Young mothers occupy Newham council to demand social housing

Updated with new video:

Some video from today’s occupations of the East Thames Housing Association building (and showroom) and Newham council’s housing offices by a group of young homeless mothers who are battling for decent social housing in Newham. The fight these young women are putting up is becoming more and more relevant to anyone who does not have secure housing – which includes a great many people:

Video: young Newham mothers occupy Newham council housing offices

Video two: earlier in the day, the women occupied a showhome inside the East Thames housing association building, where they held a party. There isn’t room for parties at the temporary hostel they live in, so they decided the HA would be a good venue:

As one of the mothers says in the video at the housing office:

“Stop making people homeless. Stop making kids miss school. It’s not fair. You get to go home to your nice homes, while people here are struggling. People are here crying (they were – a woman in the office was crying, because she was homeless and trying to sort that out). They’re stressed, depressed. It’s not right. You’ve got a place here where you’re meant to help people. You’re meant to help people. You’re not helping people.”

That’s it in a nutshell, really.

I have been interviewing this group of young mothers for a while. They are all classed as homeless and they are all fighting a bloody battle with Newham Council for decent social housing in the borough for themselves and their small children.

At the moment, these young women live in Newham’s Focus E15 foyer – a hostel which has about 16 flats for young parents and about 210 flats across the complex. It’s supposed to be temporary accommodation. I’ve written about the concerns the women have about the health standards at the hostel – the mothers say there are rats, mice and problems with mould and ventilation. Some of the children in the hostel are as young as three months. I’m having something of a bloody battle with the council and HA myself about this. More on that topic soon.

The women’s options for permanent housing are not good. They are having to deal with so many of the problems that face people who are either on low incomes, or benefits (surely, too, these must also increasingly be problems for people who are on reasonable incomes. Nobody is securely housed unless they own something freehold).

Their options are these:

The women can try to find social housing in a borough which has 24,000 people on its waiting list and recently changed its allocations policy to prioritise ex-servicepeople and people in work over people not in work. So that isn’t much of an option.

Or they they can hope to be housed in private accommodation – in an era where private landlords like Fergus and Judith Wilson are asking their housing benefit tenants to leave because, as Fergus Wilson loftily informed the Guardian recently: “”All the landlords will tell you that there is so much default now with housing benefit tenants that you are just simply better off with somebody working.” Mothers like Jasmin Stone have told me that they’ve run up big phone bills calling around private landlords and letting agents – to no avail. So that option isn’t much of an option either.

The other option is that Newham will house the women many miles out of the borough – miles away away from the family members who could provide childcare while the women worked. Places like Hastings, or Birmingham, are often suggested as possibilities. Except I wonder if they are. I spoke to Jeremy Birch, leader of Hasting council last week. The facts are that Jeremy Birch is not keen on taking people who are benefits generally. He can’t stop London boroughs housing people in Hastings’ private rental sector, but he made it very clear that he wasn’t happy to know that was happening:

“We’re a deprived community in the south east, who are trying to reduce the amount of benefit dependency in our own borough. While we welcome anyone who wants to come to Hastings to move here, we are not happy that we would be taking further people who were benefit dependent. That is putting extra pressure on the services that we’ve got in the town.”

He also said – and this is important – that the council had specific housing projects which excluded people who were not in work.

I’ve got a lot more to post on this, but I’ll say for now that this is a very important campaign. We all deserve housing – and this campaign is proving that people are going to have to put up a hell of a fight for it. This is an era of monumental inequality and the political class is thumbing its nose at anyone who isn’t part of that class. MPs happily house their horses in heated stables courtesy of the taxpayer and expect taxpayers to fund their tennis court repairs and housing upgrades and sales. They watch a show about people with nothing and encourage the world to laugh. Clean, warm, decent housing is a right – and not just for horses. Councils and Housing Associations should not be surprised to see people turn up in their offices who refuse to leave without an answer.

Another important point: At the occupation, a lot of people who were waiting in the housing offices to hear about their own housing options joined in conversation with these mothers. Connections were made. One woman who’d been waiting in the queue even started to cry – she revealed that she was homeless. Another woman who had a young baby with her said she’d been told she’d be sent to Birmingham, miles away from anyone she knew.

Other people who were waiting in the queue cheered and applauded when the protestors arrived and explained their campaign for housing. So many people are affected by this. People everywhere, with nowhere secure to live.

19 thoughts on “Young mothers occupy Newham council to demand social housing

  1. Appalling don’t I just know it corrupt system I will be glad when I have my say not just for me but others today a nhs nurse fobbed off at this system that plays round and round the mulberry bush protecting backsides it’s an absolute farce

  2. I am sorry but they have no right to demand housing. to be blunt they should keep their underwear on and say “NO” more often. these young mothers are taking up houses that are needed by families and should not expect to be housed because they produce unneeded children.

  3. Where to start with edward paul davies?
    1) It takes two people to produce a baby.
    2) These mothers and their children are families.
    3) You don’t get to decide which children are required and which aren’t.

  4. Yep can understand the comments to a degree but so many other factors to take into account on this ok at 49 getting sick what would this council say would it be like arun council because if the attitude is keeping knickers on is the case chance for me would be a fine thing because my council made dam sure I couldn’t live my life then put the label what for to lie cover up protect backsides

  5. 84,000 children in this country, if that were some third world country there’d be an appeal for them, as it’s here the gov and media have spread the skiver rhetoric and no one cares until they end up in a similar situation.

    • Spot on bad putty we all have been put under this I for one am offended and because they couldn’t cut it it’s brush it protect backsides any which way they can my understanding is we all s..t f..t and cry let’s hope no disaster ever happens to these god forbid they so couldn’t cope they live on life’s round and round the mulberry bush brush it under the carpet

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  7. I think anyone taking care of young children, infants in particular, should be classified as working. They are performing a necessary role for the good of society as a whole and this needs to be recognised and supported. Looking after infants and small children is some of the most labour intensive work you will ever do.

    • Yes it is I’m 54 I married at 18 was divorced by the time I was 21 there was no help then I’m probably the worst person to be talking to on this of course I sympathise with this cause makes me cry yes being a single mum is hardworking and a lonely existence and back in the day I put a 2 year old on a child seat I cycled 4 miles to work in those days employers had understanding today’s it’s not that easy but it can be done even today providing single mums have support to do so which I don’t think some do and as a oldie watching my kids struggle my daughter will say I would love another child we can’t afford and there is no way I’m having another she works full time hates it there is many facets to this and many arguments on it kids being brought up no roof no food no opportunity for young mums I can never condone vvv difficult subject and who can say what is right or wrong in this life

  8. Well done to this brave and resourceful group of young mothers. They have worked hard to draw attention to their situation where a labour council and a housing association want them out of Newham and indeed out of London.There is housing in London for all who need it
    and the key issue is need and not greed-the flats built for the olympic games at a cost exceeding three million pounds have stood momumentally empty for some time-housing is going to be a major issue of social tension in the days ahead-the situation these young people and others in London (e.g. Brent) are facing has the sinister smack of social cleansing about it-I fully support them and others near at hand who are also supporting them-well done my valiant young ladies, keep marching foward

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