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Housing for Women Says No More

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Housing for Women are stepping up to say No More.

No more excuses.

No more silence.

No more domestic violence.

We are joining up with Hestia and a host of other organisations to send a strong message: we say no more.

The campaign is raising awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault in the UK and encouraging everyone to step up and speak out against it.

Many of the women Housing for Women help are survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, and we are working to see the day when this is no longer an issue in our society.

To do this, we need to tell society what needs to change, and what we will not stand for. Over the next few weeks, our staff will be taking pledges to tell the UK what they say No More to, and we encourage you to get involved and do the same under the hashtag #UKSAYSNOMORE.

Working together, we can send a powerful message to help end sexual assault and domestic violence for good.

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Housing for Women Tenant’s Picnic 2016

This past Saturday, the 13th of August, our annual tenant’s picnic was held in the beautiful Ruskin Park in Denmark Hill.

Over 80 tenants and staff attended the event and enjoyed a mountain of delicious food and drink (quote from Léonie Chettle: “I didn’t know we were feeding the five thousand!”). There was a lot of food left over, which meant that we were able to donate to those in need, sharing the delicious catering between our refuges, residents, a soup kitchen and a homeless shelter, who were very grateful for the donations. One of our staff remarked how lovely it was for a charity to donate to another charity- we were lucky to have the opportunity and means to do so.

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Children at the picnic also enjoyed having their faces painted, our special children’s sandwiches cut into jigsaw shapes and caterpillar rolls and most of all our amazing entertainers Party Belles, who amused everyone with bubbles, balloons, glitter tattoos, parachute games and hula hoops.

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Whilst Party Belles worked their magic with the children, adults at the picnic played three games of live bingo, competing to win a range of fantastic prizes- a big thank you to The Old Post Office Bakery, Ms Cupcake, Sainsbury’s Abbey Wood, Brixton Pound, and Hairy Jayne for donating some lovely gifts for our residents.

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A big thank you to all of our volunteers and all of the residents who came along to enjoy themselves- we hope to see you all again next year!

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Seeking Safety- Yasmin’s Story*

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When my husband started abusing me, I didn’t know where to turn.

I have no relatives or family in this country, and I was faced with a choice: an abusive home, or no home at all.

My husband tried to kill me several times, strangling my neck and attempting to stab me. One time he grabbed me by the hair and banged my head against the radiator plating.

One night, I warned my husband that if he beat me again I would call the police. This scared him a little, but did not stop him- he was just careful not to leave marks or bruises that time. I realised I needed to escape my house, so I called the police, who gave me domestic violence helpline numbers.

However, because there were no marks this time they could not make any charges against my husband- all they could do was hold him in the station for a few hours whilst I packed up and fled to a friend’s flat.

I left my house early in the morning.

My employer allowed me two weeks off to sort out my situation, and I spent the day in my friend’s home trying to find a place in a refuge. This was very difficult, nowhere seemed to have any space, but then I found Housing for Women, who offered me a place in one of their refuges. I moved in that very same day.

Now, I have a lovely flat where I live with my son, who is now 5. My situation is still not as settled as I would like- unfortunately I have recently been dealing with harassment from a neighbour, and I have divorce, property and child matters cases ongoing with my husband. However, I am in a much better place now, far safer and more settled than I was before.

I am currently training to be a Teaching Assistant, and am undertaking a placement in the school where my son has just started. I used to worry about how my son was affected by this- he witnessed the violence when he was young, and as a result he was a little late in learning to speak. Now, he is much happier, well-adjusted and is doing very well at school.

If Housing for Women didn’t exist, I would not be alive any more.

I have no family or anybody to support me in this country, and if I had not been offered a place in the refuge I would have been completely homeless and in danger.

My message to any other woman going through a similar situation is keep faith and confidence in yourself. Also, I do a Discover Me programme locally- take part in programmes like this, because they really motivate you and build your confidence. And instead of thinking of the worst side of life, keep hope.

 

*Names have been changed and images are staged by actors.

 

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Finding Freedom: Cheryl’s Story

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I met my husband when I was 14, and we had our first child when I was 20. I had three beautiful children, two sons and a daughter. My family is full of love, life and beauty.

My husband hit me for the first time the day after the birth of our first child, after I’d had a major operation.

I can pinpoint this incident to the year, date and minute that it happened- it was the start of a 21 year long tirade of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

Those 21 years read like a horror story. I remember having to sew up my own face to pick my children up from school, enduring rape, and being heavily beaten whilst my children stood witness. It was a dark, dark time in my life.

But my story isn’t a horror story. Six years ago, out of desperation, I sought help. I was referred to a Housing for Women refuge, and my life changed completely. To tell you the truth, I don’t remember exactly who referred me- it was a mixed up time and I was going round in circles with the council- but honestly, it was the best day’s work they ever did.

I was given a case worker to help me- and six years later, she’s still helping me with everything! And the Freedom Programme I was recommended was absolutely invaluable- it taught me about warning signs and helped me make sense of what happened to me and how abuse works. It helped me rebuild my confidence and realise how much more I can get out of life.

When I first came to the refuge, I was a week away from death. Now I am 47 and living with my daughter in a two bed house, and have recently been awarded a Special Guardianship Order over my ten month old grandson. I’m planning a few holidays.

In my future, I see freedom, being able to love openly with my children, and everything good about life- all because I got a house.

To this day, my daughter and I still say how lucky we are to have a house that we can call our own, to live safely and freely. I’ve got my confidence back, and I’ve got my life back.

To any women in the same situation, my heart is with you, and please, seek help. It’s there, and it will help you in so many ways. There are people here for you- they will help you.

To everyone else: please, please support these refuges and programmes. I genuinely believe that if Housing for Women didn’t exist, I would be dead now.

