Today on Bristol Mum a local mum shares her experience of escaping domestic violence.
In response to her experience and in her hope to help other women going through similar, she has started a petition to Bristol City Council to change the housing priority it gives to people fleeing domestic abuse. Please read her story and sign the petition at the bottom of this post.
The day of my sons first birthday I was sat in a council office trying to find emergency accommodation for us both as we had no where safe to go that night. Whilst his party was happening, I sat in tears waiting to hear if there was any space for us in a refuge, somewhere, anywhere.
Whilst the lovely council lady was making arrangements for us to be taken to a refuge in Devon, I luckily had a call from a Bristol charity saying a room had just become available. We could move in the next day. It was such a relief.
We moved into a 5 bedroom safe house in Bristol and I met the amazingly brave women and children who were also living there. The stories were heartbreaking to hear and made me realise just how lucky I was to be out as quickly as I was. I cannot thank the charity enough that got us somewhere safe. Some families wait months to get a room.
Within a few weeks I realised how difficult it is to then move on from a safe house. The contract you sign when moving in is for 6 months. As it is temporary, emergency accommodation. (We are classed as homeless by the government). However, some women live in shared refuge accommodation for over a year.
There was a real sense of ‘no hope’ from everyone; not only the residents but the support staff too. The system is a very slow process indeed. Applying for social housing can take months before you are accepted and once you are, you are not in the priority banding.
After hearing the struggles and timescales from first hand experience I decided it was just not good enough. There are many people out there desperately waiting for a room, for somewhere safe for themselves and their children. It just makes sense. The sooner we can be rehoused, the sooner the next woman can be safe.
I wrote to local councillors in Bristol which resulted in me having a meeting with them. After my initial nerves in the meeting and babbling at a hundred miles an hour we discussed all the issues I have found in the current system and it was all agreed, the system wasn’t working well enough. This was great, I felt I could make a little difference.
With the new found confidence I decided to create a petition the Bristol City Council. Currently, people in safe house can only be put up to Band 2 on the Bristol Homechoice system. My petition is to change this to allow anyone fleeing domestic abuse to be put in Band 1 priority. Not all of us need social housing, not all of us need refuges and safe houses, but for those of us who do the change would have a massive impact.
From 25th November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10th December, Human Rights Day, there will a ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign‘. I am hoping to get my petition far and wide during this time to raise awareness and get as much support as possible for women and children in Bristol.
Please sign this petition: