The Amari Project takes its name from the Yoruba word for “strength”, is designed to help women who are fleeing sexual exploitation. The project is a partnership between Commonweal and Solace Women’s Aid, a pioneering women’s charity with over 50 years experience providing life-saving support to survivors of domestic and sexual abuse.
The project is an adaptation and expansion of the third stage of the Chrysalis Project, a previous partnership between Commonweal and St Mungo’s, which demonstrated that good quality housing along with staged support can be crucial in a woman’s recovery following sexual exploitation. Project accommodation is provided for around 18 months, helping women who are moving on from emergency housing in refuges or shelters find their feet and prepare for the next step of their transition. Vital emotional, practical, and community support is provided to tenants, helping them recover from trauma, regain their independence, maintain their tenancies, and get back into education or employment.
The project is open to referrals from across all the London boroughs.
Background and context
The links between sexual abuse and prostitution are indisputable. 85% of women in prostitution report that they grew up with physical abuse in the family and 45% report familial sexual abuse. More than 50% of women working in prostitution have been raped and/or seriously assaulted, and at least 75% have been physically assaulted.
Commonweal believes that the sexual exploitation and abuse of women represents a profound social injustice, and in 2009 set up the Chrysalis project together with St Mungos, which aimed to help women in Lambeth escape street prostitution through a staged model of support and housing. Following five years of successful operation, local authority funding cutbacks meant that the housing stage of the Chrysalis project was discontinued in 2016.
However, the lessons and key findings of the Chrysalis project were captured by Commonweal’s rigorous ongoing evaluation programme, and were used to design the ‘spiritual successor’ to Chrysalis: the Amari project. Following an initial feasibility study which found significant need for supported housing for victims of sexual exploitation, four years of additional funding was secured from London Councils for this 2nd stage housing, and the roll-out of the project commenced in 2016.
The project currently consists of 7 flats for service users and is open to single women or those with a child under 2, over the age of 18, who have been sexually exploited through prostitution or trafficking. Suitable candidates are selected on the basis of having successfully lived in 1st stage accommodation; exited from exploitation, and who are willing to engage with support programmes, training, education, and / or employment and subsequent long-term resettlement.
The project caters to a mixed range of support needs. Amari welcomes referrals for those with problematic substance use issues who are actively receiving support and working towards recovery, and / or mental health needs who are accessing support or willing to access support for these needs.
Evaluation and key aims
As Amari is a new project, the evaluation arrangements are still being finalised. A full on-going evaluation process of the expanded project, particularly looking at the working of the pan-London referrals element, is expected to be in place by summer 2017.
 Home Office, Paying the price, 2004
 AVA ‘Policy briefing on Prostitution’, 2011.