13 May 2020: Housing provider adapts to support those affected by domestic abuse

A supported housing specialist, whose refuges are at full capacity, has adapted its referrals model to open up more bed spaces, so it is able to support more people and their families fleeing domestic abuse, following a surge in case reports following the pandemic.

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Stonewater has three refuges across the country, including a provision supporting South Asian Women and a Safe Space for those who identify as LGBTQ+, which received eight referrals alone in the first month of the outbreak.

Much of the work carried out at Stonewater’s refuges involves supporting people to understand the abuse they have fled and give them the space to make decisions that will help lead them to build a safer and happier life for themselves, whereby they can live independently.

However, in light of the social distancing measures put in place to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, not only are more people trapped at home with their domestic abuse perpetrator but for housing providers like Stonewater, certain restrictions mean it is harder for those who feel ready to leave the refuge to move on.

Helena Doyle, Head of Customer Experience – Supported Housing at Stonewater, said: “Just before lockdown, one of our refuge residents at the was preparing to leave the refuge as she now felt like she was ready to support herself and live independently. However, days before moving out she received a letter advising her to self-isolate for 12 weeks as she’d been identified as vulnerable to contracting the virus.

“While we are more than happy to support our residents and their needs, especially through this difficult time, this now meant that the room we had allocated in this particular refuge for a woman trying to escape her abuser, was no longer available.”

Despite not having any vacancies at its specialist provisions, Stonewater has been allocating alternative and suitable accommodation for any individuals affected by domestic abuse, as well as arranging virtual sessions with the organisation’s specialist domestic abuse coaches – enabling them to continue their much-needed work with the individuals that need it.

“The surge in calls to domestic abuse helplines have demonstrated that the need for safe accommodation for those affected, has never been greater,” continued Helena. “But for many marginalised groups – like the LGBTQ+ community – getting access to these provisions is hard because there are so few of them.”

Reports from Broken Rainbow show that one in four LGB people and one in two transgender people are affected by domestic abuse. The charity also claims that many LGBTQ+ individuals affected by domestic abuse are also identified as at greater risk with battling other health concerns such as self-harm, suicide and addiction.

Despite these figures, there are less than a handful of specialist housing provisions in the UK helping to meet the needs of the LGBTQ+ community.

“From homophobic slurs, acts of violence or cohesive control, there is no acceptable level of abuse and no one should feel that they have to suffer in silence,” continued Helena. “We have been doing all that we can to ensure that even in these unprecedented times, we are able to continue safely supporting as many people affected by domestic abuse as possible, and in a way that suits their individual needs.”

So Stonewater is able to support its residents safely and keep its doors open, the housing provider has reviewed what additional needs those residents that are self-isolating have. For example, providing kettles and microwaves to residents in its shared living supported housing schemes.

To make a referral, please contact: safespace@stonewater.org