Homeslessness organisations get a boost from Poached

by Yousif Farah

It’s been a busy year for Poached in 2014, not least because we’ve been able to work with a number of homelessness organisations through our collaborative projects.

Our latest collaboration will see us join forces with the Pavement magazine. The Pavement was founded in 2005 as a registered charity in response to the increasing need of a publication focused on homelessness and directed at those affected by it.

The magazine is concise and informative. It could be described as a rough sleeper’s A to Z, providing the reader with a list of day centres, soup kitchens and places to gather advice and assistance regarding housing.  It also has features on health, legal advice and an insider’s view of life in hostels. It also covers the journalistic aspects of homelessness through comprehensive coverage of the news from the streets, often dealing with topics neglected by the mainstream press.

Even though the publication relies on volunteers, they are highly trained and experienced journalists and homeless sector professionals, also among the volunteers are some of the country’s best cartoonists (many of them Private Eye contributors). Some of our own Big Issue online journalism trainees have contributed articles to The Pavement in recent months.

The Pavement is well established in London, Scotland and the West Midlands, with over 4,000 copies distributed to over 70 hostels, day centres, homeless surgeries, soup-runs and libraries in London alone.

Its sole purpose is to support people at times of crisis, aiming to make life that bit easier for homeless people through providing them with information that can both help reduce short-term hardship, as well as enable them to guide their own future. The Pavement relies entirely on donations by public, to donate or read more visit The Pavement.

As well as working with the Pavement, we got a welcome and rather unusual offer of support from the world of music.

When blues artists Mete Ege got in touch with Poached offering to donate the proceeds of his new single Ghosts of London to support our Big Issue online journalism training programme, we were thrilled to accept this unexpected yet generous offer! The song draws from Mete’s own experience of sleeping rough in the capital: “Knowing that the money from the sales will be used to train homeless people feels right. Everyone deserves a chance to break the vicious cycle.”

Finally, in October, we helped to promote a comedy gig to raise funds for the Hackney Winter Night Shelter, which provides rough sleepers in the borough with a bed for the night, a hot meal and a warm smile.  Headlined by Stewart Lee and compered by Daniel Kitson, A Belter for the Shelter was a huge success and our writer Martin was there to review it. 

Human Rights Day: a history

By Yousif Farah

Image from 

As many countries mark a century since the start of World War I, we are all too aware that conflict comes at a cost. Not only in terms of the grave loss of human lives and the prolonged agony and suffering inflicted indiscriminately upon entire nations, but also the level of depravity shown by distorted human nature and the atrocities and cruelties committed against innocent people was on a different scale.

They were shocking enough to urge a world leaders meeting in Washington DC and a follow-up summit in San Francisco. The UN Charter included seven references to human rights and the significance of reserving these rights. This evolved into what we know today as the UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights). The declaration was conceived on 10 December 1948, and from 1950, Human Rights Day was marked to commemorate this milestone.

UDHR played a persuasive role by inspiring more than 60 human rights instruments, constituting an international standard of human rights. The declaration is also accredited for the modern approach of codifying human rights ideas down into laws, including the European Convention on Human Rights.

This is mirrored in the UK through the Human Rights Act, which came into force on 2 October 2002. With all the infringements of human rights and the violations of liberties taking place around us, it has become increasingly important to recognise that day and the events which led to it, as from history one draws lessons for the present and the future.

The day is normally marked both by high-level political conferences and meetings and by cultural events and exhibitions dealing with human rights issues. In addition, it is traditionally on 10 December that the five-yearly United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights and Nobel Peace Prize are awarded.

Locally, at Poached Creative we have worked with charities and social enterprises assisting victims of social injustice. One of our first projects over five years ago involved work on a website for a healing community in north London – Room to Heal – for refugees who had suffered trauma through conflict and torture.

In an ideal world, we would have no need for Human Rights Day, but through exposing the atrocities and righting human wrongs, we slowly build a path for peace and understanding and recognising human rights will become part of our moral identity.

Hackney residents seek a new era for affordable rent

By John Watts

Residents of the New Era Estate in Hoxton held a family-led demonstration with their supporters on 1 December, calling on Westbrook Partners to keep rents affordable, following their recent purchase of the property. Families living on the estate say that are at risk of being made homeless by the proposed treble rent increases.

The protest began outside the Westbrook Partners offices in Berkley Square, Mayfair where they held a rally, before walking to Downing Street to hand in a 300,000 signature petition.

The New Era Estate in Hoxton has a history of affordable housing and is home to 93 families, many of whom have lives there for generations. Linsey Garett, chairwoman of the New Era residents association and a young mother who works for the NHS, said: “My parents live on this estate too. There are families like mine who have this area in their blood.”

The treatment of the New Era Estate residents by Westbrook Partners has again raised the issue of gentrification in the capital. Jules Pipe, the Mayor of Hackney recently said that the treatment of the New Era Estate tenants is unfair and that the proposed rent increases are ‘tearing the heart out of Hoxton’.

Their story has come to represent the plight of low-income Londoners in the face of huge rent hikes, cuts to housing benefit and the insatiable appetite of foreign investors for London properties, pushing house prices well out of reach for local families.

The steep rise in house prices in London has seen rapid social and economic change over the last decade. Property prices this year alone have risen by 20%, whilst wages have drastically failed to keep pace. The National Housing Federation has warned that you’ll now need to earn more than £100,000 a year to afford a typical 80% mortgage in London.

Long-standing communities are being torn apart in what many people at the protest said was an outrage. An elderly lady attending the protest, who didn’t wish to be named, said that she had two daughters and their families living on the estate who were not able to come because they were working on zero hours contracts in low paid jobs and couldn’t afford to take the time off, so she had come in their place.

Russell Brand, who has been campaigning passionately on behalf of the residents and seemed to have been the focus of the massive media presence rather than the petition or the New Era Estate residents, again reiterated his support and the ‘awful way’ Westbrook was treating them.

The issue is no longer just something affecting the low paid. Key workers and those on an average income are also being forced out of their local areas.

When the petition was being handed in a chant went up of, “HOMES FOR PLEBS! HOMES FOR PLEBS!” which brought smiles to the Downing Street Protection squad. Even the police know that key workers like themselves need affordable housing if they are to continue to live and work in London.

As a Hackney-based business and social enterprise that works with long-term unemployed and marginalised people, Poached Creative and our writers are closely following the New Era Housing saga. Read former trainee Sam Hooper's recent guest post on In My Shoes and look out for our forthcoming feature in the next issue of The Pavement.