A NEW Milton shop owner has been overwhelmed by the response to her setting up her business as a ‘safe place’ where people feeling vulnerable or scared can come for help.
The social media post by Annette Hunter – who runs tanning salon New Miltan – reached 39,000 people, received 780 likes and was shared 382 times.
She said yesterday: “I was absolutely stunned by the reaction; I’m still getting messages about it at the rate of about one a minute.
“I think it really shows that people think there is a need for such a place.”
Ms Hunter was inspired to offer her boutique salon on Station Road as a place where those who are scared or worried can seek help after a teenage boy came into her shop early last week saying he had been mugged.
She said: “He said he had been attacked down the alleyway which runs between Station Road and Gore Road by a gang of five or six masked men.
“They stole his phone and some money. He was very shaken up and upset. I told him to sit down and offered to let him ring the police, or anyone else he wanted to.
“I calmed him down until he felt able to go and find a friend who lives nearby. I had heard about a national scheme for safe places and I thought it was something I could do.”
Ms Hunter added that she “knows exactly what feeling uneasy, worried and vulnerable can be like” after being victim of anti-social behaviour for the past year. A local man was given a restraining order against her after a campaign of harassment.
She said: “It can be very scary to find yourself in a situation where you feel frightened but have nowhere to go to feel safe. I am in a prime position on the High Street, next to the train station. I have CCTV and alarms so if someone comes in here, they know they are safe.
“They can just sit down for a few moments, have some water, chat, make some phone calls do whatever they want until they feel ready to go back outside, or someone comes to collect them.”
Ms Hunter had seen a social media post about a barber shop in Totton offering a safe place and got in contact to find out more information.
She said: “They told me there is a national organisation which collates all the safe places in the UK but the NFDC is not signed up to it, which I think is wrong.
“There are places on the Isle of Wight but none in the NFDC area.
“A lot of other councils all over the country have recognised what a good thing this is, and I think the NFDC should follow suit and get involved.”
She has now written to NFDC and the local town council highlighting the scheme and asking them to adopt it.
Ms Hunter said: “I’ve had people telling me that if there was a safe place in the town, they would feel more confident about coming into it, especially the elderly.
“We also have a lot of visitors to the NFDC area and it would be good for them to know there are places like this when they are coming to somewhere which is unfamiliar. It is also good for those who have autism, they can become overwhelmed when they are out, and here is somewhere calm and quiet they can go to for a while.”
From this week Ms Hunter will be displaying a sign stating ‘Safe Place’ on the door of her shop and has posted on social media that she is offering such a space for anyone who feels vulnerable, scared or uneasy.