Based on a “direct action casework” model of community organising pioneered in Ontario, Canada in the 1990s, the London Coalition Against Poverty was formed in 2007 to fight against the worsening squeeze on welfare provision which had been occurring under successive Labour governments.
Organised on horizontal lines, it immediately made a splash with punchy actions such as occupations of jobcentres and housing offices demanding that councils keep to their legal commitments, and for many years operated out of the Freedom building in Whitechapel. LCAP now operates as a series of local groups in Hackney, Haringey, Islington, Kilburn, Southwark and Lambeth.
Below, an organiser with Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (HASL) writes about the current state of play and how LCAP is arranged.
The London Coalition Against Poverty is 10 years old this year, and HASL also celebrated its fourth birthday in April. As we noted and celebrated in LCAP’s most recent general meeting, as groups of people directly affected by housing and other poverty issues it’s an awesome achievement to be running for these lengths of time.
Another theme of that meeting was the many successes our groups have achieved recently. Despite compiling a long list of the problems we face — including issues relating to organising our groups, common housing troubles, as well as much bigger issues and policies that affect and will affect us — our list of successes was actually longer.
Our general meetings, hosted this year by HASL, bring together other groups in the coalition and sister groups from across London who organise practical solidarity, mutual support and collective action.
As well as the regular LCAP housing groups, we were joined by Housing Action Greenwich and Lewisham, North East London Migrant Action, and Latin American Women’s Aid. The LCAP general meetings (which are supposed to happen every three months or so) are really valuable chances for our local groups to meet together to share tactics, ideas, problems, and experiences, as well as to discuss how we can co-ordinate and link up better between our groups.
For many groups in the coalition, local group meetings have been very busy, so it can be hard to step back and reflect on how we are doing things, how we can do things better, and how we get to the root causes of the problems affecting our communities. The LCAP general meetings provide a good space for this to happen and where we can discuss answers to the problems and questions we have together.
As with our local group meetings, where we raise housing problems we are facing and try to deal with them collectively, LCAP meetings help us deal with group organising and wider issues collectively, sharing years of experience and giving us much needed energy and strength.
Many of our members have children and children’s activities at all of our meetings are something we are trying hard to improve. For this LCAP meeting we had three adults who helped facilitate children’s activities, including the creation of a beautiful “homes not borders” banner. The children themselves also provided a helpful reminder towards the end of the meeting that it was time to finish and have cake; they did this by running around us in a circle with increasing ferocity.
During the meeting we split into smaller groups to focus on a topic or issue that we wanted to work on and to make it easier for people to contribute to the discussion. We looked at internal group issues: how to increase membership and build a group up and how to share out work within our groups.
For wider issues we looked at: housing and migrant rights, private landlords, and the introduction of five-year council tenancies as part of the Housing and Planning Act. We made sure our discussions were action point focused so that we could return as a big group with some concrete steps.
Our small discussion groups generated lots of good ideas and plans that we’ll be working on putting into action. The meeting also gave us energy for building stronger links between each other and organising more together.
Sometimes north London can feel very far away, but it was so valuable and fun talking with our friends from Haringey and Hackney. Meeting others from across London organising in similar ways reminded us that we’re much bigger than we thought we were.
To find out more about LCAP check out its website, or you can get in touch with member groups using the following contact details:
Housing Action Southwark & Lambeth
HASLemail at gmail.com
Hackney Housing Group
hackneyhousinggroup at gmail.com
Haringey Housing Action Group
housingaction at haringey.org.uk
Islington Poverty Action Group
islingtonpovertyactiongroup at gmail.om
Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group
kilburnuwg at gmail.com
This article first appeared in the Summer issue of Freedom anarchist journal