Women workers protest against closure of Regina Coeli women’s hostel
Women workers at Belfast’s Regina Coeli hostel, which is facing closure in a few weeks, have begun an occupation and work-in at the only all-female provision for vulnerable women in the north of Ireland. Victims of domestic abuse, women with mental health and addiction issues and homeless women face being transferred to mixed sex accommodation.
The hostel which has 21 beds is owned by the Catholic charity the Legion of Mary and is funded by the Housing Executive, the regional body responsible for public housing.
Housing Executive fails to grasp need for single sex spaces
The Housing Executive (HE) is seeking to close the hostel by this Spring and has run it down over the course of the pandemic. Only 3 of its spaces are occupied in a region in which it’s conservatively estimated that 80-130 women are chronically homeless.
The HE’s public statements reveal no understanding of the crucial need for single sex spaces for vulnerable women and deploy the usual boilerplate of “actively pursuing alternative housing solutions”. This is likely to mean that the women will be transferred to facilities with men who have their own addiction and mental health issues and will understandably be seen as threatening by the women. The risk of exploitation of the women is obvious, especially given the staffing shortage in the care sector.
Unite the Union stands up for the women of Regina Coeli
Sharon Graham, general secretary of the union Unite gets this. She has said:
“It is simply unacceptable that the one female-only facility, in Northern Ireland, offering support to those with homelessness, addiction, abuse or mental health issues faces closure.”
This fight for the defence of single sex spaces is being led by women who work for the minimum wage, and they have effectively established workers’ control over the hostel. It’s an inspiring example.
Staff given notice and vulnerable women threatened with eviction
Local residents have been demonstrating in support of the occupation, but more solidarity is needed. Unite report that staff at the home had already been given advance notice of redundancy from 27 February. This doesn’t seem to be soon enough for the bosses and according to Unite:
“a spokesperson for the management board came in, threatened to remove/sack Regina Coeli workers and threatened to evict remaining vulnerable female residents as trespassers.”
Stand in solidarity with the staff and residents of Regina Coeli
Feminists and trade unionists in Britain and Ireland need to urgently send messages of support to the staff and residents. You can do this on the Unite Facebook page and you can get resolutions and donations through your union branch. You can also sign and share the petition.
#UTW #SaveOurWomensHostel #SaveLives
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