A community interest company that is committed to eradicating homelessness for women is taking its unique support offer into Worcester for the first time.
Lotus Sanctuary, which is one of the sector’s fastest instigators of change, is currently helping 20 women fleeing domestic violence or who are homeless to regain independence by giving them access to a home and wraparound mental health, training and employment support.
The social enterprise has taken on a significant property in the city and has already filled the mix of shared and self-contained living spaces, with the opportunity for this much-needed provision to treble over the next twelve months.
Driven by a desire to give individuals more than bricks and mortar, the critical service has seen referrals for its wrap-around support surge during lockdown and, by working collaboratively with Worcester City Council, plans are already in place to take a further two blocks that will deliver 60 bed spaces to individuals.
“Worcester is an area where the demand for our services is significant, with our first building taking just four weeks to fill from launching,” explained Gurpaal Singh Judge, Chief Executive Officer of Lotus Sanctuary.
“Naturally given the shortage of housing across the UK, homelessness has risen over the past few years. As such, being able to offer quality accommodation to those most in need is what we at Lotus live for and something that we are actively looking to do more of across the UK.”
He continued: “As a sector and a city, we need to realise that the only way to solve homelessness is to work with our residents to create that same sense of belonging that we all feel at home. That can only be done by a multi-pronged approach – a holistic, person-centred programme, tailored to fit the needs and requirements of the individual.
“This is an approach that we are working hard to achieve in Worcester, and I’m pleased to say that we have investment partners who are prepared to back us in meeting demand in this area.”
Lotus Sanctuary typically provides properties for two years and, during that time, will work with residents in Worcester to understand their issues before creating a bespoke ‘Passport to Independence’, including mental health and specialist support, access to training and a host of volunteering/employment opportunities.
Over the last two years, the CIC has grown from 24 units in the West Midlands to over 750 bed spaces in seven out of the nine English regions.
This is just the start, with strategic expansion plans targeting 2000 beds by 2022, with the biggest growth being in the Midlands and Greater London. Whilst the focus will still strongly
be on supporting vulnerable women, the decision has been taken to create units for mothers with children and separate dedicated properties for men.
Lee Davies, Probation Service Officer at Warwickshire & West Mercia Community Rehabilitation Company, added her support: “The lady I referred to Lotus Sanctuary was in a precarious situation and, following removal from a property, she became street homeless.
“Following the initial contact, communication and liaison with myself was maintained throughout the week in order to get the resident a place at short notice. She has been absolutely thrilled with the accommodation and services she has been provided with through Lotus and has displayed notable changes in her emotional wellbeing as a result.
“Because of this support, she has been able to improve her relationship with her daughters and stay out of trouble.”
Clare Magnay, Key Worker at YSS Making it Happen, has also been pleased with the early progress: “I have struggled for years to identify suitable accommodation for women with complex needs, including addiction, arrears or mental health issues.
“A male hostel is never suitable, as many of the women I work with have experienced trauma and abuse. A level of support and a caring, holistic environment have been sorely missed and Lotus Sanctuary has created exactly that.
“Two clients have been accepted and their lives have progressed at a gentle pace. Both are engaging with support and, for the first time in a long time, are tentatively building trust, routine, responsibility and a life.
“The quality of accommodation exceeded the expectations of our clients and it is wonderful to witness the change in belief, behaviour and outlook.”