Keeping up the pressure against social cleansing: Focus E15 campaign occupies East Thames offices

Photo by Rosie Hallam

On Wednesday 29 October, Focus E15 campaign, including supporters of FRFI, occupied East Thames Housing Association offices in Stratford to keep up the pressure regarding the treatment of the residents from Focus E15 hostel (they insist on calling it a foyer) which East Thames manages for Newham Council. Increasingly, residents are facing evictions from the hostel, with many ending up homeless; sofa-surfing or on the streets. 

Banners were put up, sleeping bags were laid on the floor, children played and teenagers danced to the music from our sound system. 

Catherine Rowley, head of communications at East Thames, came to speak to the protest. She went to look for Chris Woodhead and Sheila Harper, two staff members who relate directly to the residents of the hostel and came back to say that unfortunately Chris was on leave and Sheila was out of London for a meeting.

The protestors demanded to see the new chief executive, Yvonne Arrowsmith, and she agreed to meet ten of them in a separate room.

Jasmin and Sam, leading mothers from the campaign, explained very well the reality of living in Focus E15 hostel. They explained how their evictions threats were subsequently retracted after they began their political campaign. They spoke from experience about how badly people are dealt with there, how little support they actually get, and how the hostel is now using bailiffs for evictions and then banning the evicted young people from the building.

Arrowsmith would not be drawn on the intended future of the hostel. However, from what is happening to staff and residents it seems clear that it is being emptied and is likely to be used for further luxury apartments in the future - like so many other sites across London.

The delegation which met with Arrowsmith agreed to a list of points for her to report back on:

  1. When was the last person moved into the foyer.
  2. How many people are currently living there (ie. are there empty rooms that people could be using).
  3. What support are people in the foyer actually getting prior to eviction processes starting.
  4. Information on the post-eviction bans and how to justify such hostile treatment of vulnerable people.

Yvonne Arrowsmith said that she would meet with people from the foyer to establish the issues that we raised. The campaign will organise that meeting for her and ensure that the voices of those directly affected by the housing crisis are heard by those at the top of such institutions.

The fight goes on. Social housing not social cleansing!

Join us at the Focus E15 campaign street stall - every Saturday, 12-2pm, outside Wilkinson's, Stratford Broadway.

 

London branches

North London
020 7837 1688
northlondonfrfi@gmail.com

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