The Women in Safe Homes fund is successfully providing safe and affordable housing for women fleeing domestic abuse and leaving the criminal justice system without a decent accommodation to go to. But the fund doesn’t just provide a roof over a woman’s head; having partnered with seven expert women’s sector and housing partners so far means that women also receive the specialist support services they might need in order to help them recover from the trauma and abuse they might have experienced.
One of the fund’s housing partners is London-based Ella’s, an organisation supporting women who have survived trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Ella’s already runs two safe houses, and by partnering with the Women in Safe Homes fund, plans to open a third this year. This supported accommodation is crucial for survivors until they are ready and able to live independently.
In this guest blog, Minke van Til, one of Ella’s Co Directors, shares powerful insight into the work Ella’s does in providing the best care for the wonderful women they support, how and why they came to partner with the Women in Safe Homes fund and what this will mean for the organisation and the women they work with.
Providing a lifeline
“It felt really good to arrive at the safe house,”’ says Sharon, “I felt so welcome. I slept that night for the first time in two weeks…. I hadn’t had that feeling of being at home for so long, the feeling of family, and being loved and protected. These things are so important.”
“It’s amazing to me that I have people in my life here who care about making my room look nice”’ said Marie as she painted the walls of her room in our safe house, alongside her support worker.
We could go on and on sharing quotes from the women we work with, about the importance of a safe place to stay when you have been through terrible things. Like all of the amazing women we work with, Marie and Sharon are survivors of multiple types of violence, including trafficking and exploitation. For them, the safe and supported accommodation we provide at Ella’s was a lifeline: a place to be physically safe, to heal physically, mentally and emotionally, and then move their lives forward safely.
Doing all we can
Ella’s began in 2014, inspired by a woman called Ella who struggled to access the support she needed in order to escape her abuser and rebuild her life. We exist to fill dangerous gaps in the system, and provide survivors with the tailored, long-term support they need.
Our mission is to do everything we can to ensure survivors of trafficking and exploitation have all they need to recover and build lives that are safe and free. To achieve this, we offer safe house accommodation for women when they are most vulnerable, specialist casework support to help them recover and move forward, and long-term community-based support to help survivors build safe, independent lives. Our work currently benefits more than 45 women and 25 children a year.
The need for what we do is urgent: without it, women are extremely vulnerable to becoming homeless, or falling back into danger and exploitation. The need is also huge and growing. Climate change, conflict and poverty are all perpetrators of trafficking. In 2021-22, we had to turn away 87% of eligible referrals to our safe houses due to lack of capacity. To reach more women, we are committed to opening more safe houses, which is why we are grateful for our partnership with the Women in Safe Homes fund.
(pic: Tom Price/Ella's)
We were introduced to the fund by a mutual contact when the fund was scoping the sector pre-launch, to understand the needs of frontline organisations and the women we work with. When the Women in Safe Homes fund launched, we were successful in our application, and are proud to be one of the fund’s first partners.
For Ella's, the fund offers an affordable and supportive way for us to acquire and open new safe house accommodation, and to do it well. The fund team listen to our requirements, and offer their expertise to source and prepare property, as well as crucial financial support. We hope to open our new safe house this year, enabling us to house up to four more survivors at any one time. The impact on those women will be huge, and we are grateful.
A safe house resident, May, said. “In the past, I was alone and helpless. But now I know what I need to know about, to live safely.
“The people at Ella’s are really good to me. Without this help, I think I would have ended up back on the streets – I can’t imagine what would have happened”.
The work of Ella’s with women like May is about urgent safety and support in the short term, and freedom and opportunity in the long-term, and we’re grateful to the Women in Safe Homes fund for all they are doing to make this possible.
The Women in Safe Homes fund is a joint venture between Resonance and Patron Capital. It has raised c£30m enabling it to purchase around 120 homes and to provide around 300 woman and their children with a safe and affordable home to live in, over it’s lifetime.
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