Homeless mothers join protest in call for register of empty homes in Waltham Forest

Protestors gathered in Walthamstow last week to ask why the borough’s empty homes are not being used to house its homeless.

The group included two homeless single mothers housed outside of the borough by Waltham Forest Council, one of whom was then evicted after refusing to move to Derby.

Under the slogan ‘Eviction Resistance,’ protestors demonstrated on January 22 outside a building they say contains several empty council flats in Vallentin Road.

Organiser Nancy Taaffe, from the Socialist Party, said the march was the “symbolic” launch for a campaign to create a register of empty homes in the borough.

Joining the protest were single mothers Izebela Kikosicka, 36, and Nana Yaa, 58, who both lived in Waltham Forest until being evicted by private landlords.

Izebela was originally placed in temporary accommodation in Bexley by the council but is now “sofa surfing” after refusing to move to Derby and struggling to find a place to rent.

Visibly upset, she said: “ I have been calling, emailing, [estate agents] are saying I don’t make enough money or there’s a problem because of self-employment… so the search continues.

“People are offering me help but that doesn’t fix the issue – the only thing that would help is if someone would have a property where I can live.

“I just want to go and cry somewhere. You think you get over it, but then being here… it’s been emotional, really sad to be honest.”

Nana, who was evicted in December and placed in temporary accommodation in Beckton, said she is still being charged council tax both in Waltham Forest and Newham.

She and her autistic son Jason, 22, lost all their possessions when they were evicted from their rented home of 15 years.

She said: “I’m crying and asking God, where I will go and what will I do? They have forsaken me or what?

“I ask myself a lot of questions, but I was so happy to be here today, it felt like having a family.”

Both Izebela and Nana told their story over a loudspeaker in Marlowe Road before the group marched to nearby Vallentin Road.

Nancy told the crowd Nadia Zaman, 38, another single Walthamstow mother who resisted being moved to Stoke-on-Trent, was facing homelessness again on January 26 and called for a “street movement” to resist the eviction.

Leader of Waltham Forest Grace Williams, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service it is a “national scandal” that people cannot find “decently priced” housing in London.

She added: “All properties that are owned by the council are used to provide homes for those most in need.

“They are only ever empty where essential works are being carried out so they can be let, or where they cannot be let due to their condition.

“Demand for local housing far outstrips the supply, which is why we are embarking on our largest homebuilding programme in a generation.”

Cllr Williams’s spokesperson did not reply to request for comment on the number of single mothers facing eviction or provide figures to back up the homebuilding claim at the time of writing.

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter