Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Fleecing the homeless and taking money from Serco in East London

I seem to be writing much about homelessness lately; and especially, of those unfortunate, unlucky and ill-fated it is indeed to be living and existing on our streets. Almost two weeks ago I wrote about my concerns in regard to the stormy weather that we experienced, and how this may have impacted on a group of homeless friends who are rough sleeping under a flyover on the A13 near to Canning Town. Well I am pleased to say, despite two or three uncomfortable nights in the windy and blustery weather, the men survived the flying debris of scattered cans, bags, rubbish and the refuse of discarded litter.

I thought it a good idea then to go along to the flyover and see for myself what these men were having to endure, and just what are their living conditions, how bad is it for them; these were some of the questions that I needed to find out. What materialized was what can only be described as a cave like existence of say copper age caveman.  But then there was the busy A13 and with its constant noise and the hum of motor cars on either side of the road whilst overhead the bounce and movement of the built-in suspension of the flyover was a reminder of just where you were, but still this was home to a group of men...of which such things, are a mere trifle and a thing of little value or importance to the super-rich who now call London their home.

A homelessness database - showed 6,437 were sleeping rough in 2012 compared with 5,678 the previous year. The number of rough sleepers in the capital has steadily increased from 3,472 in 2008, when the current mayor Boris Johnson  came into power.

In my original post I said that I would email a local hostel to see if it was at all possible, for ANCHOR HOUSE on the Barking Road to help these men out if only temporary, and in the interim of the storm , this I did and with a very intriguing response; in all I had three emails to my one, and I must say not at all pleasing or helpful to say the very least. ANCHOR HOUSE on the Barking Road was opened in 1962 by the Roman Catholic Apostolate of the Sea as a hostel for seamen and is now catering for the homeless. It is built on the site of the former Lees Hall (Canning Town Women's Settlement).

In my email to ANCHOR HOUSE I wrote the following:

“I am writing in regard to a group of rough street sleepers, that sleep under the flyover just down the road from you on the A13.

As you know the weather forecast is not promising for the next 24 hours and I have serious concerns for these men’s health and safety. As you are an award winning and nationally acclaimed residential / life skills centre in East London working at the heart of homelessness providing accommodation as a step back into the community; would it be possible that you could help these men out by offering them if only temporary shelter from the storm?”

I realise that this is short notice but I am sure these men would appreciate any help you and your organisation could help them, and so would I and the wider community.

Finally just for your information, I have done a post on my blog re-this situation http://goo.gl/v8goQE hope it is ok and feel free to comment and if need be corect me, and it is my aim to write more about the hostel and quistion the impact this type of accomadation has on our community.”

The replies from ANCHOR HOUSE are the following:
Email Number (1)

"We have taken a similar group this morning, perhaps you could come in at some point and see what we do. The situation in the Borough is becoming diabolical and so far this year we have managed a 98% occupancy rate . We are working with others to set up a Newham Homeless action group. Recently LBN has stopped rehousing any of our residents, as they are not deemed to be a priority. It is essentially a mess."

Email Number (2)

"Further to my previous email from our Director, Keith Fernett, he has asked in that in respect of the blog we would be very grateful if this could be amended as it does not accurately describe the successes, despite the challenges, that we are achieving. Anchor House is virtually full and just this morning we have taken in a large number of street homeless people whom our Director met over the weekend at a local food bank. We are doing our utmost to protect the most vulnerable in the Borough.
Might you be available at some point this week to come in and meet our Director? If you could let me know your availability I would be very happy to book it in the diaries."

Email Number (3)

"I would be grateful if you would recognize the reality of the work that we do rather than have a pop in your blog. We went to a facility just on Saturday and today have interviewed 6 persons to take in, we are normally 98% full. We could take more but LBN have stopped offering rehousing to our residents!"

Finally I was compelled to send the following in response:

“Thank you for your emails all of them. I don’t think that there is much point in meeting with you or any representatives of Anchor House.

It is all too obvious that your regime is nothing more than self serving; meaning that such a corporate run set-up has more to do with keeping those of you on good paid salaries in a lifestyle far removed from the people you claim to help. Hostels such as yours Sir, and with all due respect, and no matter what you boast about with excessive pride and self-satisfaction do more harm than good, if you like, an extension to the prison (a detention center for the homeless) system sadly.

The Housing crisis, along with austerity means LBN have taken a disgusting and disgraceful decision by not allowing housing allocations to have single homeless people from your hostel re-housed.

My own position, and I speak as someone who has campaigned on the single issue of housing for over 30 years with mixed results I must say; but bad hostels have been closed and hundreds of men women and children have been rehoused, however the scourge and suffering of homelessness persists firmly in this the 21 century.

I did not like the tone of your email Sir...and let me tell you that if you are serving or it may be better to say 'exploiting' the the vulnerability of the homeless then I will be on to you in no uncertain terms, go on tell me that the residents of your hostel have a residents committee?”

In conclusion, I have much more to say, but that can be saved for the next post about Anchor House which under the present circumstances has only a short time left if you take into consideration the lack of, and robbery of social housing, coupled with the gentrification of East London.”

Regards Jim Lawrie
Socialist Candidate Canning Town North 2014

In essence, this is an update to my original post, and there is of course much more that needs to be publicly made known about ANCHOR HOUSE, and some very searching questions that need to be asked ; such as why are residents expected to go out to places like Cannery Wharf  a major business district located in Tower Hamlets and just down the road from us, one of two main financial centres that have helped to cripple this capitalist country, made the poor pay for the crisis of capitalism through austerity, and yet the homeless residents are sent with buckets like beggars to collect money under the guise and appearance of the hostel being a registered charity. This hostel has accumulated millions of pounds in such a fashion whilst stripping its residents of dignity, and further, ANCHOR HOUSE has received substantial donations from bankers and business by using the pretence of helping the homeless. But what makes my blood boil at temperature at which it bubbles is the fact that it has taken money from Serco currently under investigation by The Serious Fraud Office and a criminal investigation at that into electronic tagging contracts held by both G4S and Serco, after allegations that the two companies have overcharged the government by tens of millions of pounds.

I have only started to investigate the activities of ANCHOR HOUSE with much more to come this is not the last posting.


Keith F said...

Thank you for your post, Jim.

We, like you, are acutely aware of the rising issue of rough sleepers, both in London and more specifically in the borough of Newham, and you make many good points about these facts.

We are very much in agreement with you that this figure should no way be on the rise, and as an independent charity we are doing as much as we can at Anchor House to help those at risk ourselves. Sleeping rough is dangerous and there should be no place for it in a civilised city like London in the 21st century.

Unfortunately, we are running at full capacity and have been for most of the last 12 months, during which period we’ve provided a home to over 200 people.

With regards to your concern about those sleeping rough you will no doubt be aware of the “No Second Night Out scheme”. They’ve set up a helpline and a web site to encourage the general public to work with them to help rough sleepers move into secure safe accommodation. They’ve also established an outreach team to help get people to the assessment hubs they’ve established to this end.

Their contact details are as follows;

The rough sleeping hot line is 0870 383 3333, and the NSNO website(www.nosecondnightout.org.uk)

Thank you Jim.

Bill Morris said...

Thank you Keith, for your kind comment and please accept my apology for getting off on the wrong footing, Anchor House is on the front line when it comes to fighting for the homeless in Newham and indeed London.

Although I may hold some criticisms I accept that the staff and your good-self do a great job within our community.

I would like to do another post on the hostel very soon as there seems to be an interest in the posts that have been published so far, and will contact you with regard to an interview very shortly.

Best Regards Jim

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