Yesterday began with a very few hours of sleep at the Sweets Way social centre, preparing for the unannounced evictions that have the potential to follow Friday’s move by Annington to pass the remaining residents’ possession orders along to High Court bailiffs. It was an underslept, nervous, tense and teary start to the day, as families got kids ready for school, realising those kids might not be able to come back to those same homes again. It is hard to describe that feeling. It is a condensed version of the stress that the whole ‘regeneration’ process has created in the lives of the Sweets Way community. From there, supporters and former families of Sweets Way helped to occupy the homes of current residents, who headed to Barnet Homes to demand to be housed immediately, after this renegade move by Annington to scare people off the estate. Living for even a few days under the uncertainty of a high court bailiff eviction order is a stress that is hard to imagine, if you haven’t seen it up close. Imagine knowing each night when you went to bed that you might be awakened by violent goons breaking down your front door, leaving you with 10 minutes to collect everything you can carry and get out, leaving the rest behind. It feels like a form of torture, and certainly doesn’t allow for a decent night’s sleep…
However, once the Sweets Way Resists families had seen the Chief Exec of Barnet Homes, things began to look up. After months of Barnet Homes chucking families miles and boroughs away, into hovels without heating or hot water, two families were given quite decent arrangements, in areas they were happy with… one even got a five year lease, unheard of in the days of insecure private tenancies, and something unimaginable before the campaign kicked-off! But not long after, word came through from our friends at Focus E15, that Jasmin Stone, founding mum from the campaign and active Sweets Way Resistor, had been arrested at a new housing occupation in Newham! Not only that, we were told she was getting held overnight! At this point we split – half of us got to plotting and scheming about the next stages of the campaign, the others headed to Newham to help put the pressure on the police station where Jas was being held. A few hours later, 40 or so people in East London had put sufficient pressure on the Met to get Jasmin freed, and the Sweets Way crew headed back to Barnet for a relaxed evening in.
Looking back at the day, we experienced a lot of emotions together. We are all thrilled that some of the group managed to secure decent housing, after so much stress, but at the same time, had to acknowledge the reality that *nothing* that has been offered to anyone from the campaign seeking alternative housing in recent months competes with the quality of homes that Sweets Way residents had become used to living in. These of course, are the homes Annington has begun to destroy.
Further, the victories of ending the precarity many residents had been living with, also came at the cost of more-rapidly emptying the estate and paving the way for demolition. Annington created a crisis on Friday; Barnet Homes cleaned up the mess, and in the process made Annington’s lives easier for them, priming the estate for near-immediate destruction. All that said, one thing that all former residents have agreed upon, whatever their particular circumstances, is that this fight is not over. With the most immediate stresses removed from peoples’ shoulders, we feel more able than ever to hold Annington and Barnet to account for what they have done to our community. As long as they can profit from social cleansing, we can continue to get in the way and to put them in the spotlight for it. And dozens of ex-Sweets Way families and supporters, freed of the worry of imminent evictions, are actively preparing ourselves for just that!
PS – Still have the threat of high court bailiffs hanging over our heads, so please stay tuned. Even with families on their way out, bailiffs have still been known to put people through hell!
PPS – bunnies! (Because no bailiff can stop the appreciation of bunnies)