1) The Women In Safe Homes Fund
The Women in Safe Homes (WISH) Fund is a residential property fund managed by Resonance and Patron Capital Advisors in partnership with a number of women’s sector organisations.
The Fund will buy and refurbish properties which are then leased to specialist women’s sector organisations, who in turn will rent them at affordable rates to women at risk of homelessness whilst also supporting them to rebuild their lives.
2) Why The Fund Is Needed
There is a desperate shortage of social housing in the UK. Homelessness charity Shelter* has estimated there are 280,000 homeless people in England, one out of every 200 people.
Some will be sleeping rough, but the vast majority are hidden homeless – sofa surfing or living in temporary, unsuitable accommodation – often with their children.
Women in particular can find themselves at risk of homelessness for many reasons but those most vulnerable include women who are pregnant or who have children and are fleeing domestic abuse, ex-offenders, those who have disabilities or other complex needs such as mental health issues and those who have a lack of financial resilience. Some women may have experienced multiple issues leading to a risk of homelessness.
Because many of the women at risk of homelessness have complex needs, as well as needing a safe home to live in, they may also require specialist support to help them recover from abusive or difficult circumstances enabling them to find stability and rebuild their lives.
For women experiencing domestic abuse, a lack of regular and reliable funding is a key reason for women being turned away from refuges, along with a lack of facilities for them and their children, refuge’s being at full capacity, issues with immigration status or because the specialist services needed to support women’s needs (e.g. mental health issues or addictions) are not available.
The issue is also acute for female ex-offenders as there is a shortage of places in both probation hostels and in council or private rented accommodation meaning women are becoming homeless - either sleeping rough or sofa surfing.
As a result, there is a ‘priority need’ for safe and secure housing options for women at risk of homelessness. The WISH Fund will provide a solution to this need by not only providing safe homes but by partnering with women’s sector organisations and homelessness charities, it will also provide ‘wrap around’ specialist support specifically for women.
3) Who The Fund Will Help
The Fund will provide affordable and secure homes for women and their children who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness. These include:
Women’s Aid** reported that in 2019, 1.6 million women in the UK experienced domestic abuse.
Women are primarily referred to specialist domestic abuse refuges to help them escape violent and abusive circumstances but with a severe a lack of refuge spaces, 64% of them – over 1 million women - are turned away. Without a safe place to live these women face an impossible and dangerous choice: return to their perpetrator and risk further abuse whilst waiting for a refuge space or become homeless.
Many of the women being sent to prison will not only be already homeless at the time of sentence but will also have addictions, mental ill-health and have been victims of domestic violence.
The Prison Reform Trust*** reports that around 60% of ex-offenders do not have a home or job to go to on release. And whilst there are c3,900 women in prison at any one time, around 9,000 women a year are actually received into prison for the first time. Regardless of their jail sentence – which is primarily for less than 6 months - it is still disruptive, causing women to lose their homes (jobs and contact with their children) meaning they are often released homeless.
The chronic shortage of housing and support for women released from custody is a key contributing factor in many returning to prison.
Mental Health Problems
There is a considerable link between homelessness and mental health problems. Both homelessness and mental health charities report a high rate of mental health problems amongst people who are experiencing homelessness than the general population. And likewise, having mental health problems can trigger events leading to homelessness.
Mental health charity MIND**** reports that 79% of people with mental health problems said that housing issues had negatively impacted their mental health and 42% had experienced homelessness in the past.
Worries such as struggling to pay rent or bills, threats of eviction and the impact of poor housing can take its toll, making people physically and mentally ill, which in turn can lead to loss of employment and the ability to pay for or care properly for a home.
Women can face particularly high levels of mental ill health as they are more likely to have experienced abuse, trauma and violence which can lead other issues such as addiction. Without the right support or safe place to live they can then become homeless.
A safe home doesn’t just provide women with a roof over their heads but also a stable platform from which they can find employment or training, access health services and specialist support to help them recover from trauma, health issues or addiction and create a positive future.
4) How The Fund Will Work
Institutional investors including Local Authorities, Pension Funds and Foundations are invited to invest in this Fund. Big Society Capital, the UK’s leading social impact investor developed the initial fund proposal, and has agreed in principal, a commitment of £10 million.
The WISH Fund will also allow investors to potentially recycle capital for their future benefit.
The Resonance Fund Team has already successfully created and manages four other property funds (including one supporting people with learning disabilities), providing move-on accommodation for those at risk of homelessness as well as providing a yield and capital appreciation to their investors.
The first of these funds was created in 2013. To date, the funds have raised over £200 million in capital, purchasing and refurbishing over 800 properties and housing 1,600 people and children, evidencing that our investment model works for the charity partner, the tenants and the investor.
The WISH Fund itself will aim to invest directly into around 750 residential properties nationwide. These will be leased to women’s charity partners who will rent them to women at risk of homelessness, with a secure tenancy. Void and maintenance risk will be shared between the Fund and the charity partner and rent will be set at a sustainable and affordable level in line with housing benefit (either Local Housing Allowance or exempt accommodation housing benefit rates).
The Fund’s charity partners will help women to manage their tenancies and provide specialist support to women to help them build resilience and recovery.
5) Housing The Fund Will Provide
The Fund will predominantly purchase one- and two-bedroom properties across the UK to suit the needs of women’s sector organisations, homelessness charities and registered providers.
The properties are chosen with care to be ordinary homes in ordinary streets in local communities and are refurbished to a high standard.
The Fund will then lease the properties to charity partners who will rent these to women facing homelessness. Rents are affordable and tenants are supported to sustain their tenancy and build resilience against homelessness.
6) Investment Approach
Alongside the potential of a financial return for investors, the Fund has a strong focus on achieving substantial positive social impact. The Fund is building an institutional quality private rented sector portfolio with significant impact in housing women who are at risk of homelessness. It will focus on dispersed move-on homes as well as crisis accommodation.
Investment into the Fund is being developed in two ways:
7) Homelessness And Women’s Charities – Partner With The Fund
The Fund’s first charity partner is with leading women’s sector charity Preston Road Women’s Centre which will offer safe homes and help other women’s sector organisations to replicate its pioneering recovery model for women and children.
We welcome interest from further women’s sector or homelessness charities or social enterprise with infrastructures that would enable the leasing of properties to women who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
8) Impact Of The Fund
The WISH Fund contributes to a number of UN Sustainable Development goals:
5 GENDER EQUALITY – especially targeting elimination of violence against women and girls
11 SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES – especially for ensuring access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing
17 PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE GOALS – especially through encouraging and promoting effective public, private and civil society partnerships.
Find out more about the Women in Safe Homes Fund:
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Resonance Limited is a company registered in England and Wales no. 04418625
Resonance Impact Investment Limited, a subsidiary of Resonance Limited, is authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Firm number 588462.
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