Housing Options for Survivors of Domestic Abuse
We know that housing is a significant issue for domestic abuse survivors; 32% of homeless women we work with stated that domestic abuse had contributed to their homelessness.
Finding suitable accommodation is often a challenge - 87% of women leave refuge accommodation into other temporary accommodation.
Being a sufferer of domestic violence makes you vulnerable, so being in a loving caring home is what’s needed. (Survivor of domestic abuse)
I work for SafeLives, a national domestic abuse charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse. I am very excited to be seconded to Shared Lives Plus, a membership organisation for Shared Lives carers and 150 local shared lives schemes. Shared Lives schemes offer support, care and accommodation to vulnerable people. Historically these schemes have supported those with learning disabilities. My role is to pilot if this hosting-style model can meet the housing and support needs of domestic abuse survivors in three areas; Lewisham, Buckinghamshire and Shropshire.
So how does the domestic abuse development project work?
Individuals are referred to their local scheme by their domestic abuse service. There is a lengthy matching process to make sure the survivor is matched with the right Shared Lives host. The individual lives with the host, in their home and becomes part of their family and community. Regular reviews take place to ensure the match is working for everyone involved. We have consulted and worked intensively with stakeholders (including domestic abuse services, police, adult social care and housing providers) to manage risk, which is key to the project’s success.
The model provides supported accommodation for survivors at standard or medium risk. The scheme, unfortunately, isn’t suitable for high-risk clients, or those needing to flee in an emergency.
The importance of consulting survivors
A key activity has been survivor consultation: do survivors think this idea of living with a ‘host’ is a good idea? is it something they see as beneficial? Positively, the answer has been yes! Many survivors I spoke to saw a place for Shared Lives support in their recovery journey, and many saw this offer as suitable when moving on from refuge accommodation before going on to live independently. Of course, that won’t be the only way this offer can be used, but it’s really encouraging to see that people with lived experience see a place for this type of support and accommodation.
“A family environment would aid in emotional healing and the building of trust and confidence. I had no stable family so had to learn through trial and error what a stable family was.”
The project will be taking referrals from January 2019. Between now and then, Shared Lives staff and hosts will be trained in domestic abuse, relationships with domestic abuse services will continue to grow, and the project’s supporting framework will be developed and finalised. Managing risk will be key, as highlighted by survivors during interviews. With careful planning and collaborative working with stakeholders, I believe that a Shared Lives arrangement can offer an alternative housing option that is both safe and supportive.
If you would like to know more, please email Natalie@sharedlivesplus.org.uk.
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