Good News Updates from HASL!


After being messed around by Lambeth council for several years despite having nowhere stable and safe to live, we are happy to share that one of our first(!) members, R, has finally got decent long-term council housing in the area!

We went to Lambeth housing office on many occasions trying to secure the housing this member with complex medical needs required, but were told to look in the private sector or approach other services – leaving R on the streets. Accommodation was finally found, though not through the council, and it was only for a six months fixed term. After further homelessness, a stay in a hospital in Lambeth and then in Southwark, R continued to try and engage with the council, but the council refused to offer support. We wrote letters, emails, made complaints about the shoddy treatment he received but the council refused to budge for months. R’s housing application was finally given the necessary level of priority he needs and he finally got keys to a council flat (which he showed off at the last HASL meeting!).

We are also happy to report that a long standing survivor of DV is also in the process of waiting to move into her council housing. With the support of the group, C has been fighting Southwark council over their gatekeeping for more than a year. The council said she wasn’t a priority. They said she could be street homeless because she was claiming benefits. After an onslaught of emails, blogposts, meetings (one of which was with deputy leader and cabinet member for housing, Cllr Stephanie Cryan, and strategic director for housing and community services, Gerri Scott) and twitter storms, the council made some empty promises of looking into her case, whilst also telling her to look for her own insecure and unaffordable private rented sector accommodation. After months of sustained pressure and with the support of South East London Sisters Uncut, the council finally made her a direct offer of a council flat!

Also, one of the families we have been supporting for over a year now whilst they were forced to live in terrible overcrowded housing, was recently put into band 1, after which the family viewed a property and accepted it! We are delighted by this news, especially after all the hard work put into challenging Southwark council’s gross treatment of migrant families who are living in really unsuitable and poor quality private rented housing. A couple of our members worked so tirelessly on writing letters, blogging, calling twitter storms, liaising with the council and lawyers, and communicating with the families hit hardest by the housing crisis – all this was with the help of translators too!

Finally, we are ecstatic to say that another of the overcrowded families has also secured council housing! After bidding on a nice flat, the family went to view it a couple of days ago and are very happy!

Unfortunately, three of the original five overcrowded cases remain a tough battle. The council continues to produce negative decisions which say that our overcrowded family members caused their overcrowding be a ‘deliberate act’. This is not only disgusting, but very much untrue – it seems like councils are only willing to talk about the housing crisis when it comes to them failing to deliver decent, affordable and secure housing, not when people are struggling to make ends meet and living in dangerous conditions at the hands of private landlords.

If you want to support each other, learn and share knowledge on what your rights are, and fight for housing justice, please join your local housing action group!

When local councils don’t listen to their most vulnerable residents

Like all Londoners, we are devastated by the Grenfell tower tragedy. Our thoughts and solidarity are with everyone affected.

A totally preventable and political tragedy happened because the local council did not listen to the concerns of some of their most vulnerable residents and the council did not bother to check that the housing they have a responsibility for met the highest safety standards.

Listening to the residents of Grenfell tower explain how the council had ignored and neglected them and treated them with disrespect and contempt resonated a lot with some of our experiences when trying to raise very serious housing concerns. Many concerns were raised by Grenfell residents who are migrants and people who do not have English as a first language but they felt the response to them was: “you are a guest in this borough, and a guest in this country, you have no right to complain”.

In HASL we have often had our concerns ignored by the council or have been treated as an annoyance when we raise serious issues we are facing related to homelessness and unsuitable, unsafe and overcrowded housing conditions. In light of what has happened at Grenfell, where people raised concerns and were ignored, we do feel an added urgency and fear of what might happen if we are not listened to and people’s rights and needs are respected. Local councils must engage and respond to their residents.

One case in particular has deeply affected our group because of the seriousness of the housing conditions, the impact we can see them having on our members and the council’s appalling response. In our group, 4 migrant families living in appalling, inhumane and overcrowded conditions have highlighted this to the council for over an entire year. Not only have we been ignored but the council has blamed the families for their housing conditions saying they caused the overcrowding by a ‘deliberate act’. One of the council’s reasons for this was that the families should have found suitable housing for themselves on zoopla.com.

