Sweets Way Community House Under Threat: We Need Your Help

Sweets Way Resists, one of London’s loudest housing protests, has come under threat, after residents were issued with a possession claim on the campaign’s base, 76 Oakleigh Road North.

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The Community House, as number 76 is known, has been a meeting point for evicted families and their supporters for nearly six months. But it is more than that. The Community House is a place of refuge, where parents, and their children, can feel at home amidst a time of great turmoil in their lives. We need your help to prevent this refuge being taken away from the people who so desperately need it.

Sweets Way is a large housing estate in London N20. With 142 fantastic family homes, it could comfortably house over 500 people. But that’s not what’s happening. Instead, the families who lived there were forced out and evicted as part of a policy of social cleansing, which will see luxury homes – and a small percentage of nominally ‘affordable’ (but grossly unaffordable) ones – built on the site.

The estate, owned by the Ministry of Defence, was leased for free to a British tax exile who has openly said that he saves money by not visiting his family. In contrast, the former residents of Sweets Way have very little but spare nothing in fighting to keep their community together, and to preserve their families’ sanity.

Guy Hands, the tax exile behind the developer, Annington Homes, left Kent for Guernsey by choice and because of greed. The working class families of Sweets Way don’t have the luxury of choice. They’ve been moved around London and beyond like pawns on a chess-set, breaking hearts and risking jobs and schooling. Together, Annington, the MOD and Barnet Council, have made these families’ lives a living hell.

The Residents of Sweets Way Talk about the Community House (scroll to the bottom to see how you can help)

Anna:
To watch your children stressing about the future with such intensity that they’re crying at night and asking what’s going to happen with us tomorrow, where we’re going to live, it’s absolutely heartbreaking. And the reason for our pain is very selfish. The people who are in charge of caring for the majority simply care more for profit than for people. How can you explain that to a child? As much as I’d like to spare my children, how can I protect them from seeing neighbours being dragged out of their homes? How do you explain that?

The only explanation is that unfortunately there is something wrong with this world and we need to fight to change that. The Community House made our children believe in humanity again, because we’ve encountered so many amazing people through our struggle, and the children have learnt that there are good people, selflessly committed to changing the world to make it better, and that there are many of them. If you are one of them, please stand with us.

The Community House is not only a place of struggle and campaigning, but it’s also a place for our families to recover and support each other after everything we’ve been through. Families from other communities also come here to find solace and understanding. Please don’t take this away from us. We are not the ones in the wrong here. We are only fighting for the rights of ordinary people to have somewhere to live.

Unless you’ve been violently evicted from your home and deprived of all power over something so basic as the roof over your head, it’s hard to understand how such an experience feels. I never thought this would happen to me, none of us did. Our struggle may sound like a faraway prospect for you, but believe us, we once felt exactly the same.

Andy and Zlatka:
We lived in Sweets Way for five years. Since the eviction we’ve been through such terrible stress and sleepless nights, not knowing whether we’ll have a roof over our heads.

We both work in a hospital, but renting a flat is impossible without our wages being topped up by housing benefit. The few units of so-called ‘affordable’ housing that Annington are going to build on this site would take up more than 90% of our salaries. In what way is that affordable?

Please join us, we need your help to save the Community House and keep our campaign and our spirits strong. We never thought we’d be in this situation; we’ve worked our whole lives. It could happen to you.  

Sometimes our seven-year-old son cries at night about losing his friends and having to move schools, on top of all the housing nightmare and uncertainty. The Community House is a home to him.

This is everyone’s struggle and we need to fight it now before it reaches the point of no return. We’re fighting even though we’re tired. If you have any strength at all, join our struggle – for us, for yourselves, for the children.

