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Turning life around for homeless addicts brings reward for Providence Row's Bethnal Green hostel

PUBLISHED: 15:07 20 November 2019 | UPDATED: 17:55 20 November 2019

Jubilent staff and volunteers at Providence Row. Picture: PRHA

Jubilent staff and volunteers at Providence Row. Picture: PRHA

PRHA

A hostel giving a "safe space" and support to help turn the lives around of addicts living on the streets of east London has won a national award for its social care.

Bethnal Green's award-winning Edward Gibbons homeless hostel run by Providence Row. Picture: PRHABethnal Green's award-winning Edward Gibbons homeless hostel run by Providence Row. Picture: PRHA

The award has been given jointly to Providence Row housing association and Tower Hamlets Council for their "supported living" service at Bethnal Green's Edward Gibbons hostel.

A panel of judges from Laing Buisson healthcare agency which feeds data to the Office for National Statistics made the award after monitoring social care in the public and voluntary sectors.

The hostel in Cambridge Heath Road is run by Providence Row with commissions from the council's substance misuse service, to provide "a safe space" for alcoholics with long-term dependency issues while helping them get services such as GPs and community nursing.

"We are always adapting to create a safe environment that helps people at their most vulnerable," the housing association's chief executive Fiona Humphreys said.

"There are never any guarantees in the work we do—but we've seen first-hand the progress people can make with the right support."

Its staff were beaming with delight at the accolade when the East London Advertiser contacted the charity.

Edward Gibbons House received an "outstanding" rating from a recent Care Quality Commission inspection for its new technology digital malnutrition tool and its palliative care. Homeless people are referred there by the council's housing office in Roman Road.

Father Daniel Gilbert who founded Providence Row for the homeless in 1860 and his night shelter opened later near Spitalfields Market. Pictures: PRHAFather Daniel Gilbert who founded Providence Row for the homeless in 1860 and his night shelter opened later near Spitalfields Market. Pictures: PRHA

The housing association was established as a separate organisation in 1975 by Providence Row homeless charity, which has served the End End's destitute since 1860.

Providence Row's first night refuge was set up by Father Daniel Gilbert and the Sisters of Mercy in October 1860 in an alley called Providence Row where a large stable block was acquired behind Bishopsgate.

It had just 14 beds, but welcomed the homeless from any race or religion, making it London's first non-sectarian shelter.

But the night refuge soon had to find larger premises by demand and moved to Crispin Street near Spitalfields Market, where homeless families were kept together rather than separated as in the Victorian workhouses of the day.

Providence Row gave shelter to refugees fleeing Nazi persecution in the 1930s and 40s and also sheltered East End families made homeless in air-raids during the London Blitz.

But the post-war welfare state and the abolition of the Poor Law didn't go far enough to help the destitute and Providence Row's work has continued to this day.

Its main homeless shelter is in Spitalfields, the Dellow centre opened by the Duke of Norfolk at Wentworth Street in 2007.

Volunteer helping in the kitchens in 2007 soon after the new Dellow centre opened in Spitalfields. Picture: Steve BishopVolunteer helping in the kitchens in 2007 soon after the new Dellow centre opened in Spitalfields. Picture: Steve Bishop

The original charity continues today in Spitalfields with its mercy mission to provide shelter and tackle root causes of homelessness, including drug and alcohol addiction, by building skills and self-confidence through training schemes, language classes and employment workshops. It helps around 6,000 people a year.

Many of its former homeless men and women return as volunteers as a debt of gratitude to the work of the charity founded almost 160 years ago by Fr Gilbert and the Sisters of Mercy.

Providence Row Housing Association, its offshoot housing care organisation, can be reached on 020-7920 7300.

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