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Whitechapel’s former Hopetown women’s hostel renamed by Salvation Army to shelter reluctant homeless men

PUBLISHED: 12:50 12 June 2018 | UPDATED: 13:21 12 June 2018

Hopetown women's hostel in Old Montague Street now turned into a men's homeless refuge. Picture: Mike Brooke

Hopetown women's hostel in Old Montague Street now turned into a men's homeless refuge. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

The controversial Hopetown women’s hostel in Whitechapel has been given a new identity now it’s being used by homeless men who were reluctant to move there.

Protest banner in Brick Lane in October 2017 against women being moved out of Hopetown hotel. Picture: Oonagh CousinsProtest banner in Brick Lane in October 2017 against women being moved out of Hopetown hotel. Picture: Oonagh Cousins

Women who used the shelter in Old Montague Street have been relocated to a new riverside complex on the Isle of Dogs.

But the relocation led to protests in Brick Lane in October by members of the East End Sisters Uncut action group who also disrupted Tower Hamlets Council’s social services meeting, accusing the authority of “ignoring the women”.

The council closed Hopetown after 10 years and handed the building back to the Salvation Army which transferred its men’s hostel there from Booth House in the Whitechapel Road.

But many men were reluctant because of its associations with homeless women. So the Salvation Army has now renamed it Founder’s House.

Tower Hamlets councillor Rabina Khan campaigning with women in 2017 who were given notice to leave the hostel. Picture: Mike BrookeTower Hamlets councillor Rabina Khan campaigning with women in 2017 who were given notice to leave the hostel. Picture: Mike Brooke

“Hopetown is known in the East End as the women’s hostel and there has been resistance from some of the men to live there,” the organisation’s regional manager Capt Alison Greer said.

“The decision was made to make this relocation under a new name to remove all the male and female perceptions of the building.

“Founder’s House commemorates the influence of William Booth in the Whitechapel area, since it was in these streets that he founded the Salvation Army.”

Booth came to Whitechapel in 1865 where he preached outside the Blind Beggar pub in Whitechapel Road which led to regular public prayer meetings on land known as Mile End Waste.

Members of East End Sisters Uncut action group protest at women's hostel being closed. Picture: Oonagh CousinsMembers of East End Sisters Uncut action group protest at women's hostel being closed. Picture: Oonagh Cousins

He set up the Christian Mission which led to the founding of the Salvation Army.

Booth helped the East End’s poor with soup kitchens open day or night for hot meals for just sixpence (2.5p) and distributed hundreds of free meals at Christmas.

His organisation also gave shelter to the homeless, a tradition it continues today, and also helped the unemployed get work by lobbying local authorities to take them on for public road projects.

The relocation of both the men’s and women’s hostels was part of the Pathways programme by Tower Hamlets Council and the Salvation Army to help solve today’s homeless crisis.

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