How you can help:

To defend our Community House, we would be very grateful if you could do one or both of the following:

  1. Come to court with us on the morning of 27th August 2015 to offer moral support, and to let the authorities know that a lot of people disagree with their policy of social cleansing. Please bring banners or make placards if you can, but your presence is enough and would mean so much to us. More details will be available from @SweetsWayN20 or on Facebook Sweets Way Resists, or by emailing sweetswayresists@gmail.com. The address of the court is:Barnet County Court
    St Mary’s Court
    Regents Park Road
    Finchley Central
    London
    N3 1BQ
  2. Write to the following people, telling them that you object to their plans to evict us from our Community House, and to stop the land being used for profit. We’ve included a draft letter (below) for you to copy and paste if you don’t have time to write your own. Please make sure you include your full name and postal address when writing or emailing. And, if you’re a Barnet resident, please state this clearly in your letter.
    1. Annington Homes
      1. 1 James St, London, W1U 1DR
      2. media@annington.co.uk
    2. MOD (Secretary of State for Defence)
      1. Michael Fallon MP, Secretary of State for Defence, Whitehall Buildings, Whitehall, London SW1A 2HB
      2. michael.fallon.mp@parliament.uk
    3. Barnet Homes
      1. Troy Henshall, Barnet Homes, Barnet House, 1255 High Road, London, N20 0EJ
      2. troy.henshall@barnet.gov.uk
    4. Sweets Way’s MP (in the Chipping Barnet Constituency)
      1. Theresa Villiers MP, 163 High Street, Barnet, Herts, EN5 5SU
      2. theresa@theresavilliers.co.uk
    5. The Prime Minister
      1. David Cameron PM, 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA
      2. Use this form to email: https://email.number10.gov.uk/
    6. Housing Ombudsman Service
      1. Housing Ombudsman Service, 81 Aldwych, London, WC2B 4HN
      2. info@housing-ombudsman.org.uk, or use this online complaint form: http://www.housing-ombudsman.org.uk/resolve-a-complaint/getting-help-from-the-housing-ombudsman/
    7. Mayor of London
      1. Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, Greater London Authority, City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, More London, London, SE1 2AA
      2. mayor@london.gov.uk

If we don’t act now we’ll end up with a city where 20 people crammed into one house will be the new norm. A city in which essential workers can no longer afford to live. A city that holds no future for our children.

A city that will fall apart.

Thank you for your support, from the families of Sweets Way

Suggested draft for writing to the people above – please remember that if you are a Barnet resident, you should open by mentioning this in the letter, “As a Barnet resident, I am writing to urge…”. And include your full name and postal address.

Dear X

I’m writing to urge you to stop the eviction of Sweets Way Resists from their protest occupation at 76 Oakleigh Road North, London, N20 9EZ.

I stand with the former residents of Sweets Way N20 in their fight for homes for all. The way these families have been treated – forcibly evicted and dispersed around London (and beyond) – has made their lives a living hell. This treatment is a direct result of a policy of social cleansing that puts profit before people.

76 Oakleigh Road North is affectionately known by former residents of Sweets Way as the ‘Community House’. As well as a protest occupation, it has become something of a refuge for evicted families, somewhere where they can find solace and understanding.

The residents and their supporters have been issued with a possession claim and been summoned to Barnet County Court on 27th August 2015.

I also ask that you use your powers to immediately terminate Annington’s lease on the Sweets Way estate. Give the land to public ownership so that the working class families who lived there, and who so badly need a home, can return.

The former residents of Sweets Way, and their supporters, have the right to protest. I ask that you defend this right, and do everything in your power to prevent their eviction.

Yours sincerely

FIRST NAME SURNAME

ADDRESS 1
TOWN
POSTCODE

EMAIL ADDRESS (if you have one)

Bailiffs sent away! Mostafa still at Sweets Way!

On Monday, people kept a family from being evicted and pushed a council to reverse the decision that would have left them homeless. But we need to keep up the pressure to keep Mostafa and the family safe.

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Photo by Hannah Nicklin

On Sunday night, many of us didn’t go to sleep. Bailiffs were due at 46 Sweets Way and because we had seen what Mostafa and his family had gone through, and we had seen them failed over and over again by the various systems that are meant to protect them, we knew we needed to prepare with them to stay in their home.

We were prepared to do everything peaceful within our power to stop High Court bailiffs from entering the home of the last family at Sweets Way and making them homeless. Some of us planned to take photos and document the experience, others were prepared to take civil disobedience and face arrest.

But whatever kind of action we spent the night before preparing to do, we prepared to do it because it was right.

