A young former Ilford resident now residing in Chigwell was so inspired when she learned about Ilford’s historical past in helping the homeless, whilst reading an Eric Arthur Blair aka George Orwell novel, that she conducted her own research into the town’s desperate vagrancy past.
According to the British Pakistani Christian Association www.britishpakistanichristians.org, Hannah Chowdhry (age 16 yrs) was born in Ilford and attended Kantor King Solomon School before the COVID-19 lockdown and now attends Davenant Foundation school nearer to her current home.
Whilst serving homeless people in Ilford via the British Asian Christian Association (BACA), based at Clementswood Community Centre, Ilford, Hannah was told about Ilford’s help for rough sleepers that dated back at least a century.
Local Pub Landlord David Christof told Hannah about the mention of an Ilford Cafe In Orwell’s first full-length published work. Hannah bought a copy of the book and was fascinated by the similarity of the lives lived by the homeless then and now.
Imbued with a passion to learn more, she decided to find the location of the food establishment that served homeless people, somewhat ungraciously, around 100 years ago.
Initial internet searches revealed little information, however after some help from Redbridge Museum’s Heritage Centre, Salvation Army Heritage Centre and Ilford Historical Society she has now formed her own opinion on the whereabouts of the 1920’s tea shop.
Hannah has narrowed down to two potential sites for the famed but unnamed location, mentioned in the classic novel ‘Down and out in Paris and London’. Hannah hopes one day to get Redbridge Council to install a plaque to commemorate the first ever mention of Ilford in a popular novel by a distinguished writer.
Hannah said: “Life in East London for the homeless in the 1920’s involved many of the same survival techniques, dumpster diving, theft, begging, fencing and hawking.
“What has changed in many cases is the standard of support that homeless people get.
“Safeguarding and dignity measures have improved and rough sleepers are no longer put through hard-labour or forced to share the same bath water with 10 other people, for instance.”
She added: “Church organisations serving the homeless have improved in the way they share the gospel with homeless people they support.
“Most of us no longer force prayer and Bible readings on visitors (as described in Orwell’s book) but provide access to free Bibles, Spirit-led counselling and prayer for those who want it.
“Our desire to see people spiritually-saved has not diminished.”
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SOURCE: Assist News, Michael Ireland