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Hell’s Kitchen-based mental health non-profit Fountain House is “outraged” and “hurt” by four racist attacks in five weeks on their Fountain House + Body store in SoHo.
Ashwin Vasan, the CEO of the organization which fights for the rights of people with serious mental illness, hit out at the attacks. “I am absolutely disgusted by the blatant racist attacks that have recently happened at Fountain House + Body. What was once a safe space for people living with mental illness has become dangerous because of the hate that resides in our city and in our nation,” said Vasan on Twitter. “I’m tired… we’re tired, of this hate. But we’re not giving up the fight. Stand with us in solidarity and in the knowledge that Black Lives Matter.”
Fountain House said in a post today: “In the weeks where NYC is celebrating the glitz and glamour of New York Fashion Week and the Met Gala, there is a darkness in our SoHo neighborhood that is continuing to traumatize our Black and brown communities. Racism is sadly alive and permeating the streets of our city.”
Staff at their store — a social enterprise that employs people living with mental illness and sells eco-conscious bath and body products — first discovered that their Black Lives Matter sign had been vandalized in July. Two weeks later that same sign had an object hurled at it, smashing the front window. “We quickly repaired it and re-hung our signage even quicker. Then, sadly, we were targeted two more times. We are outraged. We are hurt,” they said. “We are a community, and when any part of our community is harmed, we all feel it deeply.”
The majority of Fountain House community members are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). The non-profit aims to create spaces that build back dignity, agency, and provide opportunities to be a part of broader society — including paid employment. “But that future doesn’t feel so hopeful when every day our members have to approach our store in fear of another attack, subjected to continued trauma,” management at Fountain House said.
Fountain House is working with authorities and is calling on local businesses to stand in solidarity. “To our fellow businesses in SoHo and New York City, join us in telling racists they will find no support in our neighborhood by putting up your own signs in your windows and doors. Please help us make it clear to our neighbors of color that this is a community that actively opposes racism in all of its forms,” they said. “We have a lot of work to do to eradicate and dismantle racism as a society. Racism has no place in our community and our neighborhoods.”
Fountain House has been based in Hell’s Kitchen since 1948 when the founders and supporters bought their current building on W47th Street between 9th/10th Avenue. The organization now has more than 200 community-based clubhouses in nearly 40 states with over 60,000 members.