Specialist Housing Project Review, completed by Jenny Congrave, Independent Consultant

1. Background

This project started in January 2020 and was completed in May 2021. It was funded by a grant of £31,350 from Homeless Link’s Ending Women’s Homelessness programme, itself funded by the Government’s ‘tampon tax fund’. This paid for the Gender and Trauma-Informed Housing and Homelessness Worker role needed for this project, fulfilled by Baobab staff.

 

The intended outcomes of the programme were:

  • Increase services offering gender and trauma informed support

  • Increase staff skilled in supporting women

  • Increase engagement with women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness

  • Reduce the number of women sleeping rough

 

During the course of the project, Baobab has so far engaged with 91 women. Covid restrictions were in place for a significant portion of the project, which often necessitated remote engagement.

2. Approach to the review

The aims of the review were

  • To understand the effect(s) of the programme on the lives of the beneficiaries

  • To understand, from the perspectives of the beneficiaries, how the programme could be improved, in the event of securing future funding

 

Information to inform the review was collected in two ways:

  • A Word format feedback form shared with beneficiaries electronically which they completed and emailed back to Baobab

  • Interviews with a sample of beneficiaries, conducted over the phone, with an interpreter as required.

 

Eight women completed a feedback form during the course of the project and eleven women were interviewed in March 2021.

 

Limitations

It is possible that the beneficiaries did not feel comfortable providing feedback that was in any way negative or critical, which could be for a number of reasons but might include a fear of no longer being able to access the service or a wish not to be share critical opinions with Baobab. It is possible that those with more critical viewpoints chose not to complete a feedback form.

 

However, from the factual information provided by the feedback forms and interviewees on support received for their housing situation, backed up by the project’s database records of engagement, we can say with some confidence that a significant number of women’s housing situation improved as a result of this project.

3. Findings

A positive experience

Overall the feedback received from the beneficiaries was very positive. Half of the feedback forms responded to ‘How useful was the help you got from Sarah or Christine’ as 9 or 10, 1 person as ‘good’ and the other three as a 6 or 7, out of 10.

 

The interviewees had many positive comments about the support received from Project Workers, including:

“Friendly, nice people, everything is perfect”

“...more than family, doing a great job”

“...the experience was very good”

“Everything has been good”

 

The interviewees were asked, “ Did Baobab do anything, or advise on anything which made your situation worse?”. To which all respondents answered, “No”.

 

Improved housing situation

Every woman involved in the review who sought hep with their housing situation from Baobab, stated that they had received help to improve their housing situation. This support included:

  • Completing housing applications on behalf of the beneficiaries

  • Writing letters to the Home Office regarding housing situation

  • Help to report housing issues to Migrant Help and SERCO

  • Securing accommodation in a charity house

  • Securing accommodation in a temporary house

  • Securing money for household necessities

 

Support for legal status

Alongside support for housing, many of the women received support from Baobab to progress their cases. This generally took the form of:

  • Being referred to a specialist solicitor

  • Contacting their solicitor or MP to contact the Home Office on their behalf

  • And also applying for a passport and a name change by deedpoll

 

Financial support

In response to the interview question, “What support from Baobab did you find most useful?” five out of eleven women stated some form of financial support. This included money for baby necessities and clothing.

 

Psychosocial support

A key finding was how important this element of the project was to women. Although no specific question was asked about well-being, nine out of the 19 women involved in the review expressed a high regard for the emotional support they received in the course of their dealings with Baobab.

 

Furthermore, in response to the interview question, “What support from Baobab did you find most useful?” Most women (6/11) referred to feeling supported and helped by Baobab, ie. Baobab being responsive to requests for help, providing advice when needed, listening and being someone to talk to.

Ideas for improvements

The feedback form asked beneficiaries, “What can we do to improve the housing and homelessness project” and provided six options. The two most common answers were, “Get more workers and funding to do this work (6) and “Take a limited number of cases so we can help them properly, give numbers to other agencies on our website to anyone we cannot help” (4).

 

The interviewees were asked, “What would you like more help with?” Most (6/11) said they didn’t need more help with anything. Three out of the 11 said they would like more help with their legal case and one stated she wanted help to get a house.

 

A number of beneficiaries mentioned zoom meetings which are held every Monday under another of Baobab’s projects – Raising Women’s Voices. Their comments highlighted the value the women place on getting advice and having a forum for speaking, asking questions and listening to other women’s experiences. Alongside what is noted above under psychosocial support, this demonstrates the importance of an holistic approach to meeting the needs of women in precarious housing situations.

Baobab Women’s Project a local West Midlands CIC that advocates and raises awareness of issues affecting refugee and migrant women, has been awarded £31,350 from Homeless Link’s Ending Women’s Homelessness grants programme, funded by the Government’s Tampon Tax Fund.

 

Baobab Women’s Project is one of 29 charity projects across England, working with women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, to receive a grant. Almost 200 organisations applied for a portion of the £1.85 million pot.

 

Women’s homelessness is a significant national issue with many women having experienced violence and abuse contributing to their homelessness. Over 640 women sleep on our streets every night and thousands more do not have access to a safe or suitable home. 

 

Homeless Link’s grants programme aims to help end women’s homelessness by building capacity for gender- and trauma-informed services and developing partnerships between homelessness and specialist women’s sector charities.

 

At Baobab, the funding will be used to employ a housing and women’s advocacy practitioner who will increase gender and trauma informed casework across the West Midlands for migrant and refugee women. We regularly see destitute women who have received a negative asylum decision, but have a need for protection, and those who have fled domestic violence and become undocumented.  Recognised refugees are also evicted from their accommodations and face homelessness. 

 

We will deliver specialist casework, train and support volunteer advocates to improve practice with women who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness. We will also create and deliver a training package to external organisations and build partnerships with voluntary and statutory agencies. This will have a big impact, finding practical solutions for homeless women, improve our teams advocacy capability, and expand gender and trauma informed knowledge across homelessness and specialist womens organisations. 

 

The grantees were chosen by a cross-sector, all-woman panel, including women with lived experience of homelessness.

 

Sarah Taal, Director of Baobab Women’s Project comments: “We are thrilled to be given the opportunity to deliver this project, this is a important time as we have seen a sharp rise in homelessness due to the ineffectual working of the new asylum support contracts, as well as a constant flow of women refused protection, or without residence facing poverty and abuse due to homelessness. The project will support women having complex housing issues, which intersect with immigration and health problems, engaging and partnership working with other agencies to meet their needs holistically.”

 

Homeless Link's Assistant Director of Practice and Partnerships, Tasmin Maitland adds: “Women’s homelessness is a growing crisis. Despite this, women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness are one of the most marginalised groups in our society and the specialist support that they need is often lacking or non-existent. 

 

“We are delighted to be able to award Baobab Women’s Project a grant that will have a real impact on the support that women experiencing homelessness in West Midlands receive, and ultimately contribute to ending women’s homelessness for good.”

 

About Homeless Link: Homeless Link is the national membership charity for services working directly with people experiencing homelessness and those at risk of homelessness with housing, health, care and support needs. Representing over 700 organisations across England, we work to improve services through research, guidance and learning, and to promote policy change that will ensure everyone has a place to call home and the support they need to keep it.