Local mums oppose eviction and social cleansing in East London

Focus E15 4“Stop making people homeless. Stop making kids miss school. It’s not fair. You guys go home to your nice homes and people are here struggling. People are here crying, stressed, depressed – is that right? Why is this happening to people? Innocent people?” – Tresha Elliott, 21, mother of Kianna

Eighteen months ago the world looked on as the Olympic Games kicked off with a flurry of fireworks in Newham – one of the poorest boroughs in London. Laughably, Danny Boyle announced that the slogan for the games was “this is for everyone” even though Newham council had already been accused of “social cleansing” after its plans to rehouse families from the local area as far away as Hastings, Birmingham and Manchester had emerged.

Many east Londoners are still grappling with the Olympic legacy (although I think I prefer the term ‘consequences’) and some, like the Focus E15 Mums, are refusing to play the unfair hand they have been dealt.

The 29 young mothers are facing eviction from the Focus E15 foyer (a hostel which consists of around 16 flats for young parents, and a further 210 flats across the rest of the complex).

The foyer is supposed to provide temporary accommodation while suitable, permanent housing is found for the mothers nearby. Instead, the Focus E15 mums have been offered housing in Hastings, Birmingham and other cities far removed from their respective families and support networks. If they turn down the opportunity to be shipped, baby in arms, to the other side of the country, they could be labelled “intentionally homeless” and will be vulnerable to eviction with no guarantee of a long-term solution from Newham council. Focus E15

Just over a week ago the mothers made their way to the East Thames housing association (the organization which served their eviction notices) and hosted a children’s party in one of their show homes. Cakes, bunting, fluorescent drinks and party poppers set the scene for the ensuing back-and-forth between the mothers and Chris Woodhead, Assistant Director of Care and Support for East Thames, who had clearly turned up to fill the air with patronizing “we’re on your side” marketing speak and send the mothers on their merry way.

The Focus E15 mums stayed to make their case, which was recorded here.

Later that same day the army of babies, well wishers, mothers and journalists turned up at Newham council’s housing offices and found themselves face-to-face with a young woman who was being sent to Birmingham as a direct result of the social cleansing that Newham council is happily co-ordinating. After sharing tears with the young mother, Tresha Elliott, 21, put the council to rights:

The Focus E15 mums are still fighting to secure affordable, local and safe housing from Newham council. Keep an eye on their Facebook page, and this blog, for updates.

Here is what Focus E15 Mum Jasmine has to say:

“I’m not having my daughter grow up in a place that’s not suitable for her. Something needs to be done. East Thames has a lot of housing – why can’t we be given properties?” Focus E15 3

Here is Digs’ statement in support of the E15 Focus Mums:

“Every week we support renters who are being harassed and exploited by landlords and agents in the private rented sector then let down by the local authorities there to support them. It is not the place for these young mums and their children who have survived homelessness and domestic violence and need housing that is secure and affordable, not the threat of being evicted after six months and the knowledge their rent could go up at any time. Newham Council have a statutory responsibility to these women, and yet our housing system now allows them to be forced into private housing as far away as Birmingham or Manchester. Meanwhile 24,000 sit on the council housing waiting list. Social housing is replaced with luxury apartments which local people have no hope of being able to afford. The mums are right to call this social cleansing.”

8 thoughts on “Local mums oppose eviction and social cleansing in East London

  1. I was in two minds about writing this, as I did not want to offend people.

    “Focus E15 Mums, are refusing to play the unfair hand they have been dealt.”

    These young mums are expecting the state to pay for their housing and their children. The problem is that there are too many single mothers. There is not enough council housing, each new social housing costs £250,000 to build. Given that the minimum wage is £7 (and they tax collected is £1.75 per hour). It would need 142,857 hours of toil, to pay for that council house. That does not even include the cost of any living allowance, child support, health and schooling.

    is it fair that a mum gets pregnant at 19?. When most people will try to delay becomg parents, until they have a stable home / stable career. Perhaps, society needs to ask, is having children outside marriage is right?.

    LIke many Londoners, I get frustrated by the daily commute to work. People hate their jobs and in turn hate their life. Life is not easy, but is it fair working people pay for the mistake of those who get pregnant at 19? Where is the father in all this?

    Newham Council is relocating these mums, outside London, just to make a political point against the Torys. Perhaps, Newham Council need to go into schools and remind people, there are 24,000 on the waiting list for council house.

    If housing outside London is a lot cheaper, perhaps, these young mums should be willing to make some sacrifices?. It would ease London’s housing crisis. Their would be more homes for London’s workers.

    Are these young mums of any economic benefit to London?. Until the age of 16, the state is supporting them and at school. They would work say for 2-3 years. From 19 years to say 37 years, they will be looking after children and can only do low-paid part time work. At 37 of age, would they have any skills to offer employers?

    I apologise if I offended anyone…. but why not debate the issue?

