The London Coalition Against Poverty is 10 years old this year. Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth also celebrates it’s 4th birthday this April. As we noted and celebrated in the recent LCAP general meeting, as groups of people directly affected by housing and other poverty issues, it’s an awesome achievement to be running for these lengths of time. Another theme of the meeting was the many success our groups have achieved recently. Despite compiling a long list of the problems we face – including issues relating to organising our groups, common housing problems we face, as well as much bigger issues and policies that affect and will affect us – our list of successes was actually longer.
Our most recent LCAP general meeting was hosted by HASL on Saturday 1st April. These general meetings bring together other groups in the coalition and other sister groups from across London who organise practical solidarity, mutual support and collective action. As well as the regular LCAP housing groups from across London, we were joined by Housing Action Greenwich and Lewisham, North East London Migrant Action, and Latin American Women’s Aid. The LCAP general meetings (which are supposed to happen every three months or so) are really valuable chances for our local groups to meet together to share tactics, ideas, problems, and experiences, as well as to discuss how we can co-ordinate and link up better between our groups.
For many groups in the coalition, local group meetings have been very busy, so it can be hard to step back and reflect on how we are doing things, how we can do things better, and how we get to the root causes of the problems affecting our communities. The LCAP general meetings provide a good space for this to happen and where we can discuss answers to the problems and questions we have together. As with our local group meetings, where we raise housing problems we are facing and try to deal with them collectively, LCAP meetings help us deal with group organising and wider issues collectively, sharing years of experience and giving you much needed energy and strength.
Many of our members have children and children’s activities at all of our meetings is something we are trying hard to improve (to one day look something like this!). For this LCAP meeting we had three adults who helped facilitate children’s activities, including the creation of a beautiful ‘homes not borders’ banner. The children themselves also provided a helpful reminder towards the end of the meeting that it was time to finish and have cake; they did this by running around us in a circle with increasing ferocity.
During the meeting we split into smaller groups to focus on a topic or issue that we wanted to work on and to make it easier for people to contribute to the discussion. We looked at internal group issues: how to increase membership and build a group up and how to share out work within our groups. For wider issues we looked at: housing and migrant rights, private landlords, and the introduction of 5 year council tenancies as part of the Housing and Planning Act. We made sure our discussions were action point focussed so that we could return as a big group with some concrete steps.
Our small discussion groups generated lots of good ideas and plans that we’ll be working on putting into action. The meeting also gave us energy for building stronger links between each other and organising more together. Sometimes north London can feel very far away, but it was so valuable and fun talking with our friends from Haringey and Hackney. Meeting others from across London organising in similar ways reminded us that we’re much bigger than we thought we were.