HASL’s 2017 end of year blog

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It has been another busy and exciting year for our housing group. We’ve seen our group grow (both in numbers and in confidence!) and together we’ve achieved lots of important victories. The commitment and determination our members have shown to the group and to each other has helped the group grow and achieve more together, both on our individual cases and in building a strong network of practical solidarity and action across south London. We had to change our meeting venues as we were too overcrowded in our old meeting rooms. We’ve started an almost-regular kids club for HASL children. We’ve also seen lots of our long-term members move into council housing and we’ve seen how the security, adequate space, and cheaper rents have transformed the lives of these members. We’ve also helped members improve their housing situations by helping them with homeless applications, supporting them to challenge unsuitable temporary accommodation, challenging private landlords over deposits and disrepair and helping to stop a number of evictions.

 

Here are some of our highlights of the year – but these are just a selection of things that we have been up to. We’ve been organising on a pretty much daily basis, providing help and information, support, buddying, food and friendship for each other. We have our 2 meetings each month which have been really busy and where we provide most of our support for each other. We are learning and enforcing our rights together and helping each other. We campaign for more than the rights we currently have as these do not protect us enough – we want good quality, secure, truly affordable homes for everyone and our lives and communities free from poverty. As people dealing with serious housing and poverty problems, organising this practical solidarity is a massive achievement.

 

We know that the housing and poverty crisis we face in London and beyond is huge. But we’ve seen that acting together we can get important wins and fight for our needs and communities. In 2018 we’ll continue to fight for the good quality council homes in our communities that we all desperately need and deserve (and against the government’s plans to introduce fixed-term council tenancies), along with local campaigns such as challenging Southwark council’s use of hostel accommodation and Lambeth council’s confusing homeless ‘assistance’.

 

Thanks to all our members and supporters for all your help over the last year! A big thanks to all the other wonderful groups we’ve had such fun organising with including English for Action and North East London Migrant Action. We’re part of the London Coalition Against Poverty – you can sign up to our irregular email newsletter here for news, events and how to get involved.

 

January

 

A busy and productive meeting in January!

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We also joined the first meeting of migrant and housing groups – organised by North East London Migrant Action – looking at ways to resist the government policy detaining and deporting EEA nationals who are rough sleeping. (more on this below including victory!!)

 

February

 

We visited Lambeth County Court 4 times in February and early March supporting our members facing eviction from private rented housing. Going to court is a really stressful experience – no one should do it alone! There was a big gang of us in Lambeth County Court and it really helped to have so much help and support – although it was still a stressful experience no one should have to go through!

 

We ran a housing rights workshop with Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union at Mayday rooms making links between our two groups and sharing basic housing rights and plans for action.

 

Screening of I, Daniel Blake organised by DIY Space for London followed by a Q&A with us afterwards.

 

March

 

HASL families living in overcrowded housing made a short video to highlight their situations and as part of their ongoing campaign for Southwark council to take urgent action on overcrowding.

 

We helped with Freedom of Information requests to learn more about how the Home Office, local councils and homeless charities were conducting raids on EEA national rough sleepers to detain and deport them. Corporate Watch turned this into a report here. North East London Migrant action have been organising campaigning and resistance to challenge this racist and hateful policy, including the court case in November. This policy was found to be unlawful by the court in December! A brilliant example of grassroots solidarity and campaigning combined with legal action.

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The Brixton Blog covered some of our Lambeth council gatekeeping stories.

 

April

 

We hosted the London Coalition Against Poverty general meeting and wrote about it here. It’s great to meet our sister groups from across London and organise and socialise together. We shared lots of successes, tactics, and made plans and good action points.

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We ran a housing rights workshop with the brilliant English For Action at one of their classes in Lambeth. Their students were really engaged as we discussed the housing rights we have and things that we can do to get more!

 

Our research from Freedom of Information requests looking at how London councils are forcing homeless families out of London was published in the Guardian. You can read our full report here. We wrote up our findings for Novara Media here

 

May

 

We organised a twitter storm and launched a petition in support of our long-term members who were being denied help by Southwark council for their severely overcrowded and unacceptable living conditions. Later on in the year, the families all eventually got the council housing they desperately needed, but they should never have faced such poor treatment from the council.

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With many of our members concerned about what Brexit would mean for them and their families, we contacted Southwark Law Centre who came to deliver a ‘Know Your Rights’ workshop for us.

 

We featured in the Southwark News talking about our experiences of out-of-borough temporary accommodation.

 

We decided to canvas the Labour canvassers who had been leafleting in our Walworth area. We confronted the Labour canvassers demanding their commitment to immediate action on our serious housing cases that we presented them with. Whilst they made empty promises to look into the cases, we also leafleted and held our ‘No More Overcrowding’ banner outside Morrisons and received a very warm response from passersby.

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June

 

Brilliant and very useful blog from EFA London (English for Action) helping us to talk about and understand the Grenfell tragedy and how as people dealing with bad and unsuitable housing, we can organise for the safe, secure homes we all need.

 

We had our first kids homework club in Peckham library. Lots of HASL kids are dealing with really stressful and unsuitable housing, so it’s nice to have a space centred around them and to make our activities more kid friendly!

 

We had some of our research looking at how London councils are forcing homeless families out of the city published in Legal Action magazine.

 

July

 

We helped run a workshop at the Get Organised! day long event for grassroots groups to skill share and build links together.

 

August

 

HASL summer BBQ in Burgess Park.

 

Our member Alvaro and his family spoke about living in overcrowded housing and Southwark council’s disgusting treatment of them for Channel 4 news – we were very proud of them! We wrote about their case and four other families also in overcrowded housing for Verso’s blog here.

 

September

 

Homemade cheesecake and lasagne at our kids club!

 

October

 

We helped run a packed workshop on organising practical solidarity at the London Anarchist Bookfair with our friends Haringey Housing Action Group, Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty and Brighton Solfed. We also had a very stylish stall with lots of housing rights leaflets as well as screen printed t-shirts and tote bags.

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November

 

We joined the brilliant United Voices of the World the union at their monthly meeting to talk about housing rights and how we fight for the secure, quality council homes we all need.

The UVW members were so welcoming and engaged with the workshop – it was so much fun to join them. We can’t wait to work together more as there is so much overlap between the issues we are dealing with and our organising tactics!

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We supported an important court case challenging the racist Home Office policy of detaining and deporting EEA nationals who were rough sleeping. This court case was organised by our friends North East London Migrant Action who have been campaigning and resisting this hateful policy.

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We helped with an in-depth interview about our organising here for Shine A Light.

 

December

 

Southwark council threatened to evict one of our members and force her to Nottingham where they say she has a ‘local connection’. We helped to guarantee her an extra month in her temporary accommodation, but we want the council to accept a full homeless duty to our member and house her in suitable temporary accommodation. We’ll be supporting our member to challenge the council’s appalling treatment of her.

 

Our busy last meeting of the year with cake that one of our members made for us!
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HASL cake

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