The Women in Safe Homes Fund is the world’s first gender-lens property fund focused on helping women who either suffered domestic abuse or are ex-offenders.
Established in January 2021, the Fund was initiated by Patron Capital to provide affordable, safe, and secure homes for women and their families who are suffering domestic abuse, leaving the criminal justice system and women at risk of or experiencing homelessness in the UK. The Fund also works in partnership with Women’s Sector Organisations (WSOs), its housing partners, who provide specialist wraparound services to tenants.
Together with Keith & Lauren Breslauer initial anchor support of £1.5m, an investment of £1m, and the dedication of an essentially pro bono Patron team, the fund was launched in Dec 2020 and over £29m has been raised so far. Its aim is to create 150 affordable homes over its lifetime, benefiting over 1,500 women.
The Fund is jointly managed by the Patron dedicated team and Resonance Ltd and operates in partnership with women's sector organisations and charities to offer housing support and specialist services. In addition to Patron's financial resources commitment, Patron actively engages in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities to support the Women in Safe Homes objectives.
Why the need for the fund?
Women’s Homelessness is often rooted in sexual trauma and domestic violence. Experiences of homelessness differ for men and women, requiring a gendered approach and a bespoke solution for housing and support. In 2022, 1.6m women between the ages of 16 and 74 experienced various types of domestic violence.
Existing housing options do not serve women sufficiently well:
With the help of 9 housing partners the fund is proud to have already housed 185 women and children, who have been affected by one or more issues including homelessness, mental and physical ill health, sexual violence, honour-based violence, forced marriage, and stalking as of March 2023.
We aim to purchase over 150 properties including refuges, 1 -3 bed properties and family homes and the first tenants moved into their homes in Autumn 2021. Other notable positive impacts that the fund has had so far include:
One of the WISH fund’s tenants, Lina shares her experience of domestic abuse and seeking a safe place to live for her and her daughter with support from one of the fund’s expert housing partners, Safer Places.
“I grew up in Lithuania and moved to the UK some years ago with my husband. I worked as an area manager for TK Maxx. I had been putting up with abuse for a long time and couldn't cope any longer. I did not feel safe and was very depressed.
My new home means I feel safe and can think for myself again. I love talking to you all. You have to put up with me crying a lot but at least I can talk and be myself.
I do not know where we would have ended up. A stable home means being able to raise my daughter, work and have a normal life again. It's good for me and my daughter to feel safe and well.
I am proud that I found the courage to leave, and I know I will get back to work again. I stay in touch with my old manager so hopefully they will take me back.
After we leave this place, I am really looking forward to having a stable home for myself and my daughter. I really want to get back to work and have a normal life without fear or worry. I want my daughter to have the best of life.”
Poppy is currently living in a refuge. She arrived during the second lockdown after fleeing her abusive partner. She was diagnosed with PTSD after suffering severe coercive and controlling behaviour.
"Finding accommodation in a refuge was a blessing in disguise. I was in a horrible situation, but I can honestly say that Refuge saved me. The staff here are so supportive and helpful. I received support to find a therapist very quickly, which is not easy during the pandemic. The staff helped me with everything from sorting my benefits and registering with a GP, to supporting me through the daily struggle of rebuilding my life."
Sharon fled to a refuge with her children during lockdown to escape her abusive husband.
"I fled an abusive relationship which had been hell on earth, but there was a normality in that abuse and it was only when it got worse and my children were obviously suffering that I had to flee. The thought of a refuge and the unknown was at times even more frightening, but I plucked up courage and left.
I was met by warm and friendly staff who understood what we had been through. They were able to provide my children and me with support and guidance with housing and counselling, and support with my court cases. I cannot thank them enough for helping me to turn this nightmare around, giving me the confidence to start again and rebuild my children’s and my life again."
SWA, a specialist charity founded in 1974, was created to support women and families in cases of domestic abuse. SWA operates 2 fully-contained large refuge sites, supporting 37 women at any given time, including provisions for emergency out of hours referrals to ensure survivors have an immediate place of safety. The feminist organisation recognises domestic abuse as a gendered issue, disproportionally affecting women, knowing that women who use their services feedback that they feel safest in a place with single sex provision. This is an important part of the charity’s identity.
The partnership between SWA and WISH enables the charity to meet the growing need for refuge accommodation in Sheffield and to move away from an overly subsidised reliance on landlords who do not share the same values. In turn, this allows charity to receive direct, self-referrals from women and families and to offer support based on risk rather than solely on local connection.
The WISH fund, in partnership with SWA, aims to buy and refurbish 10 properties within the city, primarily consisting of family homes while potentially including one or two one-bedroom units. The fund has already acquired and commenced refurbishment on its initial property designated for SWA, while actively sourcing additional properties to fulfil its commitment.
Hollie Venn, Chief Executive at SWA said:
"These homes will provide additional accommodation that we can offer at SWA and are a mix of two- and three-bedroomed properties, meaning we can support larger families. These properties are ideal for families where refuge/communal living can be more challenging and not suitable. These properties will provide a literal lifeline for women and families who need to leave domestic abuse relationships that place their lives at risk, and instead, will enable women and children to live safely in a supported environment. The properties will also mean we can step outside of the housing pathway by offering a prompter response to survivors at a time of high risk."
For several years with Women in Safe Homes has been working closely with Cyrenians to find a way to use social investment to create homes for people experiencing homelessness. The charity and fund share the same value, to provide vulnerable women and families with safe homes that they may not otherwise have access to, providing them with the support and independence they need to rebuild their lives.
These properties include a range of family and one-beds, designed to be safe and discreet, connected to local and emergency services and in good decorative order. The purpose of the fund is to provide women with new homes that allow access to safe communities, food and opportunities for work and professional development. Patron is proud to work with Cyrenians, providing needed safe and affordable homes for women in Scotland and we look forward to our continued partnership.
Since the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis, the demand for refuge space has grown. We have partnered with Refuge to purchase and renovate a large family home to accommodate 7 women and their children. The property is well located with transport links, amenities and schools nearby.
Keith Breslauer, Managing Director of Patron Capital, said: “Proud that the Women in Safe Homes fund’s first homes with housing partner Refuge, have been completed. They will provide much needed sanctuaries for vulnerable women with children seeking a safe place to live. The homes have undergone a complete renovation and energy overhaul to ensure they are of the highest quality and are close to an array of local amenities. We couldn’t be happier that we have been able to lend our real estate expertise to support Resonance and Refuge in delivering these homes. Without a safe, secure place to live, women who are victims of domestic abuse find it much harder to care for children, gain employment, access healthcare, or arrange benefits. The Women in Safe Homes fund is aiming to tackle this significant issue, helping to improve lives across the UK and continue to highlight important societal problems that need addressing.”WISH Impact Report
WISH Senior Board of Advisors