Hackney domestic abuse charity hits out at council over eviction in accommodation dispute
- Credit: 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.
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.
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.
“It isn’t safe for the service users, it isn’t safe for the volunteers and staff. It just isn’t safe.”
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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.
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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.
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.”
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.”
The charity’s fundraiser has already raised over £60,000.
To donate to Sistah Space click here
For more information visit www.sistahspace.org