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!
We were joined by our friends Haringey Housing Action Group, Focus E15, English for Action, and Parents and Communities Together who helped to make it our biggest ever protest! And one of the biggest housing protests there has been for many years.
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.
We’ve put together a twitter thread collecting together the national and local media coverage of Milton’s important case. Shortly after the victory, the Guardian published a story about the dramatic decline in successful high court challenges – showing how the odds were very much against us!
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
Our member Mabinty spoke to The Big Issue about living in temporary accommodation. She also spoke with Sky News for this report here and a video here
2 HASL members Ruqaiya and Izzy spoke with Moya Crockett for a feature article in the Evening Standard about London’s housing crisis
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.
HASL contributed to this report by Human Rights Watch – “I Want Us to Live Like Humans Again”: Families in Temporary Accommodation in London, UK,” about the experiences of children in temporary accommodation.
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