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Hackney domestic abuse charity hits out at council over eviction in accommodation dispute

PUBLISHED: 13:43 12 August 2020

Founder of Sistah Space Ngozi Fulani speaks about premises dispute at protest agaisnt the council's decision. Picture: Andy Commons

Founder of Sistah Space Ngozi Fulani speaks about premises dispute at protest agaisnt the council's decision. Picture: Andy Commons

Andy Commons

The only domestic violence charity in Hackney for African and Caribbean heritage women has formally been asked to vacate its Mare Street premises despite requests and protests to stay put.

Protesters and activists gathered outside Hackney Town Hall on July 10, 2020. Picture: Andy CommonsProtesters and activists gathered outside Hackney Town Hall on July 10, 2020. Picture: Andy Commons

On August 11, Hackney Council served a notice on the temporary building in Mare Street where the charity Sistah Space has been based since December 2019 on “a rent-free, temporary basis”.

Sistah Space has been asked to return to its registered premises in Clapton following a requested refurbishment, but its founder Ngozi Fulani says the space is not suitable for safety reasons and its size not capable of accommodating a growing number of service users.

READ MORE: Hundreds protest plans to move Hackney domestic abuse charity into “unsuitable premises”

In a video posted on YouTube, Ngozi said: “The mayor [of Hackney] is insisting that we go back to Lower Clapton Road despite us saying to him, time and time again, the place is not safe.

Protesters take the knee in solidarity with Sistah Space and the Black Lives Matter movement. Picture: Andy CommonsProtesters take the knee in solidarity with Sistah Space and the Black Lives Matter movement. Picture: Andy Commons

“It isn’t safe for the service users, it isn’t safe for the volunteers and staff. It just isn’t safe.”

The video sees members of the voluntary organisation speak about an email from the Mayor of Hackney, Phillip Glanville, which he sent to supporters of the charity.

Ngozi claimed the mayor has not contacted Sistah Space directly since the dispute started.

READ MORE: Hackney domestic violence charity fears services for victims could be impacted in premises dispute

The council says Sistah Space must now return to its refurbished premises in Clapton, which it had previously used since 2016, at a subsidised rent of £1,600 per year.

It described the decision as a “last resort” following six months of offers to make further security improvements to the Clapton building, such as installing roller shutters and intruder panic alarms.

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A council spokesperson said: “The council continues to invest more than most other local authorities in supporting people affected by domestic abuse.

“The council’s Domestic Abuse Intervention Service is still operating a full service throughout the coronavirus pandemic and has increased its capacity to provide vital support, advice and help to those in need at this time.

“This is also supplemented by specialist domestic abuse and sexual exploitation provision provided through London Councils – the umbrella organisation for the capital’s local authorities – which Hackney Council also funds.”

READ MORE: Domestic violence charity Sistah Space marks five years since the murders of ‘community giant’ Valerie Forde and her baby daughter

News of the notice comes after a cross-party letter was addressed to the mayor asking him to “resolve the ongoing eviction of Sistah Space”.

The letter - sent on behalf of Hackney Green Party, Hackney Women’s Equality Party and Hackney Liberal Democrats - claimed Sistah Space offered to pay full commercial rates for their current premises but were not offered a long lease by the council.

It said: “The responsibility for deciding what location is or isn’t suitable is up to the domestic violence service, not the council. As a result of this ongoing conflict, the charity’s services have been disrupted and they have been forced to pause services in a time when domestic abuse is on the rise.

“It is not sustainable for Sistah Space to be living month to month and they require a long lease in order to resume the essential services they provide for Hackney and across London.”

READ MORE: Hackney domestic violence charity warns Covid-19 lockdown is pressure cooker for abuse

The charity’s fundraiser has already raised over £60,000.

To donate to Sistah Space click here

For more information visit www.sistahspace.org


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