Please support our letter action in support of our member Y who is facing eviction by Optivo (now Southern Housing). Over 200 letters have already been sent to Optivo’s CEO in support of our member. Send yours using our quick online tool here.
Optivo housing association served him with a section 21 eviction notice saying that the property where he has lived for the last 7 years “is no longer used for the Eritrean Community”. We think this is a racist eviction.
We are calling on Optivo housing association:
· Stop this eviction and to urgently re-house our member in local social housing – as they originally promised.
· Optivo must end the use of section 21 no-fault eviction notices against their tenants.
· Optivo must ensure that their tenants from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are treated fairly and with respect and not singled out for eviction.
On Monday this week, we were in court with our member where we successfully stopped Optivo’s Possession Order so Optivo can’t evict him for now. It was great to have so many members at the court showing their support for our member ‘Y’.
But our campaign continues to make sure that our member is safely re-housed in local social housing as he has been promised in the past by Optivo. The housing association’s handling of this case shows they have a long way to go to gain the trust of our member and other black, Asian and minority ethnic tenants.
Our friends Social Housing Action Campaign (SHAC) have written an excellent blog about our member’s case other cases where housing associations have subjected their tenants to racist treatment.
It’s been another extremely challenging year for people who are living in bad housing conditions, who are homeless, and who are struggling on a low-income. This year we have seen a huge increase in rent rises, threats of eviction, and councils using hotels to accommodate homeless families – on top of the common housing problems such as overcrowded housing and issues with temporary accommodation that our group usually deals with. These are all signs of how bad the London housing crisis has got. Our meetings have been the busiest they have ever been with almost all of our meetings having over 100 people, with many of our members facing very urgent issues.
But there are lots of reasons to be hopeful. Our group is bigger and stronger than ever! We organised one of the biggest housing protests in years calling for the high-quality family-sized council homes we need. One HASL family won a huge victory in the High Court over Southwark council’s cruel treatment of overcrowded families. We have been able to run face to face meetings again after 2 years on zoom. We have worked with other grassroots groups and organisations sharing information on housing rights and our experiences of organising. We have helped our members to understand and enforce their housing and homeless rights which has stopped evictions and helped members facing unlawful gatekeeping to get temporary accommodation. With our support 32 HASL members and families have been able to move from temporary accommodation and other poor housing conditions into permanent social housing.
Every day across south London we are supporting people to understand and enforce their housing rights, we let people know that they are not alone, and we campaign for the good council homes we all need and deserve.
A big thank you to all our HASL members and supporters for your continued support. Our group is run by our members and the group would not function without everyone’s participation. Thank you to everyone who has helped in any way – participating in our group meetings, helping with translation/interpretation, telling friends about the group, liking our social media posts, joining protests, helping to make videos and so much more! We’ve also loved working together with our friends Public Interest Law Centre and English for Action and many other groups and new friends we’ve made over the year.
We hope everyone can have a good rest over the winter holidays and we’re looking forward to returning with even more energy, strength and solidarity in the new year!
Here are some of our 2022 highlights.
London’s biggest protest for 3, 4, 5 bed council homes
HASL’s October half-term holiday protest saw over 300 HASL members and friends march from Parliament Square to Downing street with our demand for the high-quality 3, 4, & 5 bed council homes we need and deserve!
Children destroyed a squalid temporary accommodation pinata and a housing waiting list pinata. Housing waiting lists and temporary accommodation should not exist because everyone should have good housing!
Huge High Court victory for Milton and his family over Southwark council’s cruel treatment of overcrowded families
On 24th May, the High Court overturned Southwark council’s cruel ‘deliberate act’ decision blaming Milton and his family for living in severely overcrowded housing. This is a huge victory for the family and for all our HASL members and supporters who have campaigned tirelessly for years. On the day of the High Court case, HASL members were there to show their support for the family. This important judgement will also support other families who find themselves in overcrowded and unsuitable housing due to the housing crisis.
Shortly after Milton and his family were placed in their rightful position in band 1 on the housing waiting list, they were able to successfully get a beautiful housing association home. Viewing their new home Milton’s daughter remarked “the living room is the same size as our old flat”. Milton and his family came to our HASL meeting to thank the group for our support and celebrate together: “Thank you to everyone in the group who came to protest in support of us. We had to submit so many documents [as part of their 4 year long case]. We couldn’t have done it without the support of the group. We will keep on fighting for everyone.”
Face to face meetings
This year saw us return to our regular face to face meetings two times a month after 2 years of zoom meetings. To help make the face to face meetings as safe as possible from Covid 19 we have been providing and wearing high-quality medical masks. Our face to face meetings have been busier than ever with almost all the meetings having over 100 people attending. A big thanks to all our members who have been helping to run these meetings as smoothly as possible. It’s been great to meet again in person and we’re so happy to have our Saturday kids’ activities running again with our amazing kids team.
Too Long in Temporary – Lambeth protest
In May, HASL members descended on Lambeth council’s Civic centre and held a noisy protest in support of Janeth and her family who have lived in temporary accommodation for 8 years. Insultingly Lambeth council deemed her husband’s recent cancer diagnosis to be a ‘less urgent medical need’. Shortly after our group protest, Lambeth council finally accepted that the family had an urgent need for social housing and have placed them in a higher position on the housing waiting list. But a shortage of 4 bed council homes means the family still face too long in temporary. MyLondon’s Ruby Gregory covered our member’s story and our group protest in her article here.