As it turned out, there were enough of us there that sending away the bailiffs proved to only require a very passive form of resistance: being there! Enough of us, even, that they didn’t show their faces or even make an attempt to breach the gauntlet of more than 60 people (including allies from Our West Hendon, Barnet Housing Action, Haringey Housing Action Group, Barnet Alliance for Public Services and Black Dissidents) and an extensive array of amateur barricading.

In fact, we only even found out that the bailiffs had come and gone when we called Barnet Council’s lawyers. We asked if the bailiffs were still scheduled to arrive and were told that the two of them that had been dispatched knew immediately they were no match for our collective power, and left. (They didn’t use exactly those words…).

You could feel the sense of collective power in the air – we knew what we had achieved, and the energy was electric! A group of regular people had sent away the bailiffs and kept a family in their home! And we knew we would be able to do it again.

Better yet, as Barnet had been punishing the family over the a small amount of rent arrears accrued since the Council unexpectedly cut their housing benefit, they received a message this afternoon informing them that their housing benefit had been reinstated, retroactive a month ago. This will address their arrears and allow Barnet to once again own up to their responsibility to house the family appropriately.

This is a clear victory spurred by our collective action to highlight the Council’s many failures to Mostafa, and the number of media requests that came off the back of our action. Once again, Barnet need to find the family somewhere to go. And it’s up to us to make sure they have a home until the point where they have an alternative that truly meets their needs.

This will require a lot of work from all of us, preparing to fight off the bailiff threat whenever it rears its ugly head. High Court bailiffs don’t normally offer a time or date when they are coming, and are entitled to use physical force to enter and remove families from a house. Because of this, Mostafa and the family remain barricaded in and ready for an attack.

We need to be there with them.

We have a strong contingent of occupiers staying around Sweets Way at the moment, but we need more people who can stay there (or who live very locally) in the coming days, to ensure an initial line of defence when bailiffs do return. It would be tragic if all our hard work yesterday was lost because a few of us slept late one day.

Get in touch if you live within in a few minutes of the estate, or can come stay over during the coming days. sweetswayresists[AT]gmail[DOT]com / 07812 372 298

We are all inspired by what we were able to do yesterday – let’s be sure it continues to grow!

PS – having made it through many months of intense campaigning without any way of receiving cash donations beyond the bits of cash visitors would sometimes pass along, we have set-up a PayPal account and would appreciate any help in covering some of the extra costs that several of us incurred, personally, during the People’s Regeneration Show Home project. Thank you so much!

PPS – We are lucky to have a whole bunch of pics from yesterday that have been shared with us by Hannah Nicklin!

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ALL OUT FOR SWEETS WAY!

The kitchen of the show home

In the last 48 hours, everything has ramped up at Sweets Way for what is likely to be a major confrontation between those who believe in the right to housing and community, and those who would see London cleansed of all but the wealthiest.

Annington has sent in contractors, Cuddy, to prepare the estate for demolition. Fences have begun to be erected around large swathes of the estate and contractors and security guards have begun to more actively intimidate us.

Yesterday two bailiffs, with two policemen in tow, attempted to deliver court orders to occupiers. However, through a strong showing of people power, we sent them away, peacefully preventing the delivery of the notices.

Meanwhile, Mostafa and his family – the last remaining household on Sweets Way – have been told by Barnet Council’s solicitors that High Court bailiffs will be coming to evict the family on Monday morning.

We will do all that we can do to keep Mostafa in his home. He has been through such mistreatment already, with Barnet repeatedly failing to take on their duty of care for him, due to his disability, and we need a very strong presence on Monday morning to send away the highest level of bailiffs the courts can send.

Can you join us to stand up to the bailiffs on Monday morning, 8am at 46 Sweets Way?

In the meantime, we are opening up the estate this weekend to show off the People’s Regeneration Show Home, the independent nation of Sweetstopia and the state of the estate as a whole.

Join us Saturday, 2-5pm for show home tours, and stick around if you can to help prepare for eviction resistance!

This is truly crunch time for the campaign to save our estate. We are up against giants, but we’ve managed to win some crucial victories, in spite of the odds.

That said, we need your help. The days ahead may decide if Sweets Way will continue to exist as more than a memory of its former residents and those it sparked the imagination of, through our refusal to go quietly into the pages of a future history book.

