In November 2021 the Church of England announced its first social impact investment – a £1.6m commitment – to the Women in Safe Homes fund. Following this, Resonance’s Chief Investment Officer, Simon Chisholm, was interviewed by United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) Radio, talking about vulnerable women’s housing needs and the impact of the Church of England investment and the Women in Safe Homes fund.
READ SIMON'S INTERVIEW BELOW OR YOU CAN LISTEN TO IT HERE
Could you tell me a little about Resonance’s mission?
Resonance was set up almost 20 years ago now, with a fairly simple mission which was to get investment into UK social enterprise. The best way we’ve been able to achieve that is to design and manage property funds that work with social enterprises across a range of issues - homelessness, learning disability, vulnerable women - to get investment into the properties they need, to help people at risk of homelessness.
So that’s the kind of broad range of what it is that you do, but the reason that we’re speaking now is because of a particular project that you’re involved with alongside the Church of England, so what is this?
So, this is the Women in Safe Homes fund, which we launched about a year ago now with our partners Patron Capital. It invests into property around the UK - residential property - and makes that available through leases to women’s sector organisations around the country. Those women’s sector organisations are working with women in a range of circumstances, but often women who are fleeing domestic abuse or women coming out of prison. These organisations can provide the support women need in those circumstances, but crucially have often lacked access to the right kind of housing for them, and so this is a fund through which investors can back property to enable women’s sector organisations to deliver that service.
And when you say they’ve (women’s sector organisations) not had access often to the right kind of housing, what do you mean by that? How can there be a right or wrong kind of housing for these sorts of projects?
Very often, particularly for women fleeing domestic abuse, the organisations that can best help them are regional organisations who’ve been established to help women in those circumstances. There’s a shocking statistic that 60% of women who seek refuge from those organisations have to be turned away, most often because there is a lack of accommodation available at that point, be that a refuge for immediate accommodation or possibly a flat to move on to in safety for that woman and, in many cases, her child.
That’s the kind of lack of property that exists across the country for those organisations to access. And very often it’s important where property is located relative to where that organisation is based, so that women can continue to receive support from the organisations that are working with them. It’s obviously important where that property is located so that the woman, and if necessary, her child, can access services locally including schools. So, it really is about finding the right properties that these organisations can use most effectively to help women, and that’s where this kind of targeted impact investment can really help.
Is this a problem that, as far as you’re aware, has been getting more significant recently? Has it stayed about the same? And why might be the reasons why we do see the need for this kind of refuge housing for women, changing over time?
So, there has unfortunately been an increase in the number of women experiencing domestic abuse. The latest figures show that this is an issue for 1.6 million women across the country, and those numbers sadly again have been rising during the pandemic. I think we’ve seen an increased focus on people appreciating what it might mean to be an abusive relationship and trapped in a home not able to get out, particularly due to restrictions during the pandemic. The whole issue I think, has come into greater focus through that, but there is no doubt that there is a massive unmet need there, and it’s not for lack of the right organisations to support women in those circumstances, it is often due to a lack of the right resources and properties for them to access.
And as far as the actual impact of this project with the Church of England is concerned, do you have any idea how many women and potentially children as well, might be supported because of this?
This big vision for a fund like this is that we are seeking to raise up to or even above £100M. It is targeting acquiring 650 homes across the country and we would hope that could help over 6,000 women over the life of the fund, so the Church of England’s investment is an important investment at this stage in the fund’s development. The fund is now at £26M and the Church of England £1.6M is invested in the most recent round of investment, so that’s an important step forward for the fund at this point and I think it's also the first time that the Church of England has made an investment of this nature intentionally, to create positive impact through its new social impact investment programme, so I think it’s also an important step for them as well.
Listen to Simon's interview here.
About the Church of England and its Social Impact Investment Programme
The Church of England is a Christian presence in every community across England. The Church of England established a Social Impact Investment Programme within The Archbishops' Council in 2020. Through this programme, the Church of England is making £16 million available for a social impact portfolio, which will seek investments targeting deep positive impact. The programme is designed to support projects which share the Church of England’s Christian values and benefit society.
The Church of England’s Social Impact Investment Programme, was established within The Archbishops’ Council in 2021, with £16 million of grant funding from the Church Commissioners for England. The programme exists to deploy social investment capital to advance the Church of England’s missional objectives and will support projects which share the Church of England’s Christian values and benefit society.
Vanessa Morphet, Head of Social Impact Investment at The Archbishops’ Council, said: “Women in Safe Homes is an innovative fund addressing a pressing societal problem of inadequate access to safe and stable accommodation for vulnerable women. People and organisations across the Church of England community already work to support vulnerable women and this investment is an excellent example of how the Church can use its social investment capital in further support of its mission.
“It is exciting to announce our first investment. There are a growing number of impact focused fund managers tackling some really difficult social and environmental challenges in the UK and we look forward to putting more of our capital to work in this way.”
About the Women in Safe Homes fund
Believed to be one of the world’s first gender-lens property funds, the Women in Safe Homes fund provides a solution to the lack of affordable, safe and good-quality homes for women experiencing homelessness, many of whom are survivors of domestic abuse, are leaving the criminal justice system without a home to go to, have mental health issues, or other complex needs. The fund is an impact investment property fund co-managed by a joint venture of Resonance and Patron Capital, a pan-European institutional investor.
It aims to provide 650+ homes across the UK and to house 6,000 women over its lifetime.
The fund purchases properties and leases them to its charity partners who rent the homes to women with a secure tenancy. The fund’s charity partners – who include Preston Road Women’s Centre (Winner), Nacro, Refuge, Daizybell Homes, Safer Places, Sateda, Stop Domestic Abuse, and Ella’s - not only support women from a housing and tenancy perspective but, importantly, also provide them with person-centred specialist support, helping them recover from abusive or difficult circumstances. This enables them to find stability, rebuild their lives, and ultimately empower them so that they can have choice and control over their future.
The Women in Safe Homes fund has currently raised £26.2m from 13+ UK and US impact investors and aims to reach a target fund size of £100m+.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE WOMEN IN SAFE HOMES FUND HERE
READ THE WOMEN IN SAFE HOMES FUND FIRST SOCIAL IMPACT REPORT HERE
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