New service launched to prevent vulnerable women from homelessness

12 December 2018

Southwark Council, a Trailblazing authority in homelessness prevention, has an excellent record of bidding for funding to create proactive, preventative and bespoke services for those vulnerable to becoming homeless.

Earlier this year, the council received £78,750 in funding from the Government’s Rough Sleepers Initiative for a new service which assists women leaving prison, funded for two years.  Now the service is up and running.

Solace Women’s Aid, experts in this field of work, was appointed by the council to run the service, in-house at the council’s homelessness offices.

The work is targeted at women who are sleeping rough on the streets in Southwark. The Women’s Housing Support advocate role, funded by the initiative, provides intensive, wrap-around support to women leaving the prison system who are victims of sexual exploitation, domestic violence, those who are involved in prostitution or are long-term rough sleepers or who have multiple support needs for drugs, alcohol or mental health issues.

The role offers intensive support to women on their journey from homeless to temporary accommodation, who are then supported into long term accommodation. This new service enables the team to provide dedicated, specialist support and accommodation to help these women make a smooth and successful transition from prison to the community.

The service also reduces reoffending by tackling the issues behind crime holistically; women are escorted as they leave prison in order to prevent their immediate re-exploitation and the issues behind crime such as addiction and homelessness are addressed.

Solace Women’s Aid is already producing some excellent results for some of the most vulnerable people in Southwark.

A 28-year-old who has benefitted from the service explains:  “I was released from Bronzefield prison for the fifth time this year, in November. This time I was collected from the prison and taken straight to housing options where I met the Solace Worker. She had already organised a room in a women-only flat nearby which I moved into straight away. It had bedding and she had a bag of clothing for me with toiletries and a food bank voucher, it was around the corner from my Probation Officer, the women’s hub, my drug service and the housing office. She arranged for my Probation Officer to come and see me on the day I was released and for my methadone prescription to be ready at the new pharmacy that day. This week she is helping me to open my first bank account so that I can finally claim benefits.”

Gill Herd, Senior Manager, Partnerships for Solace Women’s Aid says:  “Solace is proud to be working in partnership with Southwark Council’s housing solutions service to provide a coordinated and effective response to women fleeing domestic abuse and other forms of violence in the borough. We are very excited to launch our new service for women leaving prison. This group of women are often the most marginalised and vulnerable, at risk of street homelessness and sexual exploitation. This is an excellent example of how Rough Sleeping Initiative funds can be used to meet the very specific, and often more hidden, needs of women.”

Councillor Stephanie Cryan, cabinet member for housing management and modernisation, said: “I am so proud that we have such an amazing team of experts working for us to help and support women who have had it really tough. I am humbled that we can have this kind of impact on those who have been through so much and who just need a bit of help make their lives much better. I wish all the women who come through this service all the very best for their futures.”

Page last updated: 12 December 2018

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