The winter holidays are always a nice time of the year to look back at what we’ve been up to and what we’ve achieved together. Of course, whilst it’s important to celebrate our wins, sometimes there is not always a quick and easy solution to our housing problems, or to the wider and growing housing crisis we face. Direct action and practical solidarity don’t always succeed the first time (or the second or third!), so some of our members are still struggling for justice and the good housing they need. Each day, the housing crisis in London feels like it’s intensifying. But we know that we’re stronger by being part of the group and supporting each other. We’ll use this time to get some rest and come back with more energy in 2017 – we hope you’ll join us!
These wins and activities only happened with the collective efforts of our members and supporters. Organising together and supporting each other, we’ve seen directly how we can fight and get better housing and challenge the policies, politicians and practices that try to deny us the quality, secure, homes we all need. Thanks to everyone who has been involved in HASL and helped us grow!
As well as strong support from members and supporters of HASL, throughout the year we have built links and worked in solidarity with other groups across London. Thanks so much to our mates and sister groups – the London Coalition Against Poverty, English for Action, North East London Migrant Action, Espacio Mama, Queen Mob Collective, Anti-Raids Network, London Campaign Against Police and State Violence, South East London Sisters Uncut and more.
Hundreds of HASL members and supporters supported a local squatted school (which had been unused for a number of years) in Camberwell emailing the headmaster and asking why he was making people homeless from the disused building. The headmaster was certainly taken about by the strong local response challenging homelessness and evictions, although on this occasion it was not enough to prevent the eviction.
Action A mass visit to Lambeth council’s housing office to hold them to account over gatekeeping and poor treatment of our member Mary Luz. Mary Luz and her family would have been in secure council housing by now if the council hadn’t mistreated and gatekept her.
Skillshare/workshop In February, HASL, English for Action and Haringey Housing Action Group joined the newly formed North East London Migrant Action to run a workshop looking at section 17 migrant housing and buddy training. The training day was really well attended and we learnt so much together about the legal side of section 17 housing and how to buddy each other to challenge the aggressive gatekeeping we face when trying to access housing help. It was really useful to skill share buddying tactics and problems and it’s great to see NELMA’s project developing to provide practical support for migrants at section 17 assessments. We’ll share our resources and notes soon.
Action With our friends London Coalition Against Poverty, we joined the National March Against the Housing Bill
Lunch club in Brixton with crepe making
Action We organise an even bigger and louder action in support of Mary Luz outside Olive Morris House. We try to deliver a cardboard house to the Leader of Lambeth council but we’re pushed out by security. Lambeth make a concession by increasing Mary Luz’s banding on the housing waiting list to band B but the council have still not apologised for the appalling treatment and gatekeeping Mary Luz was subjected to.
Win! Together with South East London Sisters Uncut, we organised a twitter storm in support of our member – a domestic violence survivor – who was facing eviction from temporary housing provided by Southwark council. Hundred of tweets in support forced councillor for housing Richard Livingstone to tweet a public apology and a full homeless duty was accepted. Politics.co.uk covered the case here.
Skillshare/workshop We’ve been running a number of housing rights workshops with English for Action classes in south London combining ESOL teaching with discussing the housing crisis and housing rights and action.
Lunch club Hanging out with our sister group Haringey Housing Action Group at their summer picnic. The weather was a bit chilly but HHAG members prepared a feast!
Solidarity/support Espacio Mama (a local mums group based in Camberwell) joined our regular meeting at Papa’s cafe making it our biggest ever meeting. We couldn’t all fit in the room!
Win! English for Action support one of their students who is living in dangerous and unsuitable temporary accommodation provided by Southwark council. EFA students wrote letters to Southwark council leader Peter John and sent tweets about the situation. These actions forced the council to act and they provided Kenza with suitable temporary accommodation.
Campaigning We launched our ‘pledge to end gatekeeping’ – targeted at Southwark council, but also relevant to all London local authorities. We invite local community groups and other anti-poverty campaigns to sign it to show their support.
Skillshare/workshop We ran a housing rights workshop at South East London Sisters Uncut occupied space in Peckham. We discussed housing rights and homelessness particularly in relation to survivors of domestic violence.
Lunch club Summer picnic in Burgess park
Win! Despite it being summer holidays, we had a busy meeting at Papa’s cafe where we celebrated one of our members whose family had just moved in to their new council home which they got with the support of HASL!
Action A number of our members joined hundreds of people outside Byron Burgers to protest their role in working with the Home Office to deport Byron staff. Lots of our members are migrants and we believe everyone has the right to live in our communities free from the threat of detention and deportation.
HASL meet with senior Southwark housing staff. We were really proud of all our badass HASL members who met with a number of Southwark senior housing officers to talk about the many issues we face accessing housing assistance. Our group was mostly women, many of whom don’t have English as a first language, confronting the four male Southwark staff. Our 18 year old member spoke about how his severely overcrowded housing affects his ability to study and lead an ordinary life of a teenager. Our member who has faced 33 years of domestic abuse was really brave and spoke about her situation of Southwark refusing her a homeless duty.
We emailed Lambeth councillor for housing Matthew Bennett about some of the serious gatekeeping and mistreatment of homeless people at the housing office, and requested that he meet us to resolve these issues. We’re still waiting for him to reply to our email…
Support / solidarity Our friends who were involved in resisting an immigration raid in East Street in June 2015 were on trial this month for ‘violent disorder’ for their actions after a violent police charge. We wrote a blog in support and attended the court over the four week trial. Two people were found not guilty but a third had a hung jury with a re-trial expected in April 2017.
Skillshare/workshop Our friends Queen Mob Collective ran a print workshop with our group teaching us how to screen print and lino cut awesome housing graphics at DIY Space for London.
Blogs Our member, a survivor of domestic violence who is homeless (living in a refuge counts you as homeless as this is not ‘settled accommodation’) writes about the difficulties she has faced trying to access the secure, council housing she needs.
Our members joined South East London Sisters Uncut for their meeting with Southwark council to makes demands on the treatment of domestic violence survivors trying to access housing help. One of our members, who is a survivor of domestic violence, bravely explained the shameful situation the council had left her in and demanded that the council take action to resolve it.
Win! Southwark council accept a full homeless duty to our member. It took 7 months of determination and effort for this win with the support of our group. It should never have taken 7 months for Southwark to provide this most basic support for our member. The last 7 months have been incredibly stressful and hard for her as she faced negative decisions from the council whilst her refuge served her notice. But together, public pressure made Southwark reverse their original decision that she was not vulnerable enough to qualify for a homeless duty. We’re some way away from the secure social housing she needs, and there are constantly new policies to make it even harder for us to access. But it’s important to celebrate this win.
Her lawyer emailed her to congratulate her on winning her case – here he recognised the incredible effort that our member and her supporters went to to achieve this decision!
Action 5 HASL families who are living in severely overcrowded housing, confront councillors about their cases in the cabinet meeting. Southwark council are failing to follow their own housing allocations policy and give these families the priority for social housing that they need and are entitled to.
Lunch club Our end of year celebration described by young HASL members as ‘the best party ever’!