Category Archives: LCAP

HASL host the LCAP general meeting – report

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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.

www.lcap.org.uk

 

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HASL guide to gatekeeping

What is gatekeeping?

Gatekeeping is when people are denied the help, services and support they are legally entitled to by council staff employing different tactics to turn us away and make us give up. Gatekeeping is very common is housing offices when people go to make homeless applications and also in social services when people try to access housing help.

Southwark housing office has a particularly bad reputation for gatekeeping. In February, a High Court judge ordered Southwark council ‘to cease with immediate effect the policies and practices’ which had seen a homeless family refused help by the council and told to look for their own accommodation in the private sector.  In May, a homeless man, Mr Kanu, who had been denied help by Southwark council, won in the Supreme Court where the judge ruled that Mr Kanu was entitled to housing. Sadly, Mr Kanu died shortly after this victory. Despite these legal cases, we know that Southwark housing office still continues to gatekeep homeless people.

What does it mean? What are the impacts?

The effects of gatekeeping are to keep vulnerable homeless people homeless or in unsafe, overcrowded housing.  It denies them the immediate housing help they need and their place on the housing register so that they might eventually access secure social housing.

Charities are predicting a particularly bad winter with high street homelessness this year with gatekeeping playing a role in this.

Women trying to escape violence have nowhere safe to go.

For the housing office, it means that their homelessness statistics are kept low so that the true scale of homelessness is hidden.

How do you spot it?

Housing office staff say things like: “I can tell you now, you are intentionally homeless”

“You need to bring more evidence before we can start a homeless application and give you interim housing.”

“We can’t help you, you need to find your own housing in the private sector.”

“You’re not homeless until the bailiffs evict you.”

“If you have a roof, then you are not homeless.”

“If they have a pulse, then they’re not vulnerable”

How can we challenge it?

London Coalition Against Poverty has been going since 2007 and is made up of local groups who meet up and provide support and action on each others housing issues. LCAP groups have long been challenging gatekeeping at their local housing offices by:

Making sure that people know their rights

Providing buddies for each other to attend the housing office together

Visiting the housing office as a big group and refusing to leave until a homeless application has been accepted.

Regular leafleting outside housing offices to talk to people about their rights and the housing group and local campaigns and actions challenging gatekeeping at a local housing office.

 

Don’t struggle alone! It’s easy for them to turn one person away, but if we stand up for each other, we can fight for the support and services that we all need and deserve. We welcome you to get involved and help us organise more ways to challenge gatekeeping.

 

London Coalition Against Poverty first meeting of 2015 featuring Focus E15 mums campaign!

London Coalition Against Poverty is a coalition of local groups who meet to provide support with housing and benefit issues (homelessness, benefit sanctions, welfare cuts, and dodgy private landlords), and take collective action on the issues we face. The local groups meet regularly in their home boroughs. You can read more about how these groups work in this brilliant pamphlet.

Every 3 months or so we all meet together in London Coaliton Against Poverty general meetings to share our expereinces and tactics, questions and ideas, and discuss how we can co-ordinate our activities.

For our first meeting of 2015 we’re excited to have some people from the Focus E15 mums campaign join us. As a main focus of the meeting, we hope to discuss the issues we’ve taken action on and what tactics have worked, what hasn’t worked or things we’re struggling with, and make plans and share ideas for issues we’re yet to tackle. We’ll be making plans for things we’d like to make happen in 2015.

London’s housing crisis is intensifying, and the main political parties are all promising further welfare cuts when we’re already struggling to survive. Come along to listen to and share experiences of organising mutual support groups and to help organise grassroots solidarity and action.

Our first LCAP meeting of the year is being hosted by Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth on Saturday 17th January, 1pm at World Development Movement Offices, 66 Offley road, Oval, SW9 0LS. Whether you’re already involved in your local LCAP group, or you keep on meaning to be, or if you want to start a new group in your area – come along!

There will be food and childcare (please let us know if you need childcare so we can know numbers in advance). haslemail[at]gmail.com

London Coalition Against Poverty meeting this Friday

LCAP

Inspired by the Focus E15 mum’s occupation and Our Hendon’s regular blockades of Barratts to prevent the destruction of their homes? Want to get involved in local and London-wide housing action? Come along to this Friday’s London Coalition Against Poverty general meeting. London Coalition Against Poverty is made up of local groups which meet regularly to provide support and take action together on issues faced and raised by their members – from helping each other make bedroom tax appeals, visiting the housing office on mass to take on the gate keeping of the homelessness application process, and the odd occupation of council homes facing sell-off.

Every 2-3 months, groups that are members of LCAP, of which HASL is one, meet up together to share what they have been up to in their local boroughs, exchange advice and tactics, and plan actions and other events such as training sessions. Whether there’s an LCAP group in your area that you’d like to meet, or you’re interested in starting a group, come along this Friday to meet people and get involved! The meeting will start at 1.30pm at Casa Latina (groundfloor room), 10 Kingsgate Place (off Kilburn High Road), Kilburn, NW6 4TA

You can read more about LCAP’s stories, experiences and ideas for organising in this ace pamphlet.