You win some, you lose some

Our community house is now facing imminent eviction, we shut down Barnet Homes for 2 hours, a judge told Barnet Council that they can’t use high court bailiffs against Mostafa, and we were told that ‘no county court bailiffs will touch Sweets Way with a barge pole’!

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COMMUNITY HOUSE FACING EVICTION
Thursday began with an early start, prepping for and heading to the courts in Finchley Central in the rain. Our five-month old community occupation was up against a possession order. We knew there was precious little legal defence for our presence in the house, since most judges don’t seem as impressed as us that we have used our occupation to reinforce a powerful community in the face of deliberate attempts to destroy it, but we had to give it a go.

Unsurprisingly, we lost. Quickly. And the judge accepted the claimant’s assertion that High Court (not County Court) bailiffs would be required to remove us, since, according to the claimant’s barrister, ‘no county court bailiffs will touch Sweets Way with a barge pole.’ This comment was probably the only silver lining of a pretty bleak morning, and seems to be an indication that we’re doing something right. We assume all the county court bailiffs in London are taking a principled stand in solidarity with our struggle for housing justice by refusing to evict us.

WE SHUT DOWN BARNET HOMES!
IMG_20150827_124448From the courts, we went to Barnet Homes to protest the treatment Mostafa and his family have faced, and to make a series of demands that Barnet Homes needs to meet immediately to address the family’s needs. We shut down the building, at both entrances at several points over a two or three hour period, making crystal clear that if they continue to fail Mostafa and so many others, we will continue to make business-as-usual impossible for them.

MOSTAFA’S TEMPORARY COURTROOM VICTORY
Then, just as we were leaving, we heard from Mostafa, who had spent the morning at the Royal Courts of Justice, applying for a stay of execution on Barnet Council’s decision to allow High Court bailiffs to evict him without offering a time and date. What we all thought would have been a bureaucratic formality, turned out to be a major victory for the family and the campaign. Mostafa saw a judge, who was able to see Barnet’s utter lack of sensitivity over his needs as a person with disabilities and made clear that the Council would need to immediately cease any pending High Court bailiff actions and find a date to have a full and proper hearing to justify why they think they needed to do so in the first place.

This means that there will be at least weeks, possibly months, before the family have to leave their home, if Barnet continues to fail to offer them a suitable alternative. It also mean Mostafa will finally get a day in court to explain why he feels a High Court bailiff eviction is entirely unfair and disproportionate to the situation, after the decision to use High Court bailiffs against him was taken in secret, without his knowledge.

For once in the campaign, the justice system actually ruled on the side of justice! We won’t get too used to this, but it certainly helped balance out the legal ruling against our community home.

WE NEED REINFORCEMENTS
For the immediate future, we need people who are able to come stay the night at 76 Oakleigh Road North, to be able to help defend this crucial pocket of community strength we’ve held onto since Annington began evicting families from the estate.

If you think you can come along, please drop us an email on: sweetswayresists[AT]gmail.com

Barnet Council hits a new low as Jennifer is set to be made homeless

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Domestic violence vigil at the front of Barnet Homes

Today Barnet Homes and Barnet Council acted with utter contempt for ex-Sweets Way resident and domestic violence survivor, Jennifer, telling them they will not offer her any support, and leaving her with a letter suggesting she contact Shelter and find her own solicitor before she becomes homeless on the 2nd of June.

This is truly disgusting and an absolute lack of respect for both Jennifer’s circumstances and for the rules of local government in these situations.

Following the meeting, we blockaded the front of the Barnet Homes office for several hours in protest, and left candles (pictured above) in memory of the many women who have lost their lives to domestic violence.

Barnet completely denied any wrong doing, refusing to address the many specific issues we raised with them, in previous letters and in person. The Barnet Homes’ website released a strongly-worded, but largely empty statement about not tolerating domestic violence. The statement also said “it is essential that we are provided with the evidence in support of domestic violence claims”, a practice that raises major concerns, given the sensitive nature of the issues, and in Jennifer’s case, ignores the irrefutable evidence previously provided.

At this stage, Jennifer and her children will become homeless because she refused to live in fear of abuse. And responsibility for this lies squarely on the shoulders of Barnet Council and Barnet Homes. We will continue to bring this story to light, until justice is done.

We will be taking legal action immediately and appreciate any support from housing solicitors that are willing and able to work for free. The way Jennifer has been treated is a travesty; we are asking for the support of solicitors or barristers who are as committed as we are to preventing local authorities from taking such inhumane actions in the future.

If you think you might be able to help, please email us at sweetswayresists@gmail.com

It would be a lie to say we are not all deeply saddened by today’s result, but our resolve to fight these injustices is only reaffirmed by the Council’s disregard and neglect for one of their own residents. Join us to help make days like today a relic of the past. Our collective strength is infinite. We will see each other through this and rebuild the Sweets Way community that Barnet and Annington seem so intent on destroying.

Come to our weekly Saturday street stall in front of the Whetstone Waitrose, 12-2pm, or come along to our next public meeting on Tuesday, 6pm, at the community house, 76 Oakleigh Road North, to get involved.

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

Court adjourned!: Another week to fight social cleansing!

Impromptu march by residents and supporters of Sweets Way Resists, following the adjournment announcement.

Impromptu march by residents and supporters of Sweets Way Resists, following the adjournment announcement.

When a giant box arrived at the gate of the occupied Sweets Way social centre on Thursday around 4:30pm, we were all a bit stunned. Inside were a dozen or so copies of a two-finger thick document. These documents were the court papers from Annington Properties Limited, trying to get us removed from our current occupation, via a possession order hearing on Monday, March 23, 10am.

There was a lot to get through, and by the time we realised what was happening, the working day was done. Friday was spent bouncing between advice providers, but none included barristers who were qualified to make an out-of-hours request to the court to have the case delayed, given the lack of preparation time given to us.

Even without that, we went to Barnet County Court this morning, with at least 50 supporters who made the trek up to Barnet, handing out Sweets Way sweets and leaflets, and getting people to sign our petition. The twenty-minute slot we’d been allocated wasn’t nearly enough, but after an hour or so highlighting the complexities of the case, the judge finally agreed to grant us another week to get our arguments together and return next Monday to take on Annington properly.

This is a real win! A week may not seem like long, but the last two weeks have seen:

…With this in mind, we intend to make the most of the coming week!

We have fought to create a safe space for our community, and we will not give it up quietly, so ‘regeneration’ can carry on, unimpeded. We will continue to shine a light on the social cleansing at the heart of Barnet’s housing policy and Annington’s ‘redevelopment’ plans!

Come join us! It’s usually buzzing here between 4 and 6pm on weekdays, if you feel like popping by at 60 Sweets Way 🙂

And be sure to join the new event page to say you’ll be coming along to the courts again next week to help us fight!

https://www.facebook.com/events/433124830197068/