Charity petitions council for ‘safe space’ for domestic violence victims

Charity Sistah Space is asking Hackney’s Council suitable premises to host victims and users. Pic:  Sisters Uncut

A domestic violence charity has started a petition to gather support in its battle with Hackney Council for a safe space to house victims.

Charity Sistah Space launched the petition to co-incide with the annual national 16 Days of Action campaign, which lasts until December 10 and is supported by the NHS and Public Health England.

The group aims to get from 6,000 to 16,000 signatures at the end of the campaign.  Rose Lewis, chief volunteer, told Eastlondonlines the campaign was going to be ‘’empowering and informative.”

Sistah Space and the Council have been in dispute since last summer concerning the charity’s premises in Clapton, which they considered unsuitable, which led to a protest in front of the Town Hall in July, 2020. The charity was given Mare Street space until the end of July and the deadline was extended until January because the group was concerned about moving during the pandemic.

A Hackney council spokesperson told ELL: “Following independent mediation, Sistah Space agreed in October to leave temporary premises in Mare Street in January 2021 and start its own search for new premises, after accepting the Council could not guarantee accommodation. Both parties also agreed to make no further public comment on this dispute.

As the departure’s date nears, Sistah Space are now asking the Council to provide them with a minimum five-year lease for a suitable premises, starting on the same day.

They say they need a place with 3,000 sq. ft of space, four rooms with a kitchenette, 24/7 access, in a location with easy transport links, that can meet accessibility requirements for prams and wheelchairs.

“We are not going back to Clapton. We are looking forward for a place.” said Lewis. “The Council is not planning to help us. They are saying that we have to find a place like anybody else because if they do it for us, it would be [seen as] preferential treatment, even though we’ve been on the waiting list for five-six years.” 

A spokesperson for the council said that it was ‘disappointing ‘that less than two months after the agreement, Sistah Space had decided to start a new campaign against the council.

The spokesperson added : “It would be inappropriate and unfair to the many other charities also there to support our diverse and marginalized communities in Hackney if there was not a fair and transparent letting process open to all voluntary and charity sector organizations.”

Sistah Space specialisese in helping women of African and Caribbean heritage. “People think that because it’s domestic abuse there is no difference between black and white people. But there is a big difference in services.” continued Lewis. 

They say they are fighting to be recognized as an essential and specialized service. “We are trying to highlight and to show people that as African heritage people we have our voice.” said Lewis. 

As each organization approaches the 16 Days campaign differently, Sistah Space planned to tell their truth and to spread their message across through number of methods, mainly online. “It’s going to be about subjects people are not aware of: racism; mainstream organizations; stereotypes; discrimination. We will go through all the subjects.”  said Lewis. 

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