residents turn away the bailiffs yesterday morning! On seeing our gathering and banners, the bailiffs made no effort to evict and simply left. A few people were still inside munching on breakfast and missed the bailiffs’ brief visit completely! But Roz, and many other residents still have the threat of eviction hanging over them from private landlord company Manaquel so we’ll be planning more action to support the residents to fight for their homes, their estate and their community.
Manaquel is a company which owns the estate in Herne Hill and rents out private rented flats there. For the last couple of years Manaquel have let the estate fall into disrepair whilst at the same time massively increasing the rents for the tenants. Unable to pay the increased rents, tenants have been receiving possession orders for their homes and bailiffs at their doors. Residents are calling for the rents to be brought down and for all evictions to be stopped.

Eviction resistance Tuesday 8th December

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Tuesday 8th December meet 8.30am
Dorchester Court, Herne Hill, SE24 9QX
Support Roz resist the bailiffs tomorrow morning. Roz is one of a number of residents who have already or are about to face eviction from Dorchester Court. The private landlord decided he could make even more money out of these homes so he’s raising the rents and evicting many of the current residents on the estate. Show your support for Roz and the other residents to fight for their homes.
Everyone welcome. We’ll bring breakfast snacks and refreshments.

‘Homelessness – get your rights’ now available in Spanish!

 

¿Sin hogar? ¡Reclama tus derechos!

Los departamentos responsables dentro de los ayuntamientos para las personas sin hogar adecuado (‘Council Homeless Person Units’, HPUs) tienen fama de negarse a atender tantas personas como puedan, diciéndoles que no entran dentro de los criterios para que les otorguen una vivienda social. La realidad es que la ley reconoce el derecho a ayuda de muchas de estas personas: puede que seas una de ellas.

Para decidir si tienes derecho legal a ayuda, el ayuntamiento tiene que investigar cinco criterios. Si cumples con todos, tienes derecho a una vivienda temporal y cierta prioridad en la lista de espera para las viviendas sociales permanentes. Incluso si no cumples con los cinco criterios, es posible que tengas derecho legal a alguna ayuda de vivienda.

Los cinco criterios

1 ¿Estás “homeless”, sin hogar?

La categoría “homeless” incluye las personas que se van a encontrar sin hogar en los próximos 28 días y las personas que vivan en condiciones no aptas o no seguras (si no te puedes quedar en tu hogar porque sufres violencia allí, por ejemplo). “Homeless” no quiere decir sin techo. Aunque tengas un techo temporal, aún te pueden calificar como “homeless”.

2 ¿Cuál es tu estatus de inmigración?

El estado no permite que los ayuntamientos ofrezcan viviendas a las personas cuyo visado solo les permite quedarse en el reino unido temporalmente, ni a las personas cuyo permiso de permanencia conlleve la condición que no pidan ayudas del estado.

3 ¿Tienes una necesidad especial (una “priority need”)?

Los ayuntamientos consideran que ciertas personas tienen una necesidad especial. Las categorías preestablecidas incluyen (entre otras): las mujeres embarazadas, las personas con niñ@s a su cargo, las personas que tienen 16 y 17 años, las personas que tienen entre 18 y 20 años que han estado en guarda del estado, y las personas que se encuentren sin techo a causa de una emergencia (por ejemplo, una inundación). Las que no quepan en las categorías preestablecidas (por ejemplo, las personas con problemas graves de salud mental, o l@s ancian@s) tendrán que demostrar que sus problemas les hacen “vulnerables”.

4 ¿Estás “homeless” a causa de intención propia?

Si el ayuntamiento cree que estás “homeless” por tu propia culpa, es posible que solo tengan que alojarte temporalmente mientras que te ayudan encontrar tu propia solución habitacional.

5 Vínculo local

¡Según la ley, esto es lo último que un ayuntamiento debe considerar, no lo primero! Si no tienes un vínculo con el borough (distrito) en que solicitas ayuda y sí tienes un vínculo con otro, es posible que el ayuntamiento al que has solicitado ayuda pida que el ayuntamiento con el que tienes un vínculo te ofrezca una vivienda. Pero solo pueden hacerlo después de que hayan investigado tu caso y verificado si cumples con las primeras 4 pruebas.

¿Qué debe hacer el ayuntamiento?

Si el ayuntamiento sospecha (según la ley, tiene “reason to believe”) que estás homeless ahora o que estarás homeless dentro de 28 días, tienen que aceptar tu solicitud y empezar investigar estas 5 pruebas. La solicitud no te pone en el “registro de vivienda”, la lista de espera de una vivienda social. Al fin de la investigación tienen la obligación a darte una decisión sobre tu caso por escrito.

Si el ayuntamiento sospecha que tienes un derecho a ayuda y que tienes una necesidad especial, tienen que alojarte temporalmente mientras investigan las cinco pruebas.

Sospechar (tener “reason to believe”) no es igual a tener evidencia fija. Un caso en el juzgado superior concluyó que ir a visitar el departamento del ayuntamiento para personas sin hogar (HPU) es suficiente para que el ayuntamiento deba sospechar que estás “homeless”.

Lo que hacen en realidad

Los ayuntamientos suelen hacer todo que puedan para negar o retrasar alojamiento incluso si hay una razón clara para creer que la/el solicitante no tiene hogar, tiene derecho legal a ayuda y tiene una necesidad especial. Los ayuntamientos suelen decir frases así para intentar despistarte:

  • Que no te pueden ayudar hasta que hayan visitado tu casa
  • Que no te pueden ayudar hasta que te hayan desalojado
  • No te van a ayudar hasta que les des un informe médico
  • No te van a ayudar hasta que hayas intentado un proceso de mediación (por ejemplo, con tus padres si tus padres te hubieran pedido irte de su casa)
  • No te van a ayudar hasta que les enseñes un informe policial sobre la violencia que has sufrido

Lo que puedes hacer

La mayoría de estas tácticas para despistarte son ilegales. Si lo descrito te pasa a ti, diles con certeza que conoces tus derechos y que no se pueden negar a atenderte. Si te siguen negando ayuda, pide una carta en papel que explique su decisión y lleva esta carta a una agencia de consejo, o contacta con nosotras.

London Coalition Against Poverty (Coalición Contra la Pobreza)

Creemos que practicar la acción directa juntas, dentro de nuestras comunidades, puede asegurar que consigamos los servicios que nos faltan cuando los necesitemos. Los derechos legales que tenemos no son suficientes pero por ahí empezamos.

Somos tod@s voluntari@s y te podemos apoyar en tomar acción para conseguir lo que necesites. No somos consejeros legales a tiempo completo. Si buscas consejo legal, te podemos proporcionar los detalles de consejeros legales. Si quieres involucrarte o si necesitas conseguir tus derechos:

Contacta con nosotras: +44 7932 241 737

londoncoalitionagainstpoverty@gmail.com

http://www.lcap.org.uk

Thanks to our camaradas Tom at Haringey Housing Action group and Violeta from the housing assembly in Latina, Madrid (@canabales, @latinavivienda) for the translation!