The Wildcats of Waltham Forest act for housing justice

A report from Furball

A wildcat. Copyright Peter Trimming/Creative Commons.

A wildcat.
Copyright Peter Trimming/Creative Commons.

Chaos reigned inside Bravissima letting agent on Hoe St, E17 where the owners and manager were observed in a massive arm-waving shouting match after the Wildcats of Waltham Forest picketed the shop for three hours, to highlight their unscrupulous practices.

The Wildcats (aka Unite Community Waltham Forest) chose to intervene after a member approached Bravissima to find a home, and was told they would need to pay £450 in unspecified fees on top of a deposit and rent, was then shown a “bed in a shed” available to in-work tenants only.

One Wildcat had also been rudely pushed inside the shop in a way that may have damaged her ankle. Later, in a friendly chat with the police (who were called by the letting agent), we explained what we were doing and also mentioned the assault. They were actually very helpful and weren’t worried by our activity at all.

Watching the ongoing Bravissima row from inside the warm and lovely Hornbeam cafe directly opposite, we Wildcats found it almost too difficult to feed back to each other, the deeply intense stories of hardship from the many members of the public who had approached us that morning. But some people without immediate problems of their own, had also approached us to express strong support and willingness to help in future.

The leaflet we had given out to passers-bys had, of course, explained the personal experience of our member who had gone to Bravissima in her desparate search for a home for her family away from an abusive situation.  But it also explained why we were wearing cat masks and cat face-paint:

We ‘disguise’ ourselves in a friendly way as Wildcats, to show solidarity with people who cannot be seen or raise their voice against injustice because it could mean unfair deportation, or being found by an abuser, or being seen as a trouble -maker / whistleblower by future employers or landlords… or simply feel too stigmatised by poverty, or too depressed and unable to face the world.

Not all Wildcats members could attend our picket and those who could not, made our beautiful masks and face-paint designs. On my way home, I was able to meet with a Wildcat artist and share a few notes about the morning. Over coffee together I suddenly remembered the lovely cat brooch gifts she had bought for the team and passed to me to give out. I’d only shared one. How stupid of me! Other gifts we received included tea from the Hornbeam cafe, gorgeous flapjacks from our Regional Coordinator, and the most fantastic cookies from supporter, James, who came for an hour before he had to go to work, giving out leaflets and then printing extra copies of our leaflet when we ran out.

The reaction to our being on the street as ‘Wildcats’ was quite honestly fantastic, but also overwhelming… Will we recover in time for our  Wildcats protest in Waltham Forest  on Wed 18 March?

Do join us this week to campaign for our member’s right to permanent social housing and show support for the thousands being forced out of their communities  by sky-high rents and by councils like Waltham Forest, who ignore them and instead build homes for the better-off.

Call or text ‘Furball’ to 07954 047527 for more information

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