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Our Housing and Welfare Work – A Lifeline for Survivors of Human Trafficking

Zoe Dexter

I manage the Welfare and Housing Casework Team at the Helen Bamber Foundation. We support refugees and asylum seekers who have suffered extreme human cruelty, including survivors of torture and human trafficking. Our clients have multiple and complex needs; many suffer Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as well as a huge range of other mental and physical health issues in relation to the trauma they have suffered. The impact of trauma means our clients face numerous barriers to social integration and are at high risk of further exploitation.

In my role as Welfare and Housing Manager, I support clients who are at risk of homelessness or who are being housed in inappropriate accommodation. Homelessness and poor living conditions are incredibly risky for survivors of cruelty, as they exacerbate trauma conditions and expose clients to abuse and exploitation.

As asylum seekers, my clients endure a hostile environment where adequate housing is extremely limited. After their application for asylum has been successful, their housing challenges are not over; in some ways they are only just beginning. With only 28 days to find accommodation, new refugees face an exhausting and demoralizing process of having to present to a local council as homeless and apply to be ‘priority need’ for housing.

Shockingly, many of the women I work with who have suffered the devastating impact of slavery and sexual exploitation are not recognised as priority need and councils refuse to offer them suitable accommodation.

This is when the Amari project has been a lifeline for these women. At the Amari Project the dedicated support worker provides excellent individual and caring support. The Amari project is unique in supporting women with complex mental and physical health needs to integrate into their new community and work towards their educational and employment goals.

There is no other project like Amari. Without Amari, my clients would have been forced to accept totally unsuitable temporary accommodation with little or no support to help them set up their home. In such a situation, these women would be at high risk of falling into debt. My greatest fear is that women in this situation will be forced to re-submit to exploitation just to survive.

Amari is a crucial factor in supporting traumatised women to move on forward with their recovery and I truly cannot thank Solace Women’s Aid and Commonweal Housing enough for continuing the project.

The Amari project was developed by Solace Women’s Aid with support from Commonweal Housing. 

*This blog was originally written as a feature for the Amari Project: an organisation whose services we, at the Helen Bamber Foundation, refer our female clients to.