A safe space to breathe

February is dedicated to LGBTQ+ History Month, an annual celebration that allows us to reflect on the past and what has been achieved to promote equality for all, whilst also highlighting what more must be done.

LGBTQ History Month

For us, one of the main areas we are trying to tackle is the impact of domestic abuse on the LGBTQ+ community. Research has identified that at least one in four LGB people and up to 80 per cent of transgender people experience domestic abuse.

Despite these figures, there are only a handful of LGBTQ+ specialist provisions around the country supporting those fleeing domestic abuse – one of which is our Safe Space refuge.

Opened in 2019, the four-bedroom refuge was launched to provide safe, short-term accommodation for members of the LGBTQ+ community who are unable to continue living in their current home due to discrimination, domestic abuse, hate crime or family breakdowns.

To date, we’ve supported 14 people at the refuge providing person-centred mental wellbeing support, and advice about employment and education opportunities will be available, with the ultimate goal of preparing individuals for independent and permanent housing.

RS* moved into the Safe Space having fled threats of serious domestic abuse in her family home.

We first shared her story back in 2020, about how her brother was repeatedly violent towards her when they lived at their father’s house, which often led to her going to stay with friends. But on one occasion, when she returned home to collect some clothes, she overheard them haggling over the price her father would pay her brother to kill her.

During her time at our Safe Space, RS was motivated and enthusiastic to not only make changes in her own circumstances, but to help others in similar situations. Keen to volunteer and get involved in as many groups as she could, she took part in activities including a trans support group and International Women’s Day events.

During one of her one-to-one sessions with us, RS shared that she would like to start looking at alternative places to live, to put down roots and start afresh, which is the aim of any refuge – to prepare those in our care for transition to independent and permanent housing.

She told us that coming to our Safe Space had given her the environment and clarity she needed and now she felt strong enough to make the transition to living on her own. She said our refuge was exactly what she needed at the time – somewhere to get away from her home, along with the space to really think about herself, her future and what she wanted to achieve in life.

We discovered that her previous council, Croydon, still had a duty of care towards her and could offer her a flat just outside London. She was thrilled to hear she could move on, especially during the pandemic.

Through a grant from our charitable arm, the Longleigh Foundation, we were able to provide RS with some of the bigger household items she would not otherwise have been able to afford, so she was able to make her new house a home and concentrate on building her future.

Home is supposed to be a safe place for everyone. But for those like RS who have been affected by domestic abuse, it can be a place of danger and fear.

We believe everyone should have a safe place that they can still call home. A place where they are supported and can make the best decisions to help them move forward.

Find out more about our Safe Space and how we’re supporting those affected by domestic abuse, here: https://www.stonewater.org/supporting-you/domestic-abuse/providing-a-safe-place-to-breathe-to-think/