Housing First for women subjected to domestic abuse facing homelessness

Women’s Aid East and Midlothian (WAEML) is delighted to have been awarded a two year grant from the Scottish Government’s Third Sector Homelessness Fund to introduce East Lothian’s very first Housing First project for women.  This project will be delivered in partnership with East Lothian Council and East Lothian Housing Association.  

Housing First provides ordinary, settled housing as the first response for people whose homelessness and housing insecurity is made harder by experiences such as trauma, addictions and mental health problems.  There is a national program to ‘scale up’ the provision of Housing First in Scotland, with 483 individuals re-housed since 2019, no evictions to date and 90% tenancy sustainment. Housing First is backed by world-leading experts in the field of homelessness, human rights and housing.   In the lead up to the Scottish Elections, Housing First earned cross-party support and is central to the Scottish Government’s recent publication of Housing to 2040 – a 20 year strategy which seeks to transform the housing and homelessness sector.

Women who are subjected to domestic abuse are some of the hardest to reach, often at the highest risk and, as such, require a specialist gendered and trauma informed response. There has been increasing recognition of the linked experiences of gender-based violence, homelessness and severe and multiple disadvantage. Housing First for Women will provide a person centered response, addressing all of the needs of the individual.  

“This project gives us the chance and opportunity to reach women who have fallen through the net every step of the way, largely because service design has just not been shaped to meet their needs.” – Julie Watson, CEO, Women’s Aid East and Midlothian 

Our project will support up to 12 women in East Lothian who are at risk of/ are homeless due to domestic abuse and also struggling with multiple disadvantage, specifically addiction and/or mental ill health.  A joint response from WAEML, East Lothian Council and ELHA will provide safe, secure housing, alongside a holistic, strengths-based support, with workers they can trust.

We are delighted to be partnering with WAEML and ELHA on this exciting and innovative project. As the first local authority in Scotland to deliver Housing First specifically for women, and as a preventative solution where we know homelessness is highly likely, we look forward to sharing our successes and learning as we progress.

The Covid-19 Pandemic has brought to life the difficulties faced by those who are not safe in their own homes. During the pandemic East Lothian Council partnered with WAEML to set up a Single Point Of Contact service of Housing Officers who could liaise with WAEML service users and vice versa.

We look forward to developing our relationship further and ensuring that domestic abuse is not tolerated in East Lothian, and that timely, person-centered and trauma informed support is provided to all women and children subjected to domestic abuse.

Wendy McGuire, Head of Housing, East Lothian Council

“We are very pleased to be working in partnership with WAEML and ELC, and to have the opportunity to play such a pivotal role in this project  by providing  accommodation  specifically for women and children experiencing domestic abuse, putting their needs first and supporting them to maintain successful tenancies.”   

Karen Barry, Director of Housing, East Lothian Housing Association

To find out more about the Housing First project please contact Chief Executive Officer of Women’s Aid East and Midlothian, Julie Watson – julie@womensaideml.org

If you, or anyone you know, is subjected to domestic abuse you can talk in confidence and receive support from:

  • If you are a Council Tenant Call 01620 827827 and ask for your local housing area office
  • If you are not a Council Tenant Call 01620 827827 and ask for our Housing Options Team.
  • Women’s Aid East and Midlothian (for women) 0131 561 5800
  • National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0800 027 1234
  • Fearless (for men) 0131 624 7266
  • Police Scotland on 101 or 999
  • If you are hurting the one you love and want to stop call Respect on 0808 802 4040.

Pic © Laura Dodsworth