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A project which provides housing alongside wrap-around support for almost 2000 women and children in Hull who have experienced domestic abuse, has today – Thursday 16 December 2021 – been named a Silver Award Winner in this year’s World Habitat Awards.

The Preston Road Women’s Centre is transforming the lives of families in Hull by helping them escape domestic abuse, which affects an estimated 24,690 women and 18,468 children – more than one in six of the population.

The Centre is home to The Winner group of six charitable organisations, which runs the Hull Women’s Safe Homes project. The project is tackling the lack of safe accommodation for women fleeing domestic abuse by acquiring empty homes and converting them into safe, affordable housing.

Women accessing the housing project receive wraparound support provided by the Centre, including specialist domestic abuse support, nursery care, accredited training and legal advice, which allows them to successfully start a new life.

Since 2012, the project has housed 1,800 people and brought 138 empty homes back into use. It is funded through a combination of charitable grants, local authority funding, housing benefit payments and affordable charges for property management and legal services. Houses are purchased with a mixture of capital grants and repayable finance.

They have also co-designed two unique social investment funds, alongside the respective fund managers – the Social and Sustainable Housing fund (SASH) and the Women in Safe Homes (WISH) funds. SASH has so far invested £43.3 million ($61.29 million USD) in eight organisations across the UK. WISH will provide 600 safe homes for women across the UK in its first phase. Together they will provide over £200 million ($284 million USD) of social investment for housing for vulnerable client groups. Which will help the sector achieve more independence away from grant-based funding.

The Centre is registered as a social landlord and because of that owns, manages or leases 220 properties. It plans to increase this number to 300 over the next five years, providing safe and secure homes for hundreds more women and environmental and social benefits for the community by bringing more abandoned homes back into use.

Jade was a victim of Domestic Abuse from her partner which resulted in her and her four young children needing urgently rehousing. Jade was supported by both the Domestic Abuse Service and the Housing Service to be rehoused into suitable supported accommodation and was in receipt of intensive support around Domestic Abuse recovery. Jade disclosed that she was struggling with self-confidence and trust and to help her she enrolled on courses offered by The Winner Group. The courses gave her the confidence to enrol on more including with external agencies. After 12 months Jade decided to follow her childhood dream and has now successfully enrolled at university and is working towards her BSc (hons) Nursing.

David Ireland, Chief Executive of World Habitat, said: “This ground-breaking project understands that vulnerable people can never be truly safe without a safe home. It provides a multitude of services for vulnerable women and their children and it has aligned those services with high-quality secure housing by becoming a social landlord. They have managed to do this by developing an innovative financial model. It provides a wraparound service that keeps people safe and improves the quality of their lives.”

The World Habitat Awards Advisory Group judging panel said: “Even more so throughout the pandemic, where we have seen a stark increase in domestic violence cases across the UK, the provision of safe housing for women is vital. This project knew the level of need in Hull and found a solution – taking control of the housing provision for women who they work with, developing their own successful financial model and strong working relationships with the local council.”

The World Habitat Awards are organised by World Habitat in partnership with UN-Habitat.

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