Bristol Sisters take over empty library to demand safe housing, not luxury flats
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Bristol Sisters Uncut have taken over the closed Cheltenham Road Library to protest the housing crisis and the loss of public services. Whilst survivors desperately need safe spaces and secure housing, the library is set to be sold off for luxury flats, turning a valuable community space into a profit-making venture which will only benefit greedy developers and the privileged few who can afford to buy them. We are occupying the library to both block the sale of the site to developers and to create a much needed community space for women, non-binary and trans people. Workshops and other events will be hosted to mobilise people to take action against gentrification and the erosion of public spaces, social services and community buildings.
Bristol Sisters Uncut have been actively campaigning for survivors of domestic violence to be given priority housing.The council paid lip-service to concerns from the domestic violence sector and their recently passed policy still falls short and fails survivors. There are currently only 63 beds in refuges in Bristol and survivors often get stuck there for months at a time whilst waiting for a new home. There is a desperate need for more housing and supportive spaces for survivors and yet the council continues to sell off public buildings to private developers with only profits in mind.
Cuts to vital public services puts a strain on domestic violence services and forces them to do more with less. Support services are disappearing and refuges around the country are closing down, leaving those fleeing abuse nowhere to go. This is disproportionately affecting disabled, LGBTQIA, black, brown and migrant women as services become more and more generic and are less able to cater for specific needs. Migrant women face yet more violations to the safety of their space. Gaining secure housing is becoming more difficult as landlords are now legally required to check people’s immigration status, effectively acting as an arm of the Home Office. Charities such as St Mungos are also collaborating with the Home Office to target and deport homeless people from migrant backgrounds, often to places they have never known. Due to recent government plans, even schools and the NHS are becoming unsafe for migrants.
The council chose to follow Tory orders and implement the cuts without a fight. Now we are suffering the consequences. Whilst the council have taken some small steps towards minimising the harm caused by their cuts, it is not enough and not fast enough. If the state is no longer providing sufficient public services and spaces, we will ensure we can survive without them by any means necessary. Empty buildings must be transferred into the hands of the community so we can create the homes, refuges and community spaces we need, and whilst we are all forced to pay taxes they must be used to benefit the people, not corporations and the rich.