So come down! If our fight has inspired you, come join us this weekend and Monday morning!

We can still win! But it’s up to all of us to prove it!

STOP MOSTAFA’S EVICTION, Monday, 8am!

CALL-OUT: Keep Mostafa’s family in Sweets Way, Monday, August 10, 8am, 46 Sweets Way, N20 0NT (Meet at Sweetstopia, 95 Sweets Way)

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Mostafa’s family are the last remaining family on the Sweets Way estate. They have fought to stay where they are because Barnet Council have failed to provide alternative accommodation suitable to Mostafa’s physical health needs, having developed a serious disability while working as a carer three years ago.

Now they have been told that High Court bailiffs will be coming to evict the family of six on Monday morning, and we are committed to helping them stay in their homes until Barnet Council have found a truly suitable alternative accommodation for them.

In the midst of the eviction process, Barnet cut off the family’s housing benefit, leading to rent arrears, and are now using this as an excuse to avoid their duty of care to them. Both because of the Council’s horrendous treatment of Mostafa and his family, and because they are the last family standing on the estate, it is critical that we mobilise to stop this eviction!

There will be roles for people who are comfortable with different kinds of action on the day. There are always legal risks involved in stopping evictions, but we aim to make sure that everyone who is present can play a part, no matter what their level of comfort with different forms of direct action.

Regardless, we will need as many people as possible if we are to keep Mostafa in his home. Please arrive at 8am outside the gates of Sweetstopia (95 Sweets Way) for a 9am start.

DETAILS: Monday, August 10, 8am, 46 Sweets Way, London, N20 0NT (Meet at Sweetstopia, 95 Sweets Way)

UPDATE: People’s Regeneration Show Home launch delayed (like every other regen project, ever)

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…Apparently 72-hours was a bit ambitious to redo an entire house… so we’ll be working through to Wednesday to highlight the possibility that still exists in each of the homes on our estate.

We hoped we could undo all the reckless damage inflicted on 153 Sweets Way in just 3 days, but Annington’s hired vandals really did a job on the place! A couple more days should give us sufficient time to get 153 Sweets Way ready for a family to live in. And we’ll still have done so for just a few hundred quid, so running late doesn’t mean the price tag is shooting up, like it does with most regeneration projects.

If you want to get involved or come document the process, come on down and join us today or tomorrow, or for the new launch day on Wednesday, between 11am and 5pm.

The house next door is now also open and has been left untouched, as a living record of what Annington does to these buildings to keep people from living in them, which this project is showing an alternative to.

Since we know not everyone is keen to get involved in DIY, we’re also keen for people to come help with feeding those of us doing the DIY work, and tidying up at our community house, as dozens of people come and go all day.

There’s always something you can do to get involved if you’re keen, so come down!

Here’s some pics of the process so far:

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Help us rebuild the People’s Regeneration Show Home!

New occupation and community-led refurbishment will highlight that ‘regeneration’ doesn’t need to be another word for ‘social cleansing.’ Come down now and help make it happen!

Good morning London! As most of you started your work days today, dozens of us began to repair the damage inflicted by Annington Properties to one of their buildings – one of our homes – on the Sweets Way Estate.

Today we start work on the ‘People’s Regeneration Show Home’ at 153 Sweets Way (N20 0NX). Over the next 72 hours we will demonstrate that a group of committed and skilled volunteers, with (almost) no money between us, can turn a smashed-up shell of a building, into a lovely family home. And all without the ‘help’ of either the council or private developers.

Can you come down and help us make it happen? Families are welcome!

Shortly after the bulk of the evictions began on Sweets Way, Annington sent in contractors to make the houses unliveable while they prepared to demolish them and build luxury flats in their place. Rather than letting us stay in these homes and avoiding the inhumane evictions they put so many of us through, they paid workers to break windows, strip piping, knock holes in the roofs and smash up the porcelain of dozens and dozens of otherwise-liveable family homes.

This is what some of them looked like!

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The kitchen of the People’s Regeneration Show Home, after Annington ripped it apart, but before we started refurbishing it.

This morning we started the process of putting one of those homes back together to shine a light on the regeneration racket. Across London, councils and developers work hand-in-glove to argue that it is impossible to maintain – or to build new homes – that people can truly afford to live in. Sometimes they blame austerity, sometimes they blame the conditions of the buildings or unseen market forces, but the result is always the same: private development is the only way forward.

