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:
HASL’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.
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.
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.
Using Freedom Of Information requests sent to London councils, we looked at how hundreds of homeless households are being forced out of their home communities and out of London into private rented housing or else facing destitution. You can read our full report HASL report on private sector discharge -final
The Guardian has covered the research here
We wrote about our findings for Novara Media here
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.