Women’s Hostels Then And Now

Church Army Review, FEb 1922

“…from beginning to end the spirit of the religion of Christ makes itself felt in a hundred ways, seen and unseen. So that these Hostels, while filling a most useful place in ministering to the physical needs of their inmates, exercise a powerful and in many cases lasting influence in their spiritual life also. And although their immediate mission is not the relief of distress, yet it often happens that the Homes are the means of giving a lift to people who have fallen by the way on their journey through the world.”

The root of Church Army’s vision has always been that help and hope are available to everyone everywhere. This does not only extend to those who live in poverty or are homeless, but also to those with other struggles and situations in life and even those who are seemingly without difficult circumstances. Throughout Church Army’s history hostels, homes and lodges have been keystone ministries as a way of providing for people practically and spiritually, and this work still continues today.

Between the First and Second World Wars, Church Army’s hostels and homes were providing living space for people with different needs and various life situations. Many of these homes were set up specifically for women, a legacy which continues to this day. In 1922 there were hostels for women which cost a reasonable price in rent for a comfortable living space for women who were living and working in London. On the other end of the scale were houses in some of the most impoverished parts of London which cost women only a few-pence a night. Homes such as these offered regular and
long-term living to women who were actively trying to find work.

Between these two extremes were hostels and homes which were set up to suit women in various, specific situations. One house was set up for blind girls who were also earning a living. Another, for women who had been in prison. While each of these hostels provided the obvious service of a safe and warm place to live, it also afforded Church Army Sisters (that is, Commissioned Evangelists) the opportunity to draw alongside the women and share hope and love with them. Each home had a chapel and the opportunity to pray to encounter God’s love.

The following are just two stories of lives transformed over 100 years ago when they came to stay in a Church Army hostel. The below accounts are taken from The Church Army Review in February 2022.

Making a Hard Fight

There came to us a young woman of a very respectable family, who had been in service as a children’s nurse, but who had given way to the terrible habit of opium taking. This led her to the downward path, she began to live an immoral life, and was also a thief. But at times she struggled against her temptations, and consented to go into a Home where she underwent treatment for the drug habit. Whilst there, her conscience urged her to confess her theft; she was arrested and sent to prison for four months. After her release, she went to see a lady who took an interest in her, who sent her to the Church Army with a recommendation that we should give her a chance to start life afresh.

The young woman was without money or clothes, and was suffering from great depression, but was struggling hard to overcome her bad habits, and asked for our prayers to help her to endure. We received her into one of our Lodging Homes, whilst we endeavored to procure a suitable situation for her. This was not easy, as her proclivities had to be made known; but eventually after some weeks a lady consented to give her a chance, and provide her with an outfit for service. She is now very happy in the country and writes very gratefully, but still feels that she needs sympathy and good influence to enable her to continue on the right path.

Fast forward 100 to 2022 and the need of a place to stay for many is still as vital as it was in 1922. The Marylebone Project stands as one of Church Army’s key projects, providing help and shelter to homeless women in London. Each year hundreds of women walk through the doors of the centre seeking help and finding shelter, friendship, guidance and hope. Church Army’s legacy of putting people’s wellbeing as a paramount ingredient of showing the love and hope of Jesus still drives our cause today and in God’s grace will continue to for another 100 years to come.

Saved from Suicide

Wandering near Waterloo one night a poor woman saw the lights of one of our Lodging Homes. Only a few pence in her pocket, wet, cold, and hungry, she came to the door and asked the price of a night’s lodging. “If it had been a shilling, I should have thrown myself
over the Bridge,” she said later on, warmed and cleaned and fed – one of the many whom we trust find fresh life through human sympathy transfigured by the Love of God.