The reason Janeth and others have lived so long in temporary accommodation is because Lambeth council put all homeless households at the bottom of the housing waiting list meaning that they faced very very long waits for social housing. We’ll be continuing our Too Long in Temporary campaign in support of Lambeth homeless families who are trapped in temporary accommodation.
Some of our members’ victories
All throughout the year we have been supporting members to learn and enforce their housing and homeless rights and providing each other with vital emotional and moral support. We have buddied our members at their homeless assessments, helped them to find good lawyers to challenge terrible homeless decisions, helped our members to challenge unsuitable temporary accommodation, and helped them get their correct position on the housing waiting list. We have attended court 5 times with our members facing eviction to provide them with moral support through the stressful eviction process – in all but one case, the judges dismissed the landlord’s cases and our members were able to stay in their homes. In the one unsuccessful court support case we then got the council to offer the family social housing due to the high needs of their children.
With our support 32 HASL members and families have been able to move from temporary accommodation and other poor housing conditions into permanent social housing. We’re so happy for our members who have been able to move into secure social housing but we know the hardship and difficulties they suffered before they were finally able to get their new homes. In HASL, we know how life-changing it is to have a permanent home in our local community and each victory inspires us to keep on fighting for the high-quality, safe, secure, family-sized council housing we all need and deserve.
One of our members had been living in a single room in a hostel with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities for over 10 years. She had wrongly been placed at the bottom of the housing waiting list by Southwark council. We helped her to get the correct banding and took our complaint to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman who ordered Southwark to make a direct offer of permanent housing. Our member finally has her own council flat. “I don’t have enough words to say thank you. Only I can say God bless you. You Change my life. If it weren’t for you I will be still in the hostel. Any way thank you again…Staff in the council they do whatever they want for the people like me (immigrants ) because we don’t know what the legal thing for our right. But I am sure a lot will win because of your help.”
One HASL family who were able to move to permanent council housing recently was a mother and her young daughter who is autistic. They were living in a cramped 1 bedroom private rented flat where they had suffered the constant threat of eviction with their landlord serving them 5 eviction notices over 6 years. With the support of HASL and a good legal aid housing lawyer, they were awarded the top band on the housing waiting list and within weeks were able to bid for a ground floor 2 bedroom council home. Our member came to our meeting to celebrate and she told us how her daughter was so happy to finally have her own bedroom.
Protecting Southwark homeless families’ rights
In last year’s 2021 end of year blog, we described how Southwark council were forced to settle a judicial review case that 2 HASL members took against them for operating an unlawful policy pushing homeless families into private rented housing and families in temporary accommodation further down the housing waiting list. As a result of the legal challenge that was taken by Camden Community Law Centre, Southwark council ended this so-called ‘trial policy’. This year, another HASL member started judicial review proceedings against the ongoing impact of Southwark’s unlawful “trial” on families in temporary accommodation who had been pushed down the waiting list. In order to avoid going to the High Court, Southwark council made our member a direct offer of permanent housing. This was a good outcome for our member but it meant that Southwark council was not made to explain their policy in the High Court. We are still working on getting accountability on this important issue for Southwark households and ensuring that it is never happens again.
We have loved attending workshops and events with other housing groups, community groups and other social justice organisations. We’ve enjoyed talking about HASL and sharing our experiences of organising mutual support and collective action on housing and we have loved listening and learning from others and finding ways to work together. We spoke at a London Tenants Federation meetings about our experiences of overcrowding in social housing and we also joined the Homes for Us Assembly. We ran housing rights workshops with our good friends at PACT (Mums Space and Espacio Mama) and our new friends Hope and Unity. We spoke at Medact’s event ‘A People’s Economy: the fight for health and economic justice’ about how housing and health are closely linked and also invited Medact members to one of our Saturday group meetings. We also attended the Socialist Agenda for Southwark event with other local campaign groups. We spoke at the Public Interest Law Centre AGM about our experiences in HASL and practical tips for showing solidarity and we attended a special event organised by PILC for the launch of two brilliant pamphlets on homelessness and solidarity – Solidarity not charity: activist interventions in housing and homelessness and ‘Ch**owo ale bojowo’ (‘Things are f*cked but we don’t give up’): in memory of those we’ve lost
All year, our members have been busy speaking to the media about our experiences living in temporary accommodation and mould ridden, overcrowded private rented housing and other housing problems. In their interviews, our members have been highlighting the desperate need for high-quality, family-sized council homes. It can be scary and difficult speaking to the media, especially when we’re already dealing with the stress of bad housing, but our members have been incredible.
Our Fowsiyo and HASL kids feature in this Owen Jones video at the Home Office protest against the government’s inhumane Rwanda policy
HASL members are quoted in this Observer article on build to rent.
Grace spoke to Open Democracy about being forced out of her home borough of Lambeth and living in cold, dilapidated private rented housing as well as her important legal victory over Lambeth council
Our protest for 3, 4, 5 bed council homes featured in this article in the Observer!
Karen spoke to My London about facing eviction from temporary accommodation
Maria spoke with My London about mould and fungus growing in her private rented flat
A big thanks to Ruby Gregory for her excellent and sensitive reporting on housing cases across south London.
