“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.
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:
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.”