JUNO Women's Aid

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AMBITIOUS £3m plans by Nottingham’s largest domestic abuse organisation, Juno Women’s Aid, to buy its own properties to house survivors have taken a major step forward.

The charity has made offers on nine houses and is viewing several more, so that it can secure 18 homes that it hopes will be ready for women and their children to move into this summer so they can start building new lives.

The progress comes after it received ‘life-changing’ funding of £3,075,000 from Social and Sustainable Capital (SASC), which provides finance for ‘extraordinary’ charities and social enterprises.

Juno has been searching for the safe two and three-bedroom accommodation – which will be available to families for two-year tenancies – across Nottingham city and south Nottinghamshire.

Yasmin Rehman, CEO at Juno Women’s Aid, which has been running its services for 40 years, said the 18 properties will be secured with the first tranche of funding it has received, and is looking to secure additional funding for a further ten properties.

Yasmin said: “Things are moving ahead at pace – we have nine houses under offer and going through conveyancing. This funding marks a huge difference in what we can offer to the women we help. Instead of an emergency, sticking plaster approach, this is a longer-term strategy that will not only save lives but create the opportunities for long-lasting change.

“Being able to move survivors and their families out of a refuge and into one of these properties means they can start to build an independent life, putting down roots and creating safe social networks. They will be able to put their children into local schools and be helped to find work or training courses.”

Juno believes the social investment loan, distributed by SASC’s Social and Sustainable Housing Fund II, can support around 110 women and 220 children during the loan term. It will also benefit families with older male children who are often unable to access other refuge accommodation.

In 2022-2023, Juno worked with 2,726 women, 472 children and young people, fostered 56 pets, and received nearly 16,000 calls on its helpline. It supports 500-600 women and children in Nottingham and south Nottinghamshire at any one time.

Its domestic abuse services include a drop-in service; refuge provision, specialist one-to-one and community outreach support for women, children and young people; justice team support through civil and criminal court proceedings, group work programmes and access to Nottingham College training and education.

Yasmin praised the financial support that Juno’s services receive through the charity’s commissioners at Nottingham City Council, Nottinghamshire County Council and the office of Nottinghamshire’s police and crime commissioner Caroline Henry.

But she admitted these were challenging times for the charity sector in the face of local government financial difficulties.

“It’s a tough time because everybody is stretched and wondering what is going to happen in the coming months,” she said. “In turn, people are coming to us with their own financial pressures. We have women saying they are going to stay in the house with their abuser because they either own the house or the tenancy is in their name and they don’t want that cycle of moving again and again.”

But she added: “We have to remain optimistic and we will find a way through. Buying these properties and developing a housing management arm, that is paid for completely separately from our public sector-funded services, is a game-changer for us.”

Juno also works in partnership with private sector organisations, including The Island Quarter and architects Marchini Curran Associates in Nottingham.

“It would be wonderful if the wider business community could help to support these women in their new homes through donations to us,” said Yasmin. “They could provide supermarket vouchers so they can shop for food or the basic items they need and also in choosing their own furniture when we take them to charities like The Arches.”

And she added: “We want to give women and their children some valuable breathing space and support them in their new lives. Domestic abuse, if you experience it, should be an experience in your life – it should not define you for the rest of your life.”

Mark Bickford, CEO of Social and Sustainable Capital, said: “We are delighted to hear that Juno Women’s Aid has made significant progress in terms of using the investment from our SASH fund to purchase properties that will become safe havens for many women and children fleeing domestic abuse and enable them to rebuild their lives.

“Owning these properties will be transformative for the charity – making its model and services more sustainable and enabling it to support many more women and children.”