We had our biggest summer picnic in the summer holidays with over 200 people attending. We didn’t quite have enough pizza and chocolate cake (even though we had 3 huge chocolate cakes!) for everyone, but we will make sure that we do next time. At the picnic HASL children coloured in placards for our October protest and also made a video to help promote our protest.
As well as supporting each other with housing problems in the group meetings, more and more of our members are telling us about the long-term health issues and disabilities that they are struggling with. We have been sign-posting our members to the wonderful Z2K for help claiming disability benefits and help challenging poor decisions by the DWP.
We attended a protest organised by SOAS Detainee Support against the government’s cruel and inhumane Rwanda policy. We will always fight in solidarity with asylum seekers, refugees, and all migrants. No one is illegal and everyone deserves a safe place to call home.
HASL joined the nurses picket outside our local hospital, St Thomas’. The NHS is very close to HASL’s heart. Members of our group who are living in temporary accommodation, overcrowded and other poor housing also work in the NHS as cleaners, nurses and healthcare assistants. We will always show solidarity with our members in their work places. Many of our members are also patients, some are struggling to access the high-quality care they need and are stuck on long waiting lists. Some have very positive experiences of the NHS. We need high quality council housing and high quality health care for everyone! You can spot our banner in this video
Our members – and many Londoners – are trapped living in squalid temporary accommodation and dangerous overcrowded housing for years. We know that the solution to the housing crisis is more safe, secure, family-sized council homes. We’re sick of waiting for years on long housing waiting lists.
Last week, HASL’s half-term holiday protest saw over 300 HASL members and friends march from Parliament Square to Downing street with our demand for the high-quality 3, 4, & 5 bed council homes we need and deserve!
We met at Parliament Square Gardens where children decorated house and number shaped biscuits (3, 4, 5 of course!) and then we marched on Downing street. Outside Downing street, we made lots of noise and sang chants with our demands – “How many rooms do we need to thrive? 3-4-5! 3-4-5!”. Children destroyed a squalid temporary accommodation pinata and a housing waiting list pinata. Housing waiting lists and temporary accommodation should not exist because everyone should have good housing!
At our group meeting after the protest we were still buzzing and energised from our protest!
There has been some amazing media coverage of our protest
All these activities and bigger, busier meetings mean that the costs of running our group have also increased. We’ve moved to a new bigger venue and our refreshments costs have also risen. Housing organising is hungry work and we want to make sure all our members are properly hydrated and have a healthy snack. Our new costs include making sure we have medical masks for everyone at our group meetings so that we can run them as safely as possible.
We don’t have a membership fee for HASL because many of our members are already in financial hardship and our members give so much of their time and energies running the group. So instead we ask for supporters to set up solidarity standing orders to give the equivalent of membership fees.
These standing orders from our amazing supporters help to cover our basic running costs. But we need more of you! From our experience, having supporters with regular standing orders is the best way to fund our group – it’s a way to build solidarity and the HASL family, it helps to keep our group truly independent, it means we can focus on energies on housing organising (rather than doing grant applications) and it’s a sustainable funding model so we’re confident we can meet our basic costs.
If you or someone you know have secure housing with a stable income, please consider setting up a £4 a month standing order to support our group. Send us an email at haslfinance[at]gmail.com and we’ll send you instructions on setting up a standing order. When we’re doing our accounts, the best thing is seeing all our supporters’ names on the bank statements!
Please help us spread the word to help us reach our target of 50 new standing order supporters.
More about our funding
HASL’s basics costs include hall hire, meeting refreshments, crafts for children’s activities, medical masks, printing, and protest props!
Our running costs are funded by our supporters’ standing orders. We also have a Trust for London grant which pays for our 2 housing group co-ordinators who are paid for 2 days and 1 day a week.
HASL is a completely independent group, we do not support any political party. We believe that with mutual support and collective action we can win together and fight for the high-quality council homes we need and deserve.
In the run up to local elections, political parties and those running to be councillors can be found making all kinds of promises.
Housing and homelessness will be key issues in these local elections.
We wanted to share some of our experiences of our local councils over the last 4 years and highlight the changes and action that need to happen now on homelessness, housing, and poverty in our boroughs. We hope that our experiences might help you to think of questions and issues to raise with people asking for your vote!
If you do get any answers from prospective councillors on these issues, please let us know! Send us an email haslcases[at]gmail.com
As you’ll see, as Southwark residents at the worst end of the housing crisis our experiences of dealing with Southwark council have been overwhelmingly negative. But don’t lose hope! Over the last 4 years with the efforts and determination of our members, we’ve won countless victories which have seen our members move into beautiful council housing and win other vital housing rights.
We welcome those running as councillors to take action now on the issues we’re raising. Your support is long overdue.
Blaming and punishing families in overcrowded housing for the housing crisis
Southwark families in some of the most overcrowded housing in the borough have been repeatedly blamed by the council for the overcrowding and penalised on the housing waiting list. Southwark council use the cruel ‘deliberate act’ term to refuse families in severely overcrowded housing the chance to urgently move to more suitable housing. We have repeatedly pointed out to the council and councillors how their use of ‘deliberate act’ targets families of colour and migrant families. Back in December 2020, a HASL family successfully challenged the council’s use of ‘deliberate act’ in the Court of Appeal but the council seem to be ignoring this judgement.
