Chapter 1, the charity that owns and manages Xenia hall, is to be merged with the Salvation Army Housing Association (Saha) at the end of September.

The hall, which is located in Waterloo, accommodates 149 Imperial students. Saha, “a leading provider of residential centres for single and homeless people in the UK”, is a wholly-controlled subsidiary of the Christian organisation The Salvation Army – one of the largest charities in the UK – which opposes same-sex marriage and believes that abortion is only “morally acceptable” in certain circumstances.

Chapter 1, whose main focus is homeless support, has managed Xenia for Imperial since 2012. Over the last two years Xenia has provided Chapter 1 with nearly £600,000 in income, contributing to its annual turnover of over £18 million.

While Saha will take over management of the hall next month, the money made from Xenia will be ring-fenced for the continued provision of housing accommodation and support. The Salvation Army told Felix that “Saha does not pay over any part of its surpluses to The Salvation Army”.

A College spokesperson told Felix that the student experience would remain “unchanged" despite the planned merger

Chapter 1 first became a subsidiary of Saha in March 2017, and in April announced its intention to pursue a full merger, citing reduced overhead costs and increased expansion opportunities.

Following a feedback period, Chapter 1’s shareholders agreed to a merger, with completion by the end of September. They state that residents “should not notice any difference on a day-to-day basis in the short, medium, or longer term”. A College spokesperson told Felix that the student experience would remain “unchanged”.

Xenia, whose rents range from £115 to £215 per week, will maintain an Imperial-operated pastoral care team of wardens and seniors. Chapter 1’s contract with Imperial will be extended until 2018, and Chapter 1 has stated that “discussions have already commenced with Imperial College to renew the contract beyond this date”.

In a statement issued last year, Chapter 1 said "by joining saha, we enable the primary purposes of Chapter 1 to be met within an organisation that recognises and values the Christian ethos that brought Chapter 1 into being."

While Saha is a subsidiary of The Salvation Army, the money from Xenia will be ring-fenced for housing accommodation and support
Flickr//Mike Mozart

Saha, which owns around 3500 accommodation units across the country and has nearly £150 million in assets, had a turnover of more than £40 million last year. This money forms part of the £90 million income of The Salvation Army Social Work Trust (Social Work Funds) – one of two charities through which The Salvation Army operates. From next month Saha will take on the 1,574 units of social housing Chapter 1 manages, as well as a property portfolio worth over £31 million.

The Salvation Army, which had an income last year of £305 million, employs 4,000 people in the British Isles, and operates in 128 countries. It describes itself as “an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church”, whose mission is “to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name without discrimination”. Its major activities include homeless support, addiction support, and campaigning against modern slavery. They also lobby the government on a number of issues.

The Salvation Army has come under fire in the past for its position on homosexuality and abortion: last year the head of the Salvation Army in the UK, Commissioner Clive Adams, defended a ban on LGBT+ members.

In 2000 the Salvation Army petitioned against Scottish Parliament repealing Section 28, which stated that schools should not promote “the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”, arguing that repeal would “potentially be harming both children and the family unit”.

The Salvation Army believes that same-sex marriage compromises the "Christian ideal" of a "monogamous heterosexual marriage"

The Salvation Army maintains a number of positions they expect their members and officers to adhere to: they are pro-life, saying that termination is only acceptable if the mother was raped or significant harm would occur if the pregnancy were to continue. They also state that sex “should take place only in a monogamous heterosexual marriage”, a “Christian ideal” that “is compromised by breakdown, separation and divorce, cohabitation, forced marriage, same-sex partnerships and polygamy.”

In a statement on its website, The Salvation Army states it “stands against homophobia” and “aims to be an inclusive church where members of the LGBT community find welcome and the encouragement to develop their relationship with God.” It also states it does “not permit discrimination on the basis of sexual identity in the delivery of its social care or in its employment practices”.

Chapter 1, which operates around 50 projects in the UK, including homeless accommodation and domestic violence refuges, has signed the Faithworks Charter, stating it is committed to “serving and respecting all people regardless of their gender, marital status, race, ethnic origin, religion, age, sexual orientation or physical and mental capability”. Xenia hosts a number of support groups, including Southwark LGBT AA support and Bipolar UK peer support group.

A College spokesperson told Felix: “While there have been changes in ownership for Xenia, our contract remains unchanged in terms of the level of service and the experience we expect for our student residents. [The] wardens and subwardens at Xenia are members of the College community and are appointed by Imperial. The same warden will be in post as for last year. We also understand that Xenia’s own staff team remains unchanged.”