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Feminist ‘protest of hope’ in Brick Lane over closure of Hopetown women’s hostel

PUBLISHED: 15:57 30 October 2017 | UPDATED: 15:23 31 October 2017

East End Sisters Uncut feminist group's Brick Lane protest over Hopetown hostel closing. Picture: Sisters Uncut

East End Sisters Uncut feminist group's Brick Lane protest over Hopetown hostel closing. Picture: Sisters Uncut

Sisters Uncut

An 11th-hour campaign to save a ‘women only’ hostel in Whitechapel has been started by a feminist group unfurling a 40ft banner in Brick Lane disrupting the street market.

Cllr Rabina Khan meeting women at Hopetownwho were told in July the hostel was closing. Picture: Mike Brooke Cllr Rabina Khan meeting women at Hopetownwho were told in July the hostel was closing. Picture: Mike Brooke

The banner proclaiming “Tower Hamlets cuts hope for survivors” was carried by the East End Sisters Uncut group who handed out leaflets in the famous London Sunday street market demanding that the Hopetown hostel closure be stopped.

The shelter in Old Montague Street is being retuned by Tower Hamlets council after 10 years to the Salvation Army which needs it for its men’s hostel currently housed at Booth House in the Whitechapel Road.

The women were given notice in the summer and have already begun moving out—first revealed in the East London Advertiser in July.

The campaigners in Brick Lane yesterday have started an online petition ahead of tomorrow night’s council cabinet meeting calling on the local authority to keep Hopetown open for women only.

"This may cause some anxierty" admits Tower Hamlets council letter to Hopetown women about hostel's closure. Picture: Mike Brooke

“Hostels like Hopetown are vital for survivors,” domestic abuse support worker Mariam Peters said. “I see many women made homeless because of domestic violence, but funding for refuges is being cut.”

The closure meant some were being sent away from east London altogether, say campaigners.

This was first uncovered in July by Tower Hamlets opposition councillor Rabina Khan, who found one mother had been sent to Gillingham in Kent with her seven-year-old daughter “without means of support”. Others had been moved to Romford, Dartford, Heathrow and Enfield, she found.

The women protested to the mayor in July after receiving notices to leave.

Most were “not legally entitled” to be rehoused at public expense, mayor John Biggs claimed in the summer. Instead, they were being referred to the private rental sector.

But he said this week: “I know changes like these are stressful and we are working hard to address these needs.”

The women are now being moved into the new female-only Riverside hostel on the Isle of Dogs, while those ready to live independently are being offered “affordable and accredited” private rental accommodation.

But Cllr Khan insists the “pathways out of hostels” plan was not working. The 118-bed Hopetown hostel was being replaced by the 81-bed shelter on the Isle of Dogs — a loss of a third of all places available for women.

Hopetown opened in 2007 originally for 100 destitute women, then leased to the council. It is close to the site of the first homeless shelter in nearby Hopetown Street opened in London’s East End by the Salvation Army’s founder William Booth in the 1860s.

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