But right now, Southwark council are going to the High Court again to defend their ‘deliberate act’ decision that they have been punishing Milton’s family with for years. Their hateful decision told Milton that he should not have re-united with his wife and children here in London and that he should have left them on another continent! It is shocking and shameful that Southwark council are using public money, time, and resources to go to court.
We’ve also seen Southwark council threaten to prosecute vulnerable private tenants living in severely overcrowded housing for their housing conditions instead of taking on the slum private landlords!
‘Thought About Going Back to Peru?’ – Council Asks Family in UK Since 2004
As covered in Vice in December last year, a HASL member seeking housing support from the council was asked if she had ‘thought about going back to Peru?’ to solve her overcrowded housing. Our HASL member has 3 children who were all born here and have lived in Southwark for almost 2 decades in a single room – the family have suffered some of the most severe overcrowding we have ever come across. After this interview, unsurprisingly, the council decided that the family’s overcrowding was a ‘deliberate act’.
This offensive and racist question was defended by Cllr Stephanie Cryan who said: “… our staff are meticulous in their questions to ensure fairness of outcome in the result.”
The family have not received an apology from the council and we have not had any reassurance that this will not happen again.
Trying to push through changes to the housing waiting list rules taking away housing rights
Last year during the severe lockdown, Southwark council pushed through a flawed consultation about major changes to the housing register waiting list rules affecting some of Southwark’s most vulnerable residents. At the time, ourselves and other organisations asked the council to ‘pause, amend and extend’ the consultation in order to allow people to have the time to fully engage and respond to changes that would seriously impact them for the next decade. But the council insisted that there was no time to amend and extend the consultation. In the end they only agreed to a 1 month extension. The consultation closed on 1st June 2021 but the council have not announced anything about the consultation since then. We recently heard that the new rules are likely to be announced after June 2022 over a year later. This date is conveniently after the May 2022 local election. Why were the council rushing through a consultation during lockdown and then abandoning it for a year? What are their plans that they can’t announce it before the May 2022 elections? It looks like they are playing politics with people’s lives.
Where is the social housing?
Council leader Kieron Williams stated in February 2021 “the truth is the number of council homes in Southwark is going up not down“. But the reality has been the opposite on Southwark Homesearch where households on the housing waiting list bid for social housing properties. Since Southwark Homesearch re-opened in September 2020 we have seen the fewest number of properties on Southwark Homesearch ever. We have repeatedly asked the council for an explanation for this dramatic reduction in the number of properties available on Southwark Homesearch but we have not received a response to this question. The reduction is also confusing when there are a number of new council and housing association developments across the borough which we would have expected would have resulted in an increase in the number of homes on Southwark Homesearch.
One factor we think may be playing a part in the reduction is the council’s unaccountable use of direct offers to some homeless families in temporary accommodation. We wrote an open letter to the council in February 2021 about this asking about their use of direct offers and with three clear points we wanted to be addressed. While the council did reply to the letter, the response did not fully address our points or give us clear answers. Southwark residents on the housing waiting list still remain in the dark about the council’s use of direct offers.
Families stuck in temporary accommodation for longer due to unlawful housing waiting list queue jumping policy
From until July 2019 and December 2020, Southwark council were running an unlawful housing policy in the housing office pushing homeless families into private rented housing and families in temporary accommodation further down the housing waiting list. There was no public information about this policy and it was only uncovered by the efforts of HASL members. This policy was basically widescale queue jumping facilitated by the council where new homeless applicants were encouraged to take private housing in return for a higher position on the housing waiting list above people who have been in temporary accommodation for longer. The council only stopped this unlawful policy after 2 HASL members took judicial review proceedings against the council and the council settled the case by stopping the scheme.
The unlawful scheme is having devastating consequences for families in temporary accommodation who will have years added onto their time in temporary accommodation. It has also caused confusion, distress, and distrust for people on the housing waiting list as a result of the council’s behaviour.
Long journeys to school from unsuitable temporary accommodation
Many Southwark homeless households are being housed across London and as far as Essex, far from their communities, support, and schools here in Southwark. Being homeless is difficult enough, but being forced out of your neighbourhood adds to the distress and daily difficulties faced by homeless families. We’ve supported numerous families to successfully get temporary accommodation back in their home borough. But Southwark’s process re-housing families back in in-borough temporary accommodation is not clear at all adding more distress in an already difficult time.
We know that Southwark council faces pressures in sourcing suitable temporary accommodation that are often beyond their control but the council should still be doing everything they can to ensure people are housed in-borough and a clear system for families to understand when they can expect to get in-borough temporary accommodation.
No time for the biggest housing group in the borough?
Despite our efforts, there is not any meaningful engagement or dialogue between HASL and Southwark council on the serious housing issues we have raised. We have sent numerous emails to councillors that have gone unanswered, we have had meetings which result in nothing. Back in March 2021, HASL members went to great efforts organising and facilitating a zoom meeting with Council Leader Kieron Williams and Cllr Stephanie Cryan raising the key homelessness and housing issues affecting our group. We sent an email with minutes and action points and this went unanswered. Nothing we discussed was followed up on by the councillors.