So many women and children are dying, not just at the hands of their abusers, but through suicide and other related causes, because there is not enough support for organisations like this. So many women and children are getting raped and beaten, constantly- as I know first-hand- and they need places to go.

 

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Tea Party in aid of Housing for Women

IMG_9655_DxO-001 (2)The tea party fundraiser was held on Sunday 3 July 2016 for the second year and had support from around 100 people.

We were lucky again with the weather, having sunshine throughout.

We had a wonderful raffle with many great prizes as well as a magician, Kieran Johnson, who entertained us with magic in small groups.

Julia Killick, ex-Governor of HMP Holloway, gave a fascinating talk with lots of interesting (and horrifying) statistics about women who go to jail- why women end up in prison, what happens when they come out and how Housing for Women helps them reunite with their children and avoid further offending.

Last year’s tea party raised £2000, which was spent on 3 Breezies (specially adapted iPads for older people) and support to enable them to stay connected with the world.

The money raised also funded grants to allow women and their children to have days out from the refuges that we run. So far 10 such outings have been made and the feedback of unique memories made away from violence, and photos that can be freely shared without fear, bring tears to your eyes.

This year we raised near £3000- the final number is still being counted- which is amazing.

It can only be done by your support, giving, helping and attending. 

THANK YOU ALL. 

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Because I am a girl…

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A night of spoken word and music defined an Orchestrated Act of Kindness this International Women’s Day.

Orchestrated Acts of Kindness is a London based group who organise acts of kindness, both big and small, with the intention of making people happy.

For International Women’s Day OAKS chose Housing for Women to be their beneficiary. Housing for Women is an 80 year old London based charity that supports women who have experienced domestic abuse, and other challenges including trafficking and incarceration.

The Ritzy hosted this event that was aptly named ‘Women of Voice’. Entertainment was provided through an all-female line-up of musicians and spoken work.

One of the acts featured was Poetic Pilgrimage; a female Hip Hop and Spoken Word duo whose work covers a range of issues including identity, global politics and women’s issues.poem

Orchestrated Acts of Kindness raised £247 for Housing for Women at the event and a poem commenting on what it means to be a girls was created by all of the women featured at the event.

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Greenwich Celebrates Strong Women

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More than 70 women came together in Greenwich to acknowledge the achievements of women and to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Her Centre and Greenwich Domestic Violence and Abuse Services (GDVA) hosted this event on the 10th March. The theme was the celebration of strong women and the event included a range of engaging speeches and varied workshops. One of the speakers was Eleanor Lisney, from the United Nations Consultation Group on Women and Poverty and the focus of her speech was on the impact of austerity cuts on women. This gave the women in attendance the opportunity to learn more about how broader issues impact on them specifically. Marta Ciok, of the Greenwich Users Steering Group, spoke about how women who have experienced domestic violence can attend the group and can help identify gaps in provision and influence local service quality.

The practical workshops at the event were lively and included self-defence classes, confidence building sessions, and peer support groups. There were also free pampering sessions available, with students from Shooters Hill College providing free head and hand massages to the women.

“An event like this is so important” said the Manager of GDVA Judith Banjoko, “it brings women together to better understand the situation that they live in, and empowers them to act upon it”. Stacy Smith, Her Centre Director, said “This event is aimed at encouraging local women to celebrate what we accomplish in our everyday lives, and how women volunteers give so much back to the community.”

As another International Women’s Day passes for another year it is great that women in Greenwich were given the opportunity to learn more about the challenges facing women, and the opportunities that exist to overcome these challenges.

 

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Five weeks with Housing for Women

Read about the experiences of one of our student interns who spent five weeks working about Housing for Women last summer.

 

I’ve been writing this post for what seems like forever, and I fittingly completed it on International Women’s Day!

Last year I applied for an internship through the Student Hubs Social Impact Internship Scheme and upon being accepted, I was placed as a social housing intern with Housing for Women.

Housing for Women is an organisation who, to quote their website, work to empower women through providing good homes and services and challenging inequalities faced by women.

I was on the supported housing desk, hence my official title being supported housing intern, where I was given various tasks, including completing research to update the business plan, meeting with service users to create case studies for fundraising purposes and over-the-phone surveys to analyse the efficiency with which the organisation is running and the impact it is having on its users.

Working for such an organisation and on this desk specifically was as much emotionally draining as it was and incredibly eye-opening experience.

During my first week I spent most of my time undergoing research, a flowery way of saying finding out just how disadvantaged women are in a developed, and seemingly progressive, country. To compare recent statistics (2013-15) to 2000-2012 and realise that most of the change is on a scale of very little to none was depressing. And to then think of all the cuts being made to women’s organisations, specifically domestic violence services, I feel helpless in having time to do nothing more than offer solidarity to all these women affected. It could affect any one of us [women] at any point and the lack of services to fall back on is astonishing, the services that are surviving are vital and are increasingly being put under pressure.

The women I was so lucky to meet, whose stories I would love to share but respectfully will not, could not stress enough how crucial a role Housing for Women played in building them to bounce back from their experiences – be it through providing safe housing, essential support or just being there at a difficult time. These women offered nothing but praise towards their support workers, and their support workers offered them nothing but praise because “[our] roles cannot be fulfilled without being met by the efforts and determination of these strong women.” but the women insisted it was more the tireless efforts of their support worker.

This praise was often sung by women I surveyed over the phone, who placed emphasis more on the support they receive from staff than the quality of housing itself – though they were equally grateful for both.

It was through this internship at Housing for Women that I saw first-hand how great a job women’s services are doing, and how crucial it is to advocate for the saving of these services. Their decreasing number can only help a limited amount of women to do so in a manner that truly positively impacts them.

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