Activism

Community food bank fights eviction by property developer

"We don’t want to be socially cleansed from this area" said one volunteer.

Homegrown in Tottenham

Homegrown's volunteers say they will not leave until a new space has been found. Image: Homegrown

The team behind a vital community food bank say they are victims of social cleansing as they fight eviction by a housing developer.

Volunteers at Homegrown in Tottenham, north London, is refusing to leave its premises after being told it must shut to make room for a new block of flats.

It is run entirely by volunteers who are demanding a new site and say Haringey Council and Notting Hill Genesis have provided no alternatives.

“We will not be moving until we are offered a permanent space in Tottenham Hale,” said volunteer Emma Djilali.

“The fact that the council and social landlords are knowingly pushing a group such of ours out of the area, in one of the worst cost of living crises we’ve seen in the UK for a long time is disturbing.”

Homegrown and other tenants in Ashley House are being evicted to make way for a new development, made up of 353 homes, of which 35 per cent will be shared ownership and 15 per cent affordable rent.

They were aware their stay was temporary – but believed they would be in place until the spring. However in July they were told they would be kicked out by the end of August.

Volunteers say they provide a vital service – and at present have nowhere to go.

“We need to find a permanent space in Tottenham Hale because we don’t want to be socially cleansed from this area. The families we’re supporting, the kids who are coming to access our project, are all based in and around here, so there’s a direct need for a group such as ours to remain in Tottenham Hale,” said Djilali.

“We don’t want to be socially cleansed from this area”. Image: Supplied

Alongside its food bank services, volunteer Chloe Ruthven says Homegrown provides a space for kids in the area

“We’ve got entrenched poverty, we’ve got mental health. We’ve got stress. We’ve got alienation. We’ve got isolation. We’ve got kids who are being failed by the education system who are so smart and engaged but who over and over again, are being put down and negatively labelled,” Ruthven said.

The volunteers said they had highlighted alternative sites in Tottenham, but hadn’t heard anything, and had previously been offered somewhere in Enfield – a completely different borough of London, but that wasn’t appropriate.

“They proposed to us a couple of sites in Enfield, just in case we wanted to leave Tottenham. We said no, it’s very important to us to stay in Tottenham because of the families and kids we are supporting,” said volunteer Rose Dakuo.

Frontline community projects such as these are vital, and will become even more important as the cost of living crisis worsens when energy bills soar in October. Other food banks have already warned they may be forced to close, with a south London centre saying soaring energy bills may see it shut by Christmas.

A Notting Hill Genesis spokesperson said: “All tenants were aware of the short-term nature of the tenancy. This was originally due to be for one year but we were pleased to be able to extend that to four years.

“We have been in regular contact with tenants regarding potential dates for vacating the site and provided notice as agreed. We have provided an alternative site for storage of Grow Tottenham’s shipping containers for the next year, free of charge and their volunteers can also access the site to harvest crops this autumn, despite their notice expiring.

“Homegrown did not hold a tenancy for the space they are occupying on Ashley Road. Despite this, we are working closely with Haringey Council to find an interim space for Homegrown and will keep in contact with them to ensure they are considered should a suitable space become available in the new development.”

A Haringey Council spokesperson said: “We are committed to providing support and assistance to Voluntary Sector Community organisations wherever we can.

“We were made aware of the situation in July by Notting Hill Genesis and have been working hard with them since then to explore whether an alternative location can be found for both Grow Tottenham and Homegrown Tottenham. We want to find a solution and have reached out directly to Grow Tottenham and Homegrown to arrange a meeting so that we can better understand their needs and do everything possible to help them remain in the area.”

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