HASL is a group of hundreds of families and individuals facing the worst end of the housing crisis. It’s shameful that Southwark council have repeatedly refused to engage with our group.
It’s been another very challenging year – especially for people living in bad housing and struggling on a low-income. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, we have not been able to have our face to face meetings and instead we have been running weekly zoom meetings with our members. We had a few opportunities this year to come together as a group at our noise protest, summer picnic, and a housing meeting in Burgess park. It was amazing to see so many old and new HASL members in person at these events.
We’re really proud of everything we have achieved this year – if we can achieve this much by organising over zoom, just wait until we can meet in person again!
Over the year we have won victories big and small, we organised a massive response when our local councils tried to use the winter lockdown to take away important rights for people on the housing waiting list, we’ve stopped evictions, successfully challenged unlawful gatekeeping of homeless people, and helped people move from homelessness and slum housing into the safe and secure council homes they need. We’ve also launched our campaign for high quality, safe, secure family-sized council homes which we will continue building in the new year.
Every day across south London we are supporting people to understand and enforce their housing rights, we let people know that they are not alone, and we campaign for the good council homes we all need and deserve.
A big thank you to all our HASL members and supporters for your continued support. Our group is run by our members and the group would not function without everyone’s participation. Thank you to everyone who has helped in any way – participating in our zoom meetings, telling friends about the group, liking our social media posts, joining protests, helping to make videos and so much more! We’ve also loved working together with our friends Public Interest Law Centre and English for Action and many other groups and new friends we’ve made over the year.
We hope everyone can have a good rest over the winter holidays and we’re looking forward to returning with even more energy, strength and solidarity in the new year!
Here are some of our 2021 highlights.
Campaign for 3, 4, 5 bed council homes, end NRPF!
In March, kids from Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth, Akwaaba, and English for Action living in overcrowded housing and temporary accommodation launched our poster campaign calling for 3, 4, 5 bed council homes. They have also wrote personal messages on their posters:
“You wouldn’t get enough sleep if your house was overcrowded”
“Sharing a room with parents or sleeping somewhere that is not the bedroom isn’t fun!”
We did this to mark the first anniversary of lockdown which many children have spent trapped in tiny, cramped, poor quality housing. We launched over 50 of these posters with a twitter storm at Minister for Housing Robert Jenrick to make sure he couldn’t miss them. We also sent him a letter explaining the need for high quality, safe, secure family-sized council homes and the need to abolish No Recourse to Public Funds so no one is refused good housing based on their immigration status. Children need space to play, rest and study!
Challenging Lewisham and Southwark’s lockdown ‘consultations’
At the start of the year during a difficult winter lockdown, both Lewisham council and Southwark Council (and a number of other London councils) decided that that it was the best time to make significant changes to their housing waiting list rules. There is no doubt that they used this moment to try to quickly push through new rules that would negatively impact their residents suffering in overcrowded housing and temporary accommodation.
We immediately organised to make sure our members and other residents knew what was going on and how these new rules would affect them. We ran a number large online meetings with members from both boroughs to discuss the consultations and what the group’s response should be. After our online meetings we put together template responses to both Lewisham and Southwark councils’ housing waiting list rules consultations helping hundreds of people most affected by the new rules to engage with these badly organised consultations. Our 2 Southwark meetings had over 80 families joining each meeting!
Southwark News covered our demands for Southwark council to ‘pause, amend and extend’ the consultation to make sure that Southwark residents can meaningfully engage.
We know we had an impact! In September, Lewisham council announced the new housing waiting list rules. Some of the worst rules had been removed. As a result of our campaigning we successfully challenged Lewisham council’s harmful plans to push thousands of families in severely overcrowded housing to the bottom of the housing list. We will be writing a blog post on this with more information soon.
After Southwark council tried to rush through their consultation, they have now gone silent. Now they say that the new rules will not be agreed until after June 2022. This is conveniently after the May 2022 local elections. It looks like they are playing politics with people’s lives. We’ll be writing another blog post with more updates on this soon.
Southwark campaign on overcrowding – victories and challenges ahead
As a result of our community-led campaign and Favio and Elba’s legal challenge in the Court of Appeal Southwark council removed the cruel ‘deliberate act’ term from their new draft allocations scheme. We were hopeful that this would mark a change in Southwark council’s treatment of families in overcrowded housing. As a result of Favio and Elba’s Court of Appeal challenge, a number of other HASL families were able to move from severely overcrowded housing into spacious council homes this year.
However, despite the Court of Appeal victory, the council’s intention to remove their cruel ‘deliberate act’ term, and Kieron William’s apology, Southwark council’s culture of blame and refusal targeted at families in overcrowded housing has continued.
With Public Interest Law Centre, Milton and his family launched legal action against the council’s decision that their severe overcrowding is a ‘deliberate act’. Milton and his teenage daughter powerfully explain their situation in this Southwark News article. We have fact-checked Cllr Cryan’s statements in the article here. The family’s case was also covered in MyLondon where it received almost half a million views and was picked up by the Mirror as well.
