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Survivors and ACORN escalate campaign for accountability on safe houses

Two domestic abuse survivors are at risk of homelessness and say that the council has abandoned them.

Reports

Two women are facing homelessness but no guarantees of alternative accommodation have been made by the council

Two weeks ago the Cable reported the story of two women who, having fled domestic violence to a safe house, are now at risk of homelessness as a result of the safe house closing down.

Facing this dire situation and not finding effective support from the council or other services, the women turned to ACORN, Bristol’s community union, who promptly organised a demonstration outside council offices on 23 August.

The demonstration resulted in a private meeting with two senior Bristol City Council officers, Paul Sylvester and Pam Wharfe. Presented with a set of demands, Sylvester and Wharfe agreed to respond in full by 29 August. The deadline and some of the demands were met. However, the survivors and campaigners were far from satisfied with the response, in particular because the risk of eviction from the safe house is still a live issue and no guarantee of alternative accommodation has been made.

A letter was sent by ACORN in return to the council with a deadline for 5 September. No response from the council has been received to date.

Sarah, one of the survivors, told the Cable

“I feel extremely let down and disappointed that the council have not got back to us and met the demands ACORN has put forward. Yet again, this makes me feel that we are being ignored and not taken seriously.”

ACORN are now vowing to escalate the campaign to achieve the immediate permanent rehousing for the survivors. Other demands include the call for a prompt investigation into how survivors were placed in a safe house that had no sufficient accreditation and no exit plan in the event of closure.

As previously reported, the organisation responsible for the safe house, Within Safe Hands, is not recognised by the council as a provider of safe houses. However, women remain in the safe house despite council officers Sylvester and Wharfe admitting that the accommodation is not appropriate for survivors.

In a statement to be delivered to the Mayor and all councillors at a full council meeting on 11 September, ACORN and a local organisation working to end gender-based violence, Bristol Zero Tolerance, will say:

“Already vulnerable women and their children have been subjected to further abuse within a supposedly ‘safe house’ and upon its closure are at risk of destitution and homelessness, rather than being rehoused and given ongoing support.”

ACORN are encouraging the public to attend a demonstration at City Hall and the Full council meeting on Tuesday.

Green Party councillor for Clifton Down and ACORN member, Carla Denyer was in attendance at the initial demonstration. Today she told the Cable

“The council had made a variety of positive noises about housing for domestic violence survivors in the last few years, including a cross-party motion in 2016 and a Cabinet decision last year. However, the latter did not go far enough, so working with the Bristol Zero Tolerance campaign I pushed Cabinet to go further.

“Now it has emerged that the council has not been practising what it preaches at all. Despite an initial positive response, the council has not fully met the demands that we made on behalf of the survivors. I will be submitting a statement to the Mayor and Cabinet before this month’s full council meeting calling for swift action.”

The council have been contacted to comment on why the survivors have not been further contacted.

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