women’s safe haven set to make way for houses

Santosh Kumari at the temple.
Santosh Kumari at the temple.

A temple that is a safe haven for the victims of domestic violence is facing homelessness under plans for affordable housing.

The Asian Women’s Foundation, based at Bedford’s only Hindu temple in Derwent Place, is urgently looking for a new home after being told its commercial unit will be demolished to make way for 25 proposed new homes.

Santosh Kumari has helped countless desperate women over the years who come to the Shri Sai Sidh Baba Balak Nath Mandir temple seeking urgent aid.

But her good work and the efforts of volunteers has come under threat after plans to build houses were drawn up by developers Taylor French.

Santosh, who believes it is her calling in life to help women attempting to escape violence, said: “This place is so important for women. It is not just for Asian women it is for everybody – all women.”

The charity-registered temple began in Santosh’s home more than 40 years ago before expanding into nearby premises.

Over the years she has hosted training courses to equip women with the skills they needs to go on to live independently and she works with partner agencies to get help for domestic abuse victims.

Councillor for the area Sue Oliver, who is helping with the search for a new base, said: “She does fantastic work within the community.

“It is important not only to the local community but to the wider community of Bedfordshire. People come from far and wide.

“She has helped countless women. They just turn up on her doorstep and her view is that she can’t turn them away.”

A planning application has been submitted to Bedford Borough Council to build 25 one, two and three-bedroom homes on the site, which will provide rent and shared ownership properties under housing association North Hertfordshire Homes.

Anyone with affordable space to rent is asked to contact Santosh on 01234 405916 or 07828 227845.