The Safer London project has been announced as a winner in the 2018 London Homelessness Awards. They have developed a pan London partnership of boroughs and housing associations to help people at risk of violence move home without losing their tenancy. Melanie has used their service, and told us her story.
Melanie* experienced domestic abuse from her ex-partner for many years. From the beginning of their relationship, he isolated her from all her friends and family and forced her to quit her job. After leaving her job, Melanie became financially dependent on him. His controlling behaviour increased and he became physically violent towards her. On numerous occasions he threatened to kill her and throw acid in her face.
Melanie was too scared to report the abuse to the police. Her partner often warned that if she went to the police he would get his friends to ‘sort her out’. After one abusive incident, her neighbours phoned the police and they put Melanie in contact with her local domestic abuse service. An Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA) supported her to move to a women’s refuge.
While in the refuge Melanie told her support worker that she would have to return home, as she couldn’t afford to lose her tenancy and be moved into the private rented sector. Her IDVA spoke to her housing association and explained Melanie’s situation and the violence she would face if she returned home. Melanie’s IDVA and her housing officer worked together to make a referral to the Pan-London Housing Reciprocal. Melanie was asked to identify London boroughs where she would be safe and happy to move to and after a couple of months a local authority on the other side of London offered her a property.
After signing a secure tenancy in the new borough, Melanie told her support worker:
“I feel more secure and safe. I feel I can start making decisions that don’t involve thinking about him or looking over my shoulder. You’re given a helping hand every step of the way and are never left in the dark about any choice or decision made. I felt central to the process and empowered to make decisions around my safety.”
Once Melanie knew she no longer had to return to the address she was at risk, she felt able to support a police investigation and give evidence in Court against the perpetrator.
“I finally feel I can put this horrific ordeal behind me and make a bright, fresh new start with my life. I believe this scheme will be very helpful for others who need to move from where they are, whatever their situation may be.”
*Name has been changed for confidentiality and safety purposes
The final order of the top three, and the allocation of the prize money (£30000, £20000 and £10000), will be revealed at a very special event at City Hall on 18th October, with the prizes presented by James Murray, Deputy Mayor. For more information go to www.lhawards.org.uk.