For years, we have repeatedly campaigned and warned Cllr Kieron Williams and Stephanie Cryan about the toxic and hostile culture in the housing office targeted at families of colour and migrant families in overcrowded housing. We were unsurprised but still sickened when a HASL family of 5 who have lived in a room for over 10 years were asked if they had thought about returning to Peru to solve their overcrowding. The family were also represented by PILC and even though the council blamed them for their overcrowding saying it was a ‘deliberate act’ the family were still able to move from their room to a permanent council home this month just in time for Christmas. Earlier this year, PILC had also helped the family remove the racist No Recourse to Public Funds condition and access welfare benefits and the housing waiting list.
Families in severely overcrowded housing have won significant victories against Southwark council’s cruel treatment with the help of other HASL members, supporters and our friends at PILC. They shouldn’t have to go through these efforts because they should never be blamed in the first place but as long as Southwark council’s culture of blame and refusal continues, we will keep on fighting it.
At the end of August we had our HASL picnic which was our first in-person social event in over a year and a half. It was an emotional and special afternoon seeing old friends and meeting people who we had only ever met on zoom before.
The warm autumn weather also meant that we could have our first big housing group meeting outdoors in October. We had 100 people join us for our housing meeting and it was great to run our big group meetings again together.
We joined the Brixton Community Rally with other housing groups and campaigns fighting for our local communities against social cleansings and private developments.
Our members Fowsiyo and Pamela were interviewed by English for Action students and talk about the causes of London’s housing crisis, what we do to fight the housing crisis together, our victories, legal aid cuts and so much more! Watch, ‘like’, share, and subscribe to the EFA youtube channel here
In February, HASL members joined Akwaaba, a social centre for migrants based in east London, to run a workshop on racism in housing and sharing our experiences of organising collectively for housing rights and high quality council homes for all. We also delivered a talk on housing campaigning with a new Ealing and Hounslow housing group. We also ran a social housing rights workshop with our members who have recently moved into social housing.
We also joined NEON’s housing movement builders training in July and October this year where we met with other housing campaigners from across the UK.
Waltham Forest council have tried to force a number of homeless families to Stoke on Trent, or other locations across England, including one of our members. A strong twitter storm made Waltham Forest council stop the eviction of Monica and her family from temporary accommodation. We collected some of the press coverage here. We know these cases aren’t isolated cases and we’re disturbed at what is happening in Waltham Forest council’s housing office where homeless families face this appalling treatment.
Throughout the year, a number of our members have been able to bid for secure social housing, the last few months have been particularly busy! We’re so happy for our members who have been able to move into secure social housing but we know the hardship and difficulties they suffered before they were finally able to get their new homes. One of our members was living with her young son in a small room with no natural light or ventilation. Southwark council’s enforcement officers said it was not fit for people to live in and should only be used for storage. With our help and PILC, our member was put into band 2 on the housing register and is now has a spacious 2 bedroom council home. One of our members who is suffering from a number of medical issues and was sofa surfing was helped by the group to get higher medical priority on the housing waiting list. She was then able to successfully bid for a housing association home. She told us that our group’s work “you do it with your heart…I want to comfort people and I want you to know that I will come to support others”
Our group has also helped families to make homeless applications and challenge unlawful gatekeeping, helped people get their correct banding on the housing register, helped people understand their rights, helped people to find lawyers for their housing cases, helped people to request suitability reviews which has seen them re-housed closer to their home borough, and provided emotional support as well. In our group zoom meetings our members have been incredible at providing support, sharing experiences and rights information.
In June we were shocked to find that Waltham Forest Council were trying to force our member Monica and her family to permanently move to Stoke-on-Trent – over 170 miles away! The family could not attend the viewing as the husband had recently got work in London and in response Waltham Forest tried to evict the family from their temporary accommodation. We wrote a report about these “private sector discharges” of homeless duties in 2017 – we found that actually very few London councils were trying it force families out of London. This shows it is a cruel political decision and that homeless families can be found housing in London if councils try. Waltham Forest Council tried to say they were moving the family to Stoke because of the benefit cap, but in fact the family would also have been hit by the benefit cap in the Stoke property!
The family is currently challenging the council with the help of a lawyer, and members rallied on Monday to make sure they were not evicted from their temporary accommodation. The media has also been great at covering this important case:
Over 50 HASL members joined our noise protest outside Southwark town hall at the start of this month in support of Milton’s family and all families living in overcrowded housing. As well as families coming from Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham, some of our members traveled from their temporary accommodation out in Croydon. Other members joined us from Haringey and Hackney. You can watch some videos on our twitter here.
Our noise protest lasted over 2 hours making sure that the council could not ignore us and resulting in the housing manager coming down to speak with the families.He promised Milton’s family that they would receive a decision on their case by the following week. Unfortunately, this deadline has not been met. We have been keeping the pressure up on twitter and we might have to return with even more people and even more noise.
Milton’s family has faced extreme bullying from the council over the last 3 years. The family of 4 have been living in a tiny studio flat for four and a half years after this was the only property they could find after facing discrimination by private landlords and unaffordable local rents. Due to the serious level of overcrowding, the family should qualify for band 1 which would allow them to be quickly re-housed into suitable social housing. Instead of supporting the family, the council wrongly accused the family of committing fraud over an innocent admin error, threatened them with criminal prosecution for causing overcrowding and have insisted that the family’s overcrowding is a ‘deliberate act’. The family have been repeatedly asked by the council why they need to live in Southwark.
