Life in the hostels

Hostels were intended as temporary accommodation for new arrivals. The emphasis was on providing the basic essentials while people found work, settled in, and looked for more permanent homes elsewhere.

People quickly settled into a routine - out to work, off to school, looking after children or out playing, depending on age and occupation. Linen, meals, and in some cases childcare, were provided.

Hostels, including Glenelg and Gepps Cross, had their own shops and post offices. Woodside, Gepps Cross and Pennington had kindergartens and playgrounds.

For those who stayed several weeks, months - or sometimes years - the hostels became home. The government, having made improvements over the years to make life more pleasant, was then faced with the dilemma of trying to move people out.


The accommodation at that time was two rooms. We were man and wife and two children so we had a small living room with a bed settee, two small wardrobes virtually like broom cupboards and a table and two chairs, an easy chair and two very small chests of drawers. That was our living and sleeping accommodation …
Catherine Grimshaw, British migrant, Finsbury Hostel 1965-1966, interviewed 2000

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