THE West Cork Women Against Violence (WCWAV) project, which gives refuge and provides safe homes to domestic violence survivors, has itself made a desperate appeal for a home, as its Bantry headquarters is up for sale.
The project has been located on two floors in the same building on Barrack Street in the West Cork town for the past 14 years, but learned this year that its lease would not be renewed, as the building has been put on the market.
‘We are currently packing up here to move to a temporary home,’ its director Marie Mulholland told The Southern Star this week, adding that it will be a big wrench for the organisation, but it needs to find a new, safe location to help the hundreds of women it supports every year.
The WCWAV project last year secured a €400,000 anonymous donation for a safe house for its clients, but a condition was that the money would only be spent on clients.
From January 4th, the team will work out of a temporary address at the nearby Warner Centre, but they will be split into two sites, and time is running out to find a building that will meet its needs long-term.
It is appealing this week for anyone who might have a suitable premises, or know of one, to contact them immediately as time is of the essence for this essential service.
Ms Mulholland noted that the timing was unfortunate, given that Christmas is often the most difficult time in many relationships and a time when women may seek a safe place to go to, and often with children.
While their doors are closed over Christmas, they are advising those in need of help to contact Women’s Aid in Dublin, during the holiday period, which is often the most difficult time for potentially dangerous domestic situations.
In the meantime, the search for a permanent home will continue.
‘We need a building that offers discretion, has easy access, and is ideally located on a ground floor for older women or women with buggies or wheelchairs,’ explained Marie, ‘and that can provide discreet offices for our staff to conduct business, which is often of a sensitive nature.’
The organisation is one of Ireland’s most progressive lobby groups for domestic violence supports, and its recent campaigning led to a change in the support offered for rental income, meaning the domestic violence rent supplement, introduced during the pandemic, will now become a permanent feature of housing supports.
Having known about the need for a new home for WCWAV for some time, Ms Mulholland said she was disappointed that when she contacted the Bank of Ireland in Dublin, regarding the use of its former branch in Bantry, she did not even receive a reply to her query.
In response to the Star, the Bank of Ireland said it had no record of ever receiving the correspondence.
There are currently very few buildings for rent in Bantry that are suitable and she would, ideally, like to keep the organisation’s main office in the town.
‘Bantry gives access to women in Beara and Skibbereen and beyond – it is on a bus route serving both areas, which makes it easier for more women to access us,’ she explained.