by Robyn Banks
The Focus E15 campaign began suddenly in August 2013 when 29 young or expectant mothers, who had been residing in the Focus E15 hostel for homeless young people, were served eviction notices by East Thames Housing Association after Newham council severed its funding. Appealing to the council for help, the E15 mums were told that due to cuts to housing benefit and a lack of social housing, they would have to be relocated as far away as Manchester or Birmingham and suffer the consequences of being plucked suddenly from their homes, families and support networks.
The move, which many consider to be one of many changes taking place involving the relocation of people on low incomes to outside of London — a form of social cleansing — prompted one of the most fiery and successful grassroots anti-cuts campaigns under the conservative government. The Focus E15 mums got organised, protested and held marches and occupations for ‘social housing, not social cleansing’ to pressure Newham Council. Although the campaign was born from individual need and the right to have a roof over your head, when the E15 mums act women everywhere benefit.