Housing project providing crucial support for women exiting sexual exploitation
A London-based housing project is providing crucial support for women who have been victims of sexual exploitation, helping them to rebuild their lives and move on to independence.
The Amari project, run by Solace Women’s Aid (a charity working with survivors of all forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG), with support from Commonweal Housing and London Councils, assists women following their departure from refuges or other emergency accommodation, helping them to build resilience and recover from trauma through a staged approach.
Now, after three years in development, an external report produced by Dr Helen Johnson, details the Amari project’s strengths; challenges faced and makes recommendations for Local Authorities, Commissioners and other organisations to learn from Solace’s experiences.
Findings show that women who have access to good quality housing and the right support feel safe and secure in their homes and within time, are able to move on from trauma they have experienced.
The report also demonstrates that Amari helps ease the burden on Local Authorities by working with people that can often be seen as ‘hard to engage with’, stopping a cycle of homelessness that they can otherwise fall into.
One woman who was a user of the project commented on the service, “Before I would tell myself everything is going to be fine but it was just something that I told myself to get through things, whereas now I tell myself that and I know it, I really know it”.
Another said, “Amari were really nice, they respect me, they cared about me. I was struggling so much and they helped me telling me what to do and how to do it. They had me get housing benefit, council tax, where to find food at food banks, I wasn’t working and I didn’t have any idea where to go and find work and they helped me a lot. They pushed me a lot to find a job. With the help of them I learned a lot”.
The successful combination of suitable housing and tailored trauma-informed support are key elements of this project, which could be replicated in other areas.
Dr Helen Johnson, an expert in women exiting prostitution and author of the report, said “Amari is a unique project catering to the support needs of this group whilst meeting demand for much needed specialist, suitable housing from Local Authorities and other referrers. Hopefully the success of the project and the detail of women’s journeys in the report will encourage other organisations to learn from and implement some of the findings.”
With the project identifying a gap in current provision for individuals who have been sexually exploited, Commonweal Housing in partnership with Solace Women’s Aid are hoping that other organisations and authorities will be able to learn from the pilot project and provide similar services.
Ashley Horsey, Chief Executive of Commonweal Housing said “This project is a brilliant demonstration of the importance of providing good quality housing that is suitable to the needs of people who are facing unimaginable social injustice.
“The Amari project has certainly shown that this combination of good quality housing and support is beneficial for women who are at risk of becoming trapped in a cycle of sexual abuse and homelessness. We are keen for any other organisations who are interested in replicating the project to get in touch.”
The project will continue to be run by Solace Women’s Aid in the ten properties across London.
Gill Herd, Senior Manager for Solace Women’s Aid said “There is a dire shortage of longer term accommodation with specialist support for women sexually exploited through trafficking or prostitution. This amazing partnership between Commonweal Housing, Solace and London Councils has enabled some of the most marginalised women to get the vital support and safe accommodation they need to cope, recover and move forward into independence. We hope that this evaluation will help other commissioners consider replicating this model.”
Kossar Butt, Lambeth Service Manager for Solace Women’s Aid said, “The Amari Project is successful as it gives women who have experienced trauma the comfort and space of being in their own tenancies and enhances their skills for independent living. We have seen the effects of the project first hand.
“This accommodation bridges the gap between being in supported housing and independent living, enabling women to be fully equipped to manage the issues surrounding their trauma and focus on their recovery”.