Along with Public Interest Law Cetnre we are also supporting a number of other HASL members who live in severely overcrowded housing to be treated fairly and respectfully and to claim their rightful position on the housing waiting list.
Thank you to everyone who joined who helped make it such a strong and powerful protest! We all know that no one chooses to live in overcrowded housing, hopefully Southwark council will finally get the message!
Help Denby court homeless families demand better treatment from Lambeth council, call to stop the evictions, and demand a better development plan for Lambeth families – 100% council housing on council owned land!
Denby Court in Kennington is one of the many council estates that Lambeth Council have earmarked for “regeneration”/demolition. While the council were waiting to demolish the buildings they used the estate as temporary accommodation for homeless families. Even though no demolition work is expected until August 2021, and there is currently no planning permission for the new development, the council are already threatening to evict the homeless families on the estate.
Families from Denby court attended a recent HASL meeting and told us how they have already spent years living in properties in Denby court which are overcrowded and in disrepair. Now they are being told they will be moved to new accommodation soon with little information of when exactly they will be moved, or where they will end up. As Davida recently told the Guardian:
“None of us wants to stay in the poor conditions we are living in but we want to be treated like people who have rights, not just moved on again, during a pandemic, to more temporary accommodation miles away from our schools and support networks.”
None of the families who joined our meeting had been clearly told what was going to happen to them. Some of the families have been pressured by the Council to give up their homeless duties and accept private accommodation. Some have been told that they will be housed in temporary accommodation outside of their home borough of Lambeth. Neither of these options are acceptable and this situation is causing serious distress to the families.
Some of the families we spoke to have medical and care needs – the last thing the Council should be doing is moving them at little notice far away from their support networks and children’s schools. Another resident described how Denby Court was her third temporary accommodation, and now she and her children are facing being moved into a fourth.
Lambeth Council must immediately stop any eviction plans and reassure the residents that they will be able to remain in their homes until longer-term solutions can be found by listening to the needs and wishes of the residents. Some of these longer term solutions could include giving direct offers of permanent social housing, allowing the families enough time at Denby court to bid for permanent social housing through the housing waiting list or finding suitable temporary accommodation in the local area to minimise disruption.
As if trying to evict and displace vulnerable homeless families was not bad enough – the new proposed development is not even a good deal for Lambeth residents. Denby Court estate is on council owned land – the council should be using this to maximise the number of family-sized council homes to help address the severe housing crisis we face. However, only 49 of the 141 new properties will be at Council rent. Lambeth council must do better than this for their residents! All new homes built on council land should be council homes!
It is positive to see that there will be 4 bedroom council homes on the new estate – as there is desperate need for larger family sized council homes – but there are only 5 of these planned for the whole estate.
The demolition of the estate should not be considered until a fair solution is found for its current residents and a better plan is made which has more family-sized council homes for a development on council-owned land.
Show your support from Denby court homeless families!
If you’re a Lambeth resident, please use our template email below to email the Lambeth Cabinet Member for Housing and Homelessness Jennifer Brathwaite: firstname.lastname@example.org
If your local MP is Florence Eshalomi please email her as well: email@example.com
I am writing to you in support of the homeless families at Denby Court estate.
I am really concerned at the treatment these families are facing by Lambeth council and I hope you can intervene to support these vulnerable homeless families.
As you are probably aware, Lambeth council has decanted the council tenants from the estate and has been using Denby court as temporary accommodation for homeless families. Now that Lambeth wants to push ahead with demolition of the estate, Lambeth is trying to evict the families in temporary accommodation. The options offered to the families seem to be private rented housing or temporary accommodation out of borough. This approach by the council is completely unacceptable. It is causing serious distress to the families.
I am asking that the council immediately stop any eviction plans and give reassurance to the residents that they will be able to remain in their homes until longer-term solutions can be found by listening to the needs and wishes of the residents. Some of these longer term solutions could include giving direct offers of permanent social housing, allowing them to bid for permanent social housing through the Choice Based Lettings or finding suitable temporary accommodation in the local area to minimise disruption.
Finally, the new proposed development on the site of Denby court does not seem to be a good deal for Lambeth residents. This is council land and the council should be maximising the number of family-sized council homes to help address the severe housing crisis we face. New developments on council land should be 100% council housing. However, under the current development plans, only 49 of the 141 new properties will be at Council rent.
If the council can justify demolition of the estate in the future, rather than refurbishment, then the proposed development needs to offer more family-sized council homes (3, 4, 5 bed council homes) for Lambeth residents so that homeless households and families living in overcrowded housing can be suitably housed. But demolition of the estate should not be considered until a fair solution is found for it’s current residents and a better plan is made which has more family-sized council homes for a development on council-owned land.
I really hope that you will support your constituents with their urgent housing cases and that they are given reassurance that they will not be forced to leave against their will. I hope long-term solutions can be found for all the families at Denby court.
Southwark residents – Use our template email to fight for the rights of Southwark families in temporary accommodation and overcrowded housing!
Texto en español a continuación
What is HASL? Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth is a community housing group made up of families and individuals who are homeless in temporary accommodation, living in overcrowded housing or face other housing problems.
