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Feminist protesters disrupt Tower Hamlets Council over Hopetown women’s hostel closing

PUBLISHED: 09:13 08 November 2017 | UPDATED: 10:00 09 November 2017

October protest in Brick Lane by members of East End Sisters Uncut against Hopetown women's hostel  closing. Picture: Oonagh Cousins]

October protest in Brick Lane by members of East End Sisters Uncut against Hopetown women's hostel closing. Picture: Oonagh Cousins]

Oonagh Cousins

Feminist protesters disrupted a Tower Hamlets council meeting last night over the closure of an east London hostel for homeless women.

Members of the East End Sisters Uncut action group brought the adult social services committee meeting to a halt to “bring home to councillors” the impact of closing Whitechapel’s Hopetown women’s hostel.

They packed the first-floor committee meeting room at the town hall to chant their protest directed at Cllr Denise Jones, the council’s cabinet member for health and adult social services.

The authority plans to move the remaining women out of the hostel next month and house some in the Riverside complex now being refurbished on the Isle of Dogs and others in private-rented accommodation.

Protester Anya Smith said: “The council is ignoring the women of Hopetown in their decision, so we decided to make sure councillors could hear them.”

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

Cllr Jones offered to discuss the issue with the campaigners who had organised a street protest last month in Brick Lane.

The council is closing Hopetown after 10 years and handing the building back to the Salvation Army which is transferring its men’s hostel to the premises from Booth House in the Whitechapel Road.

It is placing women on a “path out of homelessness” through the private rented sector and has already begun emptying the hostel with notices to leave.

Mayor John Biggs later acknowledged: “I know that changes like these are extremely stressful for vulnerable residents and we are working to address these needs.”

Homeless women meeting Tower Hamlets opposition Cllr Rabina Khan outside Hopetown hostel in Old Montague Street in the summer. Picture: Mike Brooke Homeless women meeting Tower Hamlets opposition Cllr Rabina Khan outside Hopetown hostel in Old Montague Street in the summer. Picture: Mike Brooke

Some women have been sent miles away from east London, as far as Kent and Essex, opposition Cllr Rabina Khan discovered.

One woman had been sent to Gillingham with her seven-year-old daughter without means of support until Cllr Khan campaigned to get her returned, first revealed by the East London Advertiser in the summer.

The campaigners are calling on the council to keep Hopetown open and retain all its women-only accommodation.

The women move into the Riverside complex at Cubitt Town after refurbishment which is due to reopen in the spring. Hopetown then becomes a male-only support service.

A town hall spokesman insisted: “No one will be under threat of homelessness as a result of the new hostels commissioning plan. We are doing our best to house those in greatest need.”

But the protesters claim the new ‘women’s only’ facility at the Isle of Dogs has only two thirds the number of places at Hopetown and fears that fewer women’s places are being provided altogether.

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