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28 February 2018

Union-led campaign beats Blairite attacks on homeless

Housing campaigners have shamed right-wing Labour councillors in Waltham Forest, east London, into withdrawing their latest attacks on homeless people.

The housing workers' branch of general union Unite helped lead the campaign. Suzanne Muna, secretary of the branch and Socialist Party member, spoke to a rally against gentrification of the borough's Walthamstow town square:

This council, who cares so much about the homeless, cut 1 billion off its housing support budget. Of course, the hostels in the area said if you do that you will have more rough sleepers on the streets of Waltham Forest.

And what happened? We've got more rough sleepers than ever before on the streets. You only need to walk around, six, seven o'clock in the evening, and you will see that.

The council's solution was not to reinstate the housing support budget.

The council's solution was to go round so that when people woke up in the morning what they saw next to them was a letter taped to the wall, telling them that if they didn't move on they would have all of their possessions - in other words, their sleeping bags and their blankets - confiscated. And they were told to go to a campsite miles off.

So we started a petition and we shamed the council into withdrawing those letters - which apparently were all 'just a mistake' anyway. But we shamed the council, and they should be ashamed.

Homelessness has many, many different facets. And of course what they're doing here at Walthamstow town square is one of those. The driving out of communities, and unaffordable homes.

But we also have to end the harassment of rough sleepers. We have to end people being on the streets. We have to reinstate the money that has been cut from those budgets.

So many times what we hear - just as we hear that these corporations are going to come in and save the day - we also hear that housing associations are going to do the same.

Well we saw in this borough what Peabody did. Peabody is not building housing people can afford any longer. They're putting new units up - but for market rent, like so many housing associations.

The only solution is to build mass council housing that is not an emergency provision but is there for every working person that wants to live in council housing.

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