Why refuge and how to refer yourself... Welcome to my blog! My name is Lorna and I am the manager of our refuge accommodation. I hope you find this helpful! Grab a cuppa and enjoy the read… What is a refuge? For those of us working in domestic abuse - it might seem like a really obvious thing, but just in case you didn't know - a refuge is safe, temporary accommodation for anyone escaping domestic abuse. We, Next Chapter, have two refuges in Essex, one is a purpose-built family refuge where we offer spaces to women and their children and we are very proud that our second refuge is our specialist recovery refuge for women who are fleeing domestic abuse and have used substances as a way of coping with the trauma domestic abuse has had on their lives. There are lots of misconceptions about what refuge accommodation is like and we know that lots of people think that shared accommodation means sharing everything! We are very fortunate that our accommodation includes a combination of self-contained flat-lets, both large and small to accommodate a range of family’s sizes, which mean that our residents have their own bedroom/living area, separate kitchens and bathrooms but share other rooms i.e. large communal lounges, laundry room, and garden areas. As you might imagine - safety is the most important consideration and for this reason it is vital that we keep the address of the refuge confidential. We ask anyone who needs to visit the refuge - new residents, staff, visitors, contractors to sign a confidentiality agreement, which means they agree not to disclose the address to anyone and not to discuss anything that see or do at our refuges. So, why go into refuge? As I said before, refuge is a safe space, where women and children who have experienced domestic abuse can come to rebuild their lives free from abuse and get help and support to build resilience for their futures. If you don't have somewhere safe that you can go, or you are scared that you will be found if you go to friends or families to stay then refuge offers place where you can go to escape the abuse, to make sure that you and your children are safe and give yourself time to think about what you really want for the future. We know that making the decision to flee domestic abuse won't be one that you have made lightly and we know that depending on your own circumstances, you are likely to be anxious and frightened that you will be found and you might not have been able to leave with many or any of your own things. We understand... When you get to us you will be introduced to the person who will be supporting you, we call them Domestic Abuse Practitioner, but they also have names too.... Mandy, Katie, Lyndsey to name a few!! They are there to help you settle in, provide you with a tour of the accommodation, discuss the fire exits and procedure, and show you the communal lounge areas and laundry facilities, help with any other practical things you might need and generally be a support to help you feel safe in your first few hours with us. Our Domestic Abuse Practitioners are there to offer you the advice that you need, and encourage you to think about your future and the options you now have. Depending on your situation - it might be that you need advice and support for how to register for housing or how to apply for the correct benefit entitlements or perhaps you need help to contact solicitors to obtain legal orders or to for support dealing with immigration issues so that you can live independently. Whatever you need, we can work with you to help - believe me, over the years we have helped with a really wide-range of things so don't be afraid to ask for help! We've been offering emergency refuge accommodation for over 40 years now and we absolutely know that it can be difficult adjusting to life in a new environment. We also know that the other women in the refuge understand (first-hand) what you have been through, and our support staff are on hand to help you settle in and provide you the support you need to start thinking about your future. Our refuge is much more than a 'bed for the night' or a safe space to stay Our teams are trained to offer person-centred support, this means that we understand that every person has their own individual requirements for the support they need to empower them to make their own safe choices about their future and ultimately to live a life free from abuse and fear. We work alongside you to help you recover from your experience of abuse, providing the emotional and practical support you need. How to access our refuge accommodation? We have a number of ways to make a referral into our service Via telephone 01206 500585 Referral form online – www.thenextchapter.org.uk Essex Compass – 0330 333 7444 - Is a 24-hour referral route to advice and support https://www.essexcompass.org.uk/ We will always help to find you a refuge place even if we have no spaces in our own accommodation. If you get the chance to pack.... From experience we would advise that you try and bring the following with you to refuge: Identification Birth certificates for you and your children. Details of your GP or surgery. Money and debit cards. Keys for your house Driving licence (if you have one) and car registration documents. Prescribed medication Benefit letters. Passports (including passports for all your children if you have them), visas and work permits. Copies of documents relating to your housing tenure, (for example, mortgage details or lease and rental agreements). Current unpaid bills. Insurance documents. All these things help you when you start to think about your future, accessing housing, your benefits entitlements and can help with smooth transfers between GP's etc. If you can't find them, or it would be unsafe for you to get them - then don't worry - we can sort that out later. These last things are important for you and your children to help you feel connected to your family and to help you settle in as easily as possible. Address book Family photographs Your children’s favourite small toys. Clothing and toiletries for you and your children (if you can't pack - we can help out with clothes and toiletries etc) I hope you found this blog helpful! I'll be back next time discussing what it is really like to live in a refuge!