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!