But we’re not having it! Our homes were never in need of a refurb until Annington ripped them apart, and even if they had been, we won’t accept that demolition was ever the only choice. So we’re putting another option on the table: People’s regeneration.

We’re fixing plaster board, replacing flooring, building cabinets, reinstalling plumbing and collecting furniture to make this possible. Can you come join us this weekend?

We’re still a relatively small group, with a very short window of time to make this happen. If you can come get involved, spread the word, contribute some furniture or building supplies, you will help make the case that what we are doing is a viable alternative to the brutal kind of ‘regeneration’ London has come to know!

We hope that this will spread. London has countless homes and whole estates that have been left to get run-down, which a bit of collective action could easily make liveable again.

Regeneration doesn’t have to be a horrendously expensive code word for social cleansing; it can be a collective, sustainable and affordable way for people to come together and improve their homes and their community. We’re just highlighting something communities across London can do wherever they are, to make sure the homes they need are there for those who need them.

So come get involved! Help make it happen on our estate and then take the lessons back to your own! The Councils and developers don’t give a toss about our communities or our homes, so let’s do what is needed to hold on to, create and rebuild the places and spaces that matter to us!

Show up at 153 Sweets Way any time this weekend and get stuck in! We can make this happen!

Get the latest from @SweetsWayN20 / #SWShowHome

Read the press release here.

IT’S TIME TO DEFEND SWEETSTOPIA!

The first passport for the independent state of Sweetstopia

The first passport for the independent state of Sweetstopia

CAN YOU COME VISIT THIS WEEK?

Shortly after we began our occupation of the estate, some other occupiers emerged on the scene. At first we had some tensions, but gradually we have come to see eye-to-eye on the need to keep our homes from being destroyed, in spite of any differences.

The group – though representing a range of views and opinions themselves – number roughly 30 at this point, and have named themselves Sweetstopia. They have gone to great lengths to not only protect a dozen homes, but also to rebuild the damage done by Annington’s contractors, who had ripped out piping and electrics, and smashed up the porcelain in all of our homes, in an attempt to make them unlivable.

The Sweetstopians have made the estate more beautiful, begun growing vegetables, and have been willing to put their bodies in the way to protect our homes.

But now they are under attack, with Annington securing a possession order against them, and its up to all of us to stand with them and make it clear that no planning permission or possession order can justify ripping a community apart.

This coming week is going to be crucial. Any time you can spare to come visit this budding new village will help strengthen them when the bailiffs do arrive.

Whether you’re around to document, to stand up for the estate, or to simply learn more about what is being done, your presence there will be greatly appreciated.

Look for number 95 Sweets Way when you arrive at the estate. Sweetstopia are the houses that are less-ghostly than all the ones that Annington have had their way with!

Join us in stopping the war on Sweetstopia!

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ACTION CALLOUT: Stand with the last Sweets Way family!

COURTROOM SOLIDARITY NEEDED!

Where: County Court at Royal Courts of Justice,
Thomas More Building, The Strand, WC2A 2LL

When: Monday, June 22, 10:00am rally before 10:30am hearing

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Mostafa and his two daughters at their home in Sweets Way

On Monday morning, the final household on the Sweets Way estate goes to court to fight against their eviction by Barnet Council. The family of six are the last of the estate’s residents left in their home, after winning a previous case against Barnet and Notting Hill Housing Trust in late March, on the basis that the eviction process had failed to take into account the father, Mostafa’s, disability.

Now they are back in court, fighting for their home and they need support, inside and outside the courtroom on Monday morning. Protecting the estate and bringing our community back together relies on Monday’s court case. If Mostafa is evicted, it will be far easier for Annington to start destroying our homes.

Until three years ago, when a spinal injury from heavy lifting on the job forced him to stop working, Mostafa was a carer in a hospice in Hackney. Now he struggles to even stand up and can’t leave the house without extensive support. For four years Mostafa had worked to help others in vulnerable positions, and now Barnet Council have failed to adequately support him at a time when he has needed their help, refusing to offer suitable housing to someone with such clear and urgent disability.

