Service Manager Katie Bielec welcomed Town Mayor Cllr Roger Carter, Cllr Byron Quayle, and North Dorset District Councillor Andrew Kerby to meet a former resident of our independent Dorset refuge

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Unique Dorset Refuge Celebrates 1st Anniversary

Delighted, the YOU Trust celebrates the 1st Anniversary of our independent, unique Dorset refuge. You First, YOU’s Hidden Violence and Abuse Services, operates the refuge in partnership with Sovereign Housing. We thank Sovereign for their continued support for this innovative project. Together, we provide a safe space for those unable to access a traditional refuge.

In contrast to norms, the project supports and provides refuge to men. It also accepts women with teenage boys (over the age of 15), LGBTQ+ couples, and couples fleeing Honour-Based Violence. Further, we provide bespoke domestic abuse support to the community in our group room and drop-in space.

First Year Impact of Our Dorset Refuge

The refuge received more than 30 referrals for accommodation in its first year. Consequently, we supported couples fleeing Honour-Based Violence, women with older male children, and fathers with children. Significantly, this service has provided safe housing for men escaping domestic abuse. This included people in same sex relationships and those identifying as LGBTQ+.

YOU provides individual, innovative services, bespoke to each person. We can support many more people fleeing domestic violence and abuse through our independent Dorset refuge. Amazing partnership work in Dorset has made this remarkable achievement possible. It is also down to the brilliant support we have from so many people and groups in the community.

Tonia Redvers, Head of Hidden Violence and Abuse Services at YOU, said “I am thrilled that working in partnership with Sovereign for many years has resulted in being able to offer safe spaces and individual support to everyone in our communities. We have long advocated for safe accommodation for people unable to access traditional refuges. Sovereign’s belief in our vision has made this a reality.  Further, the Dorset team’s work with national partners such as Karma Nirvana has been very positive.”

Katie Bielec, Service Manager for You First Dorset said: “This has been a fantastic opportunity for those who are experiencing domestic abuse and need to leave their homes. We have been incredibly lucky to have such support from our partner agencies and the community to run this refuge. We are proud of the work we have achieved. Without this provision, our clients may have had to stay in an abusive home facing escalating risk.”

Reflecting on the difference that the service has made, residents jointly stated: “Everyone matters. You’re not alone. Everyone feels as if they are valued, regardless of who you are. It gave us hope.”

The Power of Partnership Working and Community Support

Helen Hann, Sovereign Housing Divisional Director, commented on the project. “We’re delighted that the YOU Trust is providing such a valuable service in North Dorset and that so many families and individuals have been supported with safe and secure accommodation, regardless of sex or gender, thanks to this initiative.

“This site emphasises Sovereign’s commitment to working with valued partners in the provision of housing for people with specific support needs. We’ll continue to work closely with the YOU Trust and other providers in the future.”

We welcomed Councillor Roger Carter, Town Mayor for Blandford, to the service. Following his visit, he said: “Many people are aware of refuges for women – sometimes with children – who have suffered intolerable abuse and need safe places to recuperate and, with targeted help, rebuild their lives.

“What is less well known is that there are many vulnerable men who have also suffered similar abuse and require the same safe places and the same help. We are fortunate in Blandford, long known for its friendliness and hospitality, to have such a refuge run by the YOU Trust that does just this.

“It was a great pleasure for me to help them celebrate being open for a year and to witness first-hand the wonderful work they do rebuilding lives. I wish the refuge continued success, perhaps with proper government recognition, in the years to come.”

Reaching You First

Over the last 4 years across Dorset, You First has supported more than 4,000 women, men and children. We’ve done this whilst also providing guidance and support to family and friends. Whereas traditional refuges might exclude you, our Dorset refuge might offer a solution, depending upon your circumstance.

You First’s dedicated team will help anyone experiencing domestic violence and abuse in Dorset. Anyone wanting advice and support can call the 24-hour free phone number, 0800 032 5204. If you know or suspect someone lives with domestic abuse, You First can give you advice on how to support that person.

In an emergency, call 999.