The families have highlighted how their housing is impacting on their children’s wellbeing. Babies who are learning to walk do not have adequate space.  The families have explained that there was no way they would have caused these overcrowded conditions deliberately – an incredibly degrading thing to have to do. Overcrowded housing is unsafe housing. Victim blaming is not an acceptable response. It should not take a tragedy for local councils and government to listen to people affected by unsafe and bad housing.

We are calling on Southwark council and the councillor for housing Stephanie Cryan to engage meaningfully with these families, give them the help they are entitled to and talk with us about how we can support overcrowded families in the borough and other concerns that homeless and vulnerably housed people face. You can read and sign our petition here.

 

As a group of homeless and badly housed people in HASL and the London Coalition Against Poverty, we organise in solidarity with each other and fight together for housing justice. Supporting each other, we do make progress on our cases and situations that we know we could not have done alone, but the council still has a long way to go to provide adequate housing assistance and respect to their residents. If you are worried about unsafe, insecure, and bad housing in our communities, we invite you to get involved. We hope we can respond to calls from the Grenfell Tower community for support and solidarity.

Lambeth needs council housing

IMG_20170523_160025530_HDR

The Patmos Lodge site as it currently stands. It used to be a care home until the council closed it down. It then became a home for 100 squatters for 2 years until the council had them violently evicted them to make this rubble heap.

Lambeth council have just started advertising their consultation on the future of the Patmos Lodge site on Cancell Rd, off Vassell Road on the north edge of Myatts Field North estate (N of Brixton/Loughborough Junction and SE of Oval tube):
The site is owned by the council and was a care home that was demolished around 5 years ago (planning decision here) – it’s been a pile of rubble since then. After the council closed the care home, the building was squatted and became the home of 100 people making use of Lambeth’s abandoned property for 2 years before the council violently evicted them. It’s vital to challenge a council that considers a rubble heap preferable to homeless people housing themselves.
We know that councils love to do ‘consultations’ with communities and then make up their own results. Let’s send them a strong message that can’t be distorted – this site should be 100% council housing.
With 21,000 families on the housing waiting list and a growing housing crisis (and the 1,000 new council homes that Lambeth’s Labour council have promised) the Patmos Rd site should be used for 100% council housing, seeing as it won’t have the cost of buying the land (which accounts for a big proportion of housing costs in London).
There’s a ‘drop-in consultation event’ on Thursday 25 May 2-8pm at Myatts Field North Centre, 24 Crawshay Road, Brixton, SW9 6FZ.
You can also complete a ‘feedback form’ here:
(There’s no deadline given, but presumably it won’t be around forever…)
Let them know Lambeth needs council housing – but we need to do more than just fill out forms and speak to them, we need to organise and take action together so that they can’t ignore our demands. Stay in touch and get involved in HASL!

Barnet council – Accommodation without a kitchen is not suitable!

ETA TA FULL PIC

A homeless member of HASL , who is also a survivor of domestic violence, has been housed by Barnet council out of the borough in a room with no cooking facilities and which has badly affected her health. She has been left in this completely unsuitable accommodation* for 10 weeks  now and the council had not responded to the lawyer representing the HASL member until last week. The council have finally accepted the accommodation is unsuitable but have not given any timescale for when they will actually move her.

She has yet again been left in limbo about her homeless duty by Barnet council. A homeless duty had been accepted by Kensington & Chelsea council in November 2016, who referred the case to Barnet council as Kensington and Chelsea decided that she had a local connection there – despite our member’s strong arguments that she wished to be housed by K&C as she had a local connection there also. Barnet should be honouring this homeless duty. Instead they have been denying that it existed and have made the HASL member provide documentation numerous times. The delays have also meant she has no housing waiting list account and does not know which Band they will place her in.

