Domestic violence project is ‘breaking down barriers’
Harbour Housing, the St Austell-based charity, is celebrating the two-year milestone of its specialist domestic violence provision.
21st March 2021
By Natasha Swift
St Austell-based charity Harbour Housing is celebrating the two-year milestone of providing its specialist domestic violence support service.
The escaping violence and abuse (EVA) service run by the charity was established in April 2019 to provide safe accommodation and support for women with complex needs fleeing abuse.
It acts as an innovative hybrid between a traditional refuge space and a complex needs accommodation facility, ensuring that survivors of abuse with additional needs such as mental health issues, disability, pet ownership or addiction struggles can access safety and support.
Project manager Kate Moss explained: “Currently there’s a lack of provision and understanding about that real complex interplay between complex needs and domestic abuse.
“By blending refuge style safe accommodation with complex needs supported
accommodation the EVA project is beginning to really break down barriers of discrimination that someone might feel.
“We’ve been running the service now for a couple of years and before that we ran a pilot project for a year.
“We feel really well placed to work towards better outcomes for this client group.”
An estimated 1.6 million women experienced domestic abuse across the United Kingdom last year, with many of those struggling with additional needs.
Survivors of domestic abuse have a three-fold risk of depressive disorders, four-fold risk of anxiety, and seven-fold risk of post traumatic stress disorder.
Data also suggests that women experiencing domestic abuse are up to six times more likely to use or develop dependency on alcohol or drugs.
Harbour Housing specialises in providing high tolerance support for those with complex needs, and has been managing supported housing for over ten years with a focus on harm reduction and recovery.
The EVA project provides 12 spaces to survivors of abuse with complex needs and has seen a huge demand for the service in the past two years, with 79 per cent of those referred into the project disclosing a mental health issue.
Beneficiaries of the scheme receive support with safety planning, accessing finance and developing independence until they are ready to move on to their own accommodation.
The environment is designed to be trauma-informed with special adaptations on site including state of the art CCTV, phones in the rooms with speed dial to essential contacts and a concierge service.
Sixty-five per cent of those in the service self-reported increased feelings of safety during their stay, with one resident stating that the peaceful environment improved her feelings of anxiety.
She said: “The surroundings are lovely. Where my room is I can open the window and hear the little fountain in the garden and that is really therapeutic. I love it here.”
Harbour worked with community partners to provide additional development opportunities to the women on the scheme, with The Women’s Centre Cornwall offering specially adapted empowerment sessions to aid their recovery.
Beth Williams, one of the facilitators of the groups, said: “The informal drop-in nature of the workshops meant the women were able to choose which sessions they attended, taking into account their mental health and what they felt they would benefit from.
“The staff at Harbour were flexible and responsive with us in terms of their approach and it was clear they were focused on the needs of the women.”
Harbour Housing trustee Bimini Love feels the EVA project is vital in “nurturing equality of service for those fleeing domestic abuse, sexual violence and exploitation, and lessening the discrimination often faced by people experiencing multiple disadvantage”.
Individuals can refer into the EVA service via Harbour Housing’s website, and support is available 24/7 for those affected by domestic abuse on the national helpline 0808 2000 247.