What’s happening? Southwark council are looking to make lots of significant changes to the housing waiting list rules. These changes will affect us all! Before the council can introduce the new rules, they are conducting a public consultation to ask for the views of Southwark residents on the new rules. Southwark council have launched an online survey, however, we have noticed that lots of the new rules are not included in the online survey. Some of the new rules and questions on the survey are not explained clearly. Because of these problems with the online survey and other accessibility issues with the survey, we have made a template email that you can use to give your views (more on this below).
We are very concerned about how the consultation process is being conducted – during a lockdown – and with an online survey that does not explain all the major changes clearly.
We are also very concerned about many of the new rules which we believe will reduce the rights that households on the housing waiting list currently have.
We are particularly concerned about a major new policy that would divide homeless families by “rewarding” those who take private housing with band 2 and leaving other families stuck in temporary accommodation for even longer.
What can I do?
Use HASL’s template email to respond to the consultation. Over 80 HASL families, living in temporary accommodation or overcrowded housing, helped to write and agree these template email answers to ensure that these views are represented. We discussed the new rules and our answers over 2 zoom meetings. We believe these answers follow our principles that housing should be allocated according to housing need and in the fairest possible way.
Please use our template email to help you to respond to Southwark council’s consultation and feel free to edit and add your own words to the email as well. If you use this form, the email will be sent directly to Southwark council’s consultation email address. A copy will also be sent to our HASL email and we will delete all responses when the consultation process is over. The template email and questions do not have information that can identify you – the form does not ask for your full name, address, or date of birth. But we do ask for your email address to show the council that you are a real person.
If you would like extra support from HASL to use the template email, if you have any questions or if you want to be involved and hear more about HASL’s activities on this important consultation, send a message to our group phone 07930 062282 or send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can email Southwark council if you need information about the consultation in another language, if you have any questions about the consultation or if you want to submit more information or suggestions: email@example.com
Residentes de Southwark – usa nuestra plantilla de correo electrónico en lucha para los derechos de las familias de Southwark en acomodación temporal, y vivienda superpoblada!
¿Qué es HASL? Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (acción por hogares en Southwark y Lambeth) es un grupo comunitario de familias e individuos que están desalojados, viviendo enacomodación temporal, viviendo en casas donde no hay suficiente espacio o enfrentándose a otras problemas de vivienda.
¿Qué está pasando? Southwark Council están en camino a hacer muchos cambios importantes al reglamento de la lista de espera para hogares sociales. Esto cambios nos afectarían a todos!
Para introducir nuevas reglas, el Council esta obligado a consultar las opiniones de residentes de Southwark sobre los cambios propuestos. Southwark han lanzado una encuesta en línea, pero hemos notado que muchas de las nuevas reglas no están incluidas en esta encuesta. Algunas de las nuevas reglas o las cuestiones posadas a residentes no se explican claramente en la encuesta. Por esto no recomendamos que se use esta encuesta en línea. Hemos preparado una plantilla de correo electrónico que pueden usar para enviar sus opiniones sobre este asunto (más sobre esto a continuación).
Estamos muy preocupados por la manera en que el proceso de consulta esta siendo manejado – durante lockdown – y con una encuesta en línea que no explica todos los grandes cambios claramente.
Estamos muy preocupados que muchas de las nuevas reglas que creemos causaran una reducción de derechos de la gente en la lista de espera para hogares sociales.
Especialmente estamos preocupados que este gran cambio de reglamento serviría para dividir familias desalojadas por el hecho de “premiar” aquellos que toman un arriendo privado con una priorización más alta en “Band 2” que dejaría otras familias atascados en alojamiento temporal por tiempos más largos.
¿Qué puedo hacer?
Usa la plantilla de correo electrónico de HASL para responder a la consulta. Esta plantilla fue escrita y acordada con más de 80 familias en nuestro grupo que están en acomodación temporal o en vivienda superpoblada para asegurar que nuestras opiniones sean representativas. Hemos discutido estas nuevas reglas y nuestras respuestas en 2 reuniones Zoom. Creemos que las respuestas siguen nuestros principios que los hogares sociales deben ser repartidas a aquellos con la mayor necesidad y de la manera más justa posible.
Por favor use nuestra plantilla de correo electrónico para responder a la consulta de Southwark Council y siéntase libre de editarlo o añadir tus propias palabras también. Si utiliza este formulario, el correo electrónico se enviará directamente a la dirección de correo electrónico de consulta del consejo de Southwark. También se enviará una copia a nuestro correo electrónico de HASL y eliminaremos todas las respuestas cuando finalice el proceso de consulta. El correo electrónico y las preguntas de la plantilla no tienen información que pueda identificarlo; el formulario no solicita su nombre completo, dirección o fecha de nacimiento. Pero le pedimos su dirección de correo electrónico para demostrarle al consejo que es una persona real.
Puedes leer el documento de 88 paginas (!!) del reglamento de asignación de hogares sociales nuevo que ha sido propuesto aquí
El reglamento actual de asignación de hogares sociales esta aquí
Si quisiera más apoyo de HASL para usar la plantilla de correo electrónico, si tiene cualquier pregunta o si quisiera saber más de las actividades de HASL alrededor de esta consulta muy importante, envíenos un mensaje a nuestro teléfono de grupo 07930 062282 o envíenos un correo a firstname.lastname@example.org
Puedes enviar un correo a Southwark Council si necesitas información sobre la consulta en otro idioma.