Barnet council’s treatment of our member is totally unacceptable. We know these cases are not ‘one offs’; they highlight the very poor provision and treatment that homeless households and survivors of domestic violence are forced to endure. From denying emergency accommodation, not opening and processing homelessness applications, and not giving a duty when a duty has already been accepted. But together, through supporting each other in our group, we demand better! We demand Barnet Council houses her in suitable accommodation within Barnet and accepts the homeless duty that Kensington & Chelsea council found she needed.

*Why the accomodation is unsuitable? The HASL member has a complex medical history, being under the Integrated Disability team in Lambeth, Adult social services in Barnet  and has carers to assist her. The HASL member has been placed in accommodation with no kitchen or access to warm food, no kettle, no microwave. She has been placed in a accommodation limiting her carer to carry out her care needs and placed in a room with not enough space for mobility and care equipment. The HASL member’s basic human rights have been breached as well of her continued placement resulting in injuries and determent to her physical, psychological and emotional well being. She feels that Barnet have continuously  treated and discriminated  her this way as she has no where to go and due to her disabilities is scared of being street homeless.

 

A quote the affected member found particularly important:

quote-where-after-all-do-universal-human-rights-begin-in-small-places-close-to-home-eleanor-roosevelt-57-54-05

Online actions work – shame on St Mungo’s

homesNOTbordersHASL’s FOI requests recently revealed that three prominent homelessness charities including St Mungo’s were collaborating with the Home Office’s policy of arresting, detaining and deporting rough sleeping EEA migrants. The full reports are available here and here.

We noticed that St Mungo’s were scheduled to speak at four high-profile legal conferences in London and Manchester. They were also due to receive donations from the conference delegates.

St Mungo’s were going to talk about homelessness and migration rights, and homelessness and the criminal law. That is deeply ironic. It is difficult for many people to understand how St Mungo’s had become involved with the legally shaky policy of deporting EEA rough sleepers on the bizarre basis that they are ‘abusing their treaty rights’.

HASL, NELMA and others contacted the organisers of the conference. We also contacted the lawyers who were due to speak. Originally the organisers said that they were giving St Mungo’s the opportunity to respond – but we pointed out that they had already done so in the national press. Nothing St Mungo’s said justified their involvement in deporting homeless people against their will. Of course, nothing could justify it.

Within a few days the organisers had pulled the St Mungo’s speakers and removed them as recipients of donations. Our online action worked.

The fact that this action was so effective shows how strongly people feel about these homeless charities’ actions. People won’t tolerate the vile practice of deporting people because they have become homeless. People won’t stand with those who are complicit with the Home Office’s racist scheme.

Schools, landlords, hospitals – borders are everywhere. It’s extremely difficult for migrants to trust officials and institutions, and St Mungo’s complicity with the Home Office has done irreparable damage by adding to the suspicion, wariness and fear that many vulnerable migrants feel. It’s so important that there are lawyers who are on their side, and who oppose these racist practices. We’re really glad that the Immigration Law Friends Society and Criminal Law Friends Society decided to stand with us in making sure that St Mungo’s actions are not legitimised. We welcome the opportunity to work with lawyers who support migrants’ and housing rights.

Southwark council’s appalling treatment of overcrowded families – join our online actions

cabinet-meeting

Sign our petition here to demand Southwark council stop blaming victims of the housing crisis and give the families the help they are entitled to.

Join our twitter storm this Tuesday 2nd May from 1pm as well to demand immediate action from the council on these urgent cases. Please tweet housing councillor @steviecryan and council leader @peterjohn6

Families who have faced homelessness and lived for years in unacceptable, overcrowded conditions are being denied priority on the housing register by Southwark council and the vital housing help they need.

A hateful and harmful decision by the council say that 4 HASL families caused their overcrowded housing conditions by a ‘deliberate act’.

No one would choose to live in these terrible conditions, with some families living in one small room for a number of years. In HASL, we’ve seen directly the impact this housing (and Southwark council’s treatment) has had on the families. You can watch a video we made here.

