Alison* experienced domestic abuse for a number of years. It had a huge impact on the lives of her and her children. But thankfully, after walking into a women’s centre, she was not only provided with a safe home to escape to, but also the support she needed to rebuild her confidence and create a positive future with her children. In this article, Alison shares her experience with us.
“I spent 6 years in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. It slowly stripped me of who I was as a person, to the point I felt worthless and didn’t even want to be alive. I kept leaving and spending time at my mum's but then had to move back each time, as he wouldn’t let me take my children with me.
“I have two children, who at the time were aged three and five, and who saw and heard arguments most days, despite me trying to keep it hidden from them. They often saw me cry, such as in the house and on the walk to school. Most of my time on an evening and at weekends was spent in bed, sleeping my time away, contemplating what I was supposed to do or just feeling like a terrible human being. It impacted on absolutely everything I did. I had on one occasion called the police, who came, but didn’t really listen to what I had to say.
“On the 7th January 2019, I went into the women’s centre, and spoke to one of the domestic abuse team members. I originally walked in thinking, “I wonder if they can even give me any advice on what I’m supposed to do.” I didn’t even mention the physical abuse side of things, I just mentioned all the emotional abuse; what was said to me, and how it made me feel - and how it affected my ability to be a good mum.
“The women’s centre gave me keys to a crisis property on the 8th January 2019 – ONE day later.
“The worker talked me through a safety plan, including how best to leave the home with my children, who to tell, and what to take with me.
“Everything from there onwards they helped me with. Two workers from the housing team came to visit and do house checks, and also to check up on me to see if I had everything I needed. The crisis property had beds, a kitchen, a sofa, making it comfortable for us, as well as, CCTV, an alarm and a button to press each day to say I was ok.
“The housing and domestic abuse teams helped me do almost everything, step by step. There was never too much pressure; they were always aware of my emotional state, and there was never a time I didn’t understand what I should be doing next.
“Once we moved into the crisis property I kept the children off school for a week, got an appointment at a solicitors and talked through my options.
“During all this, I managed to come to an arrangement with the kids’ dad and my worker also helped me put safety precautions in place for this too.
“Another worker from the housing department filled out my housing forms with me, came with me to meetings and set up appointments for me at the council. And eventually, on the 1st April 2019, I was given keys to my own place!
“The women’s centre then helped me by getting me some beds delivered on the day I moved in so that we had something to sleep on! They also got me some essentials like a kettle and toaster. I had left my family home with nothing but my kids and suitcases with our clothes.
“I was offered a place on a course at the centre: Self Development and Assertiveness. It was a five-week, one day a week course, and I loved it. I sat in a room with women in a similar situation, and the tutor talked us through getting our confidence back, and understanding things with a little more clarity. It had a massive impact on me getting my confidence back.
“A couple of months later I saw a job advertised on the women’s centre website, and I applied because I believed I had the right experience in both work, and because of my personal experiences ... I went to the interview and got the job!
“18 months ago I was a complete mess of a person, who had no idea what my life would be like in 2020, or if I would even still be alive. But I am. I’m alive, I’m happy, with two happy children, in a home I love and have made my own, and work at a job, in a place I love, with people I love.
“The women’s centre was my saviour in so many ways and I will forever be grateful to every single person who helped me on my journey. I could never have imagined that I would be where I am today.”
The Women in Safe Homes fund
There are too many women with stories of domestic abuse, just like Alison*. With domestic abuse affecting the lives of one in every four women in the UK, there is a huge and critical need for literally life-saving sanctuary – however, the housing needs of women are often unmet and hidden. The demand for safe and secure homes for women in need is extremely high. Women’s Aid reports that 60% of women being referred to specialist refuges are turned away, mainly due to lack of space.
This leaves thousands of women in the UK at risk of or experiencing homelessness due to a chronic lack of suitable and affordable housing. This is particularly prevalent for women who have experienced domestic abuse and, without access to suitable housing and support, are unable to live their lives in safety.
The Women in Safe Homes fund is a social investment property fund, providing safe and affordable homes to enable women to live better lives and achieve their full potential. Not only this, but by partnering with specialist women’s sector organisations such as Preston Road Women’s Centre, it will also provide wrap-around support, ensuring women and their children will be safe and able to live their lives free from violence and abuse.
The fund will buy c650 homes across the UK and lease them to women’s sector organisations, who in turn will rent them to women in need of a home, with a secure tenancy.
The fund is seeking to support charity partners and registered providers that are looking to gain access to safe and affordable homes for women that they support - any that are interested in knowing more about the fund should get in touch with Resonance.
Find out more about the Women in Safe Homes fund:
*name and identity changed
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