Why we’re hitting the property market again
This time last year, we made our first calls to estate agents in search of an Orchards flat. After hearing our budget and what we were looking for, I remember one agent bursting out laughing saying “you might want to try calling back after Brexit” and hanging up! We felt God had other ideas and we got the keys to our lovely flat a few months later..
We are now excitedly beginning the property search again, so we can set up a second flat to reach more women each year. There is an urgent need for housing for women exiting sexually exploitative situations – we receive weekly enquiries about bed spaces which we have to say no to. But why is that?
Lack of housing can act both as a reason for entry into sexual exploitation and a barrier to exit, trapping many women in a cycle of poverty, homelessness and exploitation. For instance, care leavers or young women leaving domestic abuse situations might find themselves ‘sofa surfing’, moving from house to house, leaving them vulnerable to grooming or ‘transactional sex’ (“you can stay here if you…”). As we wrote last month, the situation has also been exacerbated by recent benefit reforms; across the sector we are seeing housing poverty putting women in sexually exploitative situations for the first time or unable to exit such situations due to the new universal credit system leaving them with a ‘choice’ between survival sex and homelessness.
Whilst women who have been trafficked for sexual purposes may receive emergency accommodation, there are very few specialist safe houses supporting women beyond short-term crisis support and current provision does not meet the high demand.
Why are we looking for one-bed flats?
Women leaving emergency accommodation may not be ready to manage tenancy arrangements or rent payments by themselves, so the risk of homelessness and/ or re-entering exploitative situations is high. Research has shown that a supported semi-independent transitional housing model after emergency accommodation results in far better outcomes for women and their longer-term recovery and wellbeing.
As we were researching and thinking through our housing model, it became clear that many women prefer to not be in multiple occupancy housing for a range of reasons. A one-bedroom flat model provides women with a degree of independence and ownership over their space; a secure base which supports their transition to independent living. This works alongside a tailored support plan that looks holistically at tackling the other multiple barriers to exiting sexual exploitation.
So, we are about to start property hunting again for our next one bed flat. Bring on the estate agent calls….!