    • Children are not a luxury item. If you want future workers to exist in order that your pension can be paid, you should rethink your views on whether the young Mums are ‘of any economic benefit’. Also, as young mothers, life is hard enough… depriving the Mums of the social networks that they have in the town that they are from places them under additional strain when raising their children, who will face further barriers to their later employability as a result.

    • I am very willing to debate this issue, as it crops up time and again to perpetuate the rhetoric that only those who can find employment and not be made redundant, as well as be “net contributors” to the government’s revenue are worthy of support or making decisions. Or, you know, deserve to be treated as though they are human beings rather than animals whose breeding is to be controlled.

      First of all, the basic assumptions of your argument fall down. If we lived in a country where the minimum wage was close to allowing people to support themselves, let alone a family, you might have some semblance of an argument. The truth is that the minimum wage supports at a stretch an individual, and in no way a family. So, you argue, why don’t these women just wait until they are in more gainful employment to start a family? Have you considered that maybe some people never get to that point, for many reasons, and maybe that is not their fault their labour will never pay enough for them to support a family but the fault of a biased economy that keeps wages so low that those at the bottom could never do so. On top of that a biased housing system where not even working individuals can afford to live in many parts of London. The problem does not lie with the women, it lies with an economy that does not pay people the worth of their labour, that is if anyone is doing full time they should be able to house, feed and clothe themselves, not require benefits.

      To the issue of “is it fair that a mum gets pregnant at 19” there are a number of problems. Taking first the instance where someone doesn’t choose to get pregnant; contraception is not 100%, sex and relationship education is terrible in many schools, coercion and lack of self esteem meaning they do not feel confident enough to assert contraception use, cultural issues, religious issues, and again contraception is not 100%, then basically what you’re asserting is these women should feel obliged to terminate their pregnancy because they’re young and not financially secure. While I would love to hear the many reasons you would have for that, let’s cut to the chase and conclude that is a judgmental, oppressive and downright heartless position.

      “While most people will try to delay becoming parents until they have a stable home / stable career” takes us to the instance where a woman chooses to have a child at 19 or when financially “insecure”. Your assumption is once again that everyone will get to the stable home/career position, which is not true, especially for people who are not born into financial stability. This is why teen pregnancy is higher among people who are from less advantaged backgrounds – we have a socially immobile society where those who are disadvantaged see their parents and peers never getting to a stable place. So why should they wait for something that is never going to happen? Maybe we should focus on making opportunity for a stable home and job a reality for everyone before telling poorer women they are too poor to have families because our economy is crap. You want to be annoyed as a working Londoner that women aren’t choosing stable jobs and careers over having children young, maybe you should be annoyed at the government that’s failing to provide.

      I will merely laugh at the “outside marriage” comment from 1954 and move on.

      On the subject of is it fair working people pay for the mistakes of others, I am also a working childless individual, and I don’t pay for the mistakes of others, I pay tax. How tax is distributed is the decision of the government and we vote for them. I believe that a society should provide support to children, because one day they will be my doctor, lawyer, police officer, firefighter, alternative street artist, and to people who cannot support themselves because there are not enough jobs or the employers of hard working people do not pay enough for people to live. I really believe that the government should overhaul the economy to make work pay and provide child care, so that young mothers can provide for themselves and their children. But hey, I suppose it would be easier just to throw them in the gutter.

      Maybe Newham Council needs to go into schools and remind people there are 24,000 people on the waiting list? Maybe Newham Council and the Government need to provide sensibly paying jobs, affordable homes and proper and comprehensive sex and relationships education so that we don’t have to have these discussions.

      Relocating all of London’s mothers who do not work will create an incredible burden of instability and disruption to the schools where the children are moved to. Schools which will then not be able to provide the best education. Children who will then not go onto become the aspirational stable career/home wanting peeps you would like them to be. You see how your logic might not work there? Also, London’s workers wouldn’t move into those houses, foreign investors would have the houses and only those who can afford an artificially inflated rent will live there. Not solving any problems here.

      “Are the young mums of any economic benefit to London?” Are you? And does that make you able to decide on who should be allowed to live in the city? The paying of tax does not make you the arbiter of other people’s lives, or their worth. Human beings are measured more than by their economic benefit. This is the exact rhetoric that allows bankers and financiers to avoid paying their duly owed tax and yet claim they provide more in tax than the poor so we should attack those who need support first. Just because someone has been lucky enough to be born into wealth and privilege and therefore replicate wealth and privilege does not make them of more benefit and does not mean they are free to designate who lives where and who should be forced to abort their children. That is a sick sick world.

      We were not born to only have skills that employers who underpay us and exploit us and vote to keep house prices up and wages down want from us.

      • KIERAN,

        Thank you for articulating exactly what I was thinking! I totally agree with it.

        Its astounding how selfishness and greed makes people so blind to the needs of other people. The lack of compassion and respect for other human beings within intelligent, so called “educated” people never fails to surprise me. The stance of the argument would have been completely different if these people were, by chance, born into the receiving (and not the benefiting) end of this capitalist system.


  2. Pingback: Ongoing struggles: Atos, Shetland Gas, Focus E15 Mothers | Cautiously pessimistic

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