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Safer London have been shortlisted for the London Homelessness Award 2018 for their Pan-London Housing Reciprocal. In the first of a series of blogs about the shortlisted projects, Esther Sample tells us more about their innovative scheme.

The importance of secure housing for women and families to recover from the trauma of domestic abuse and other forms of violence cannot be underestimated. It allows them not just physical and practical safety, but the psychological space and time to start rebuilding their lives.

32 Local Authorities and 43 Registered Housing Providers in London have collaborated through Safer London’s Pan-London Housing Reciprocal (PLHR). Since the beginning of last year this initiative has helped to move 132 adults and children fleeing domestic abuse, other forms of violence against women and girls, hate crime, gang-related violence or other high risk situations to safe settled accommodation.

Rather than giving up their tenancy and becoming homeless, spending years in temporary accommodation or on the housing waiting list in another area, those 132 individuals were moved on average within 2 months to a settled home, simply by housing providers who are part of the scheme agreeing to cooperate and share their stock. It is a simple idea that makes a real difference.

As women who used the scheme have told us:

“I feel more secure and safer, I feel I can start making decisions that don’t involve thinking about him or looking over my shoulder.”

“I feel safer by far in comparison to where I lived before. I feel like a human in this house.”

To develop the PLHR we conducted research with housing teams across London; cross-boundary moves were highlighted as a major barrier to supporting survivors of domestic abuse, and there was willingness to reciprocate properties if this could be a fair and transparent system. We also presented to forums including the G15 and London Housing Directors fora to get senior sign off to launch the scheme.

Key to our approach is having a small team at Safer London funded by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime to coordinate referrals, monitor and maintain a cap of 3 moves, so no provider can make more than 3 successful referrals without reciprocating a property. This centralised approach avoids more informal ‘direct swaps’ which put households at risk if perpetrators approach the new tenants. It also means if perpetrators are still in the property then the survivor can still access the PLHR as it does not have to be the vacated property that is reciprocated.

We encourage all housing providers in London to join the scheme, and those from other parts of the UK to get in touch if interested in replicating or in our learning to date on facilitating a housing reciprocal scheme.

Esther Sample is Domestic abuse, Housing and Policy Service Manager at Safer London

For more information about the Safer London project go to https://saferlondon.org.uk/pan-london-housing-reciprocal/

For more information about the London Homelessness Awards 2018 which will be presented on October 18th, go to www.lhawards.org.uk

depaul blog 3the london network of nurses and midwives homelessness group