VITAL refuges protecting women and children fleeing domestic abuse are at risk – forcing a charity into a race against time to raise £500,000 to build its own facility.
Stop Domestic Abuse has 13 refuges across Hampshire and Portsmouth with 89 beds – but could lose 52 of those as its landlord is reviewing the use of the buildings as refuges.
Now the Havant-based charity has warned it must fast track its £1m fundraising efforts for a purpose-built refuge to avoid a ‘worst case scenario’ of losing its existing buildings – leaving dozens of women and children with nowhere to go.
The organisation has already raised £500,000 since its Buy a Brick campaign was launched three years ago – but now has just two years to bring in the other £500,000.
Claire Lambon, chief executive, said: ‘It is a very uncertain and very worrying future. The women and children who come to us need support and care and we need to provide that.
‘We have a good relationship with the landlord and they have told us they are reviewing the building use in line with a new business model.
‘We hope that the buildings remain but the worst-case scenario is that we lose more than half of the bed spaces that people desperately need and we don’t have enough as it it.’
Landlord Home Group, which Ms Lambon said is supportive of the charity, committed to contracts until March 2021.
The charity’s campaign has seen donors buy virtual bricks costing £25, £100, or £1,000 for an online virtual wall.
Ms Lambon added: ‘It has always been our dream to have our own refuge and we have wanted to do it for a long time as otherwise we are at the mercy of our landlords all the time.
‘Now it is more important than ever that we do this but we need support to raise our target.
‘Even if the landlords let us keep the buildings, we won’t know that decision until it would effectively be too late so we need to start raising the money and building now so we have spaces if the worst happens.’
Carol Harrowell, head of service delivery at Home Group, said: ‘We have a really strong working relationship with Stop Domestic Abuse and are fully supportive of the important service they provide to some of the most vulnerable people in the region.
‘Because of a new strategy in place across the organisation, we will be starting discussions with Stop Domestic Abuse to shape our involvement with them when that contract comes to an end.’
A mum-of-two used who fled a five-year abusive relationship into a Stop Domestic Abuse refuge has said she would not be alive without the charity.
The 50-year-old woman, who asked not to be nam,ed, said: ‘Without their help I would not have got out of that relationship and I wouldn’t be here.
‘I am a strong woman and I never thought anything like this would happen to me but I had just come out of a marriage and I was in a vulnerable place.
‘Everyone can be vulnerable at some point in their lives and any man or woman could find themselves in this position.’
It is hoped the new Stop Domestic Abuse refuge would be built in the Havant area.
Havant MP Alan Mak is backing the campaign.
Mr Mak said: ‘They do excellent work in our area and I’ve also supported their fundraising campaign for a new refuge serving our area.’
The Unite the Union Portsmouth Branch is among the groups that has donated to the campaign and it gave SDA a cheque for £5,000.
Branch secretary Avril Eley said: ‘It is a pleasure to donate this money to a worthwhile cause such as the Buy a Brick campaign by Stop Domestic Abuse.
‘Unite the Union is passionate about supporting local communities and recognise that our union members may be experiencing domestic abuse and need support such as that provided by Stop Domestic Abuse.’
SDA provide refuges across Hampshire and Portsmouth but not on the Isle of Wight or Southampton.