Project to provide ‘crucial’ support to sexual exploitation victims

The London-based project seeks to assist women when they leave emergency accommodation.

After three-years in development, a Solace Women’s Aid pilot project has launched it’s final evaluation report, aiming to provide support to women who have been victims of sexual exploitation.

‘The Amari Project’, supported by Commonweal Housing and London Councils, aims to assist women following their departure from refugees or emergency accommodation, helping them to rebuild their lives and move on to independence.

With the project identifying a gap in current provision for individuals who have experienced this sexual exploitation, the report is hoping to encourage other organisations and authorities to provide similar services.

During the development period, the external report was produced, detailing the Amari project’s strengths, challenges faced, as well as various recommendations for Local Authorities and organisations to learn from Solace’s experiences.

Penned by Dr Helen Johnson, the report highlights that women who have access to good quality housing and the right support feel safe and secure in their homes and, within time, can move on from trauma they have experienced.

Outlined in reports, recommendations include making referrals, ensuring that appropriate care is taken when engaging with referring agencies, and outlining the benefits of preparing the tenants for a move.

Local authorities are also said to be aware of the mental health of service users, with organisations ensuring that it does not pose a risk to the progression of independent living.

Also outlined is importance of the awareness of the project and the encouragement of separating out the roles of support worker and landlord within the project, engaging with service users in a “compassionate and supportive” manner.

Recommendations of budget include that of the anticipation of maintenance, with authorities said to work with service users to ensure the upkeep of their property and an overall financial support to prepare for potential issues such as Universal Credit.

The successful combination of suitable housing and tailored trauma-informed support are said to be key elements of the project, which could be replicated in other areas.

Author Dr Helen Johnson, an expert in women exiting prostitution, said: “Amari is a unique project catering to the support needs of this group whilst meeting demand for much needed specialist, suitable housing from Local Authorities and other referrers.

“Hopefully the success of the project and the detail of women’s journeys in the report will encourage other organisations to learn from and implement some of the findings.”

One user of the project said that engaging with the service helped her to receive housing benefit, council tax, where to find food at food banks and find a job.

The project is set to continue over 10 properties across London, with Ashley Horsey, CEO of Commonweal Housing, highlighting the importance of providing good quality housing suitable to the needs of people who are facing unimaginable social injustice.

“The Amari project has certainly shown that this combination of good quality housing and support is beneficial for women who are at risk of becoming trapped in a cycle of sexual abuse and homelessness,” he said.

“We are keen for any other organisations who are interested in replicating the project to get in touch.”

Gill Herd, senior manager for Solace Women’s Aid, added: “There is a dire shortage of longer term accommodation with specialist support for women sexually exploited through trafficking or prostitution.

“This amazing partnership between Commonweal Housing, Solace and London Councils has enabled some of the most marginalised women to get the vital support and safe accommodation they need to cope, recover and move forward into independence.

“We hope that this evaluation will help other commissioners consider replicating this model.”

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