Barnet have threatened the family with £40,000 in legal fees for having the nerve to stand up for their right to decent homes. They have also told them to vacate the property immediately, though they haven’t yet offered the family somewhere to go that would be appropriate for Mostafa’s health needs.

So they remain – the only household standing in the way of the destruction of the 142 homes of Sweets Way.

We have done whatever we can to support their legal case, but we need to make clear that there is widespread public support for them and all the others of Sweets Way who never got a day in court to make their cases for a decent home.

Can you join Mostafa at 10:00am, Monday at the Royal Courts of Justice to support the last family standing in the way of the social cleansing of Sweets Way?

If you can’t make it in person, send Barnet Council a message on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Barnet-Council/345382132326295) or Twitter (http://hrefshare.com/93fd0), telling them to drop their possession order against Mostafa until they can guarantee the family a home that meets their needs!

Join the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/822345027851879/

EVENT: The Barnet Alternative Housing Agenda, June 29, 6:30pm

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WHERE? In front of Hendon Town Hall (NW4)
WHEN? Monday, June 29th, 6:30pm

In recent months, Sweets Way Resists families and many others, have been denied entry to countless council meetings, public offices and Councillor surgeries meant to be open to the public.

IF WE ARE NOT WELCOME IN THE PLACES WHERE DECISIONS ABOUT OUR LIVES ARE BEING MADE, WE WILL CREATE OUR OWN SPACES TO MAKE THOSE DECISIONS TOGETHER.

Join us in front of Hendon Town Hall as the Barnet Housing Committee meets, to discuss what we – the people of Barnet – can do together, to make sure our borough is not socially-cleansed of all but the ultra-rich.

We are not going to beg, or make demands even – we are going to create our own housing agenda that reflects our needs and realities, and figure out the steps needed put it into action together!

We want everyone in Barnet who cares about housing to get involved. There is no agenda, just a mutual commitment to figuring out what kinds of direct action we can take together to secure the housing we need, given the failure of the council or the market to provide it or protect it.

ALL ARE WELCOME! SPREAD THE WORD!

Facebook event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/382843121911597/

UPDATE: House Jennifer NOW!

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So since Wednesday’s blog became the most-ever shared post on our site, by a factor of at least double, Barnet Homes have slightly changed their tune with Jennifer. Unfortunately, rather than admit that they had been caught out neglecting their duties under the Homelessness Act 2002, they tried to delay Jennifer’s meeting this morning, telling her they wouldn’t be able to tell her anything new, until she had submitted more ‘evidence’ of domestic violence. Along with this claim, they offered to keep her housed for a few more weeks, just long enough, they probably reckoned, for all the outrage and Tweets and letters to MPs and Councillors to die down.

But Jennifer won’t accept that. We know that Barnet have neglected their duties as a local authority, and have reinforced that neglect with each letter they have sent Jennifer since late January, upholding their initial decision.

Barnet Homes have police records of physical violence and statements of threatened violence acknowledged in their letters, so requiring further information from Jennifer is simply a delay tactic. It is also out-of-line with local government guidance, which rightly suggests that forcing a survivor to repeatedly dig up old trauma is unfair and abusive in itself and should not be the approach of a local authority.

We have replied to this latest letter with point-by-point citations of the relevant clauses of the 2002 Homelessness Act’s Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, highlighting the many ways in which Barnet has failed to live up to its statutory duties to Jennifer and her children.

When we arrive at Barnet Homes this morning for a silent vigil for all the women in the UK who have been killed by domestic violence in the past year, we expect Barnet Homes to once again accept their responsibility to support Jennifer into safe and appropriate accommodation in the area, where she is able to find community support and live free of fear.

We will not be dismissed. There is absolutely no justification for a situation in which a domestic violence survivor should be forced to choose between a fear of future violence, and a fear of homelessness. Yet this is the position Jennifer has been forced into, and we need a strong presence outside Barnet Homes to make perfectly clear that this is completely unacceptable.

We hope to see you there. Please bring candles and stories you are comfortable to share with others. Together we are strong!

JOIN THE FACEBOOK EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/668825379890589/

TWEET BARNET COUNCIL NOW: http://bit.ly/1ejnUSK