The council’s decision letter goes so far as to question why the families came to Southwark. Why are Southwark council getting a head start on implementing racist Brexit policies by denying vulnerable migrant families their rights?

We are calling on the council to immediately put the families in the priority band 1 that they qualify for so they can access the secure and suitable housing they desperately need.

Southwark council must stop blaming victims of the housing crisis.

Southwark council are making their vulnerable residents take them to court for the help they are entitled to. The legal process is stressful and can take many months. Southwark council must not put their residents through this and must resolve the situation immediately. 

El tratamiento pésimo desde el council de Southwark a las familias viviendo en hogares súperpoblados 
Southwark le está negando prioridad en el registro de hogares a las familias que se han quedado sin hogar y han vivido por años en condiciones inaceptables y superpobladas.
La decisión detestable y dañina por parte del council dice que cuatro familias de HASL han causado su situación de superpoblación por un ‘acto intencionado.’
Nadie elegiría vivir en esas condiciones horribles, con algunas familias viviendo en una habitación pequeña por varios años. Desde HASL, hemos visto el impacto negativo que las viviendas (y el tratamiento de Southwark) ha tenido en las familias.
La carta de decisión del council hasta cuestiona por qué las familias vinieron a Southwark. A través de la negación de los derechos a familias inmigrantes, ¿será que Southwark está empezando temprano con la implementación de las políticas racistas de Brexit?
Estamos demandando que el council immediatamente ponga a las familias en el ‘priority band 1’, en el cual tienen el derecho de estar, para que puedan acceder a los hogares seguros y estables que desesperadamente necesitan.
El council de Southwark debe parar de culpar a las víctimas de la crisis de vivienda.
Southwark está obligando que sus residentes vulnerables los lleven a la corte para poder acceder a la ayuda que legalmente se les debe. Este proceso es complicado y puede tardar meses, el council no debe poner a sus residentes bajo ese estrés y debe resolver esta situación inmediatamente.

Council homes and affordable cinema for all – our plan for Southwark

Southwark council are conducting a ‘public consultation’ on their New Southwark Plan, a draft plan of future developments in the borough. This public consultation closes on Friday 28th April. Southwark council’s plans for our borough look pretty huge and it’s hard to get your head around, especially with the fast approaching deadline, and if like many people in the borough lots of your time is spent trying to house yourself, support others and generally just survive. Despite the ‘public consultation’, it’s likely that you haven’t had your ideas concerning your neighborhood and borough listened to.

The threat to the PeckhamPlex cinema, one of the few affordable cinemas left in London, has caught the local headlines. There’s a template letter here calling for the current plans for the PeckhamPlex to be put on hold. And other community and public spaces are under threat too –such as the Peckham Arch in front of Peckham library (petition to save it here) and grassy plots in Peckham.

After Southwark’s terrible reputation for destroying council housing and doing terrible deals with developers (just look at the Heygate estate and the Aylesbury estate), the council are promising lots of new homes as part of the Southwark Plan. But their mantra of ‘homes, homes, homes’ is deceptive. Southwark desperately needs council homes, particularly for those with high housing need on the housing register, not ‘affordable’ homes or private rented homes. And homes should not come at the cost of community spaces.

Think that ‘regeneration’ shouldn’t look like this? Struggling or don’t want to fill in their in inaccessible and confusing consultation? Concerned about rent rises, poor housing and gentrification we’re already experiencing in our communities? Don’t worry, together we can make sure that there are plenty more ways to highlight and assert the needs of our communities and neighborhoods – council housing, community spaces, and affordable cinema for all!

The New Southwark Plan consultation can be viewed and responded to online here. Although it looks like it’s only available in English – so many of Southwark’s residents who do not have English as a first language, or literacy, or internet access are already excluded. Whether you fill it out or not, get involved in HASL to organise collective action on housing and poverty issues in our communities.