#DontLoseHope: East End Sisters Uncut fights back against closure of women-only hostel in Tower Hamlets
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Feminist protest group, best known locally for taking over an empty council flat in Hackney in 2016, launches campaign to save women-only Whitechapel hostel
Group disrupted busy Brick Lane today to demand the hostel is kept open and that there are no cuts to women-only hostel provision
Key decision makers will meet at Tower Hamlets Council cabinet meeting on 31st October.
Photo credit: Oonagh Cousins
Feminist direct action group Sisters Uncut today launched a campaign to save Hopetown women-only hostel in Whitechapel from being closed by Tower Hamlets Council. The council plans to close the women-only hostel and cut women-only hostel beds in the borough by one third.
The group disrupted busy Brick Lane market with a 15-metre banner saying “Tower Hamlets Cuts Hope for Survivors”, and distributed hundreds of flyers to passersby highlighting the hostel closure.
The council plans to close the women-only hostel, open a men’s hostel in its place, and move the women-only hostel premises to a new location where there will be ⅓ fewer beds. They have already begun emptying the hostel by issuing eviction notices to residents. The cuts are being made by the council’s housing department and have been approved by the council’s Cabinet including Mayor John Biggs and Councillor Denise Jones (Cabinet Member for Health & Adult Services). The protest group has launched its campaign to save the hostel ahead of the next Cabinet meeting on Tuesday 31 October.
East End Sisters Uncut is highlighting that most homeless women and non-binary people have experienced violence or abuse, and that domestic violence is a major cause of homelessness for women. For this reason, gender specific hostel services are absolutely vital for survivors. The group are in touch with residents who say that the council are forcing survivors to move into mixed accommodation with men, and that residents with complex health needs are being sent miles away from their care and support services. If they refuse this inappropriate housing, they will be made homeless.
Sisters Uncut believes that a key motivation for the decision is to move sex working women away from Brick Lane and out of sight, rather than provide them with the support services that they need. This is social cleansing.
The group is demanding that Tower Hamlets Council keeps Hopetown open, retains all of its current women-only hostel beds, and invests in social housing and support services for women and non-binary people. They are asking people to sign a petition to support these demands.
A resident of the hostel, who asked to remain anonymous due to fears of being further victimised by the council, said: “The council is treating me and the other women like we’re nothing. They just want to save money at our expense. They are threatening to find us ‘intentionally homeless’ if we turn down housing that is completely inappropriate for us. I’m scared I will have nowhere to go.”
Mariam Peters, a domestic violence support worker who joined the protest, said: “Homelessness is rising and I see many women and non-binary people everyday who are homeless due to domestic violence. With funding for refuges being cut and a crisis in social housing, hostels like Hopetown are vital for survivors.
Notes for Editors:
East End Sisters Uncut is part of Sisters Uncut, a direct action group known for using bold tactics to protest cuts to domestic violence services. The East End group is well known locally for reclaiming an empty council flat in neighbouring Hackney in 2016, in protest at the number of council homes lying empty in the borough whilst domestic violence survivors were being turned away from refuges
Sisters Uncut is formed of non-binary people and women. Non-binary people don’t identify their gender as “male” or “female”; they may identify as neither, both or differently at different times. Non-binary people are often erased from official statistics as gender is only recorded as male/female but still disproportionately experience gendered violence – research shows that 39 per cent have experienced domestic violence.