Women who become homeless because of abuse or threats may be able to get a place in a refuge. The addresses are kept secret to protect the women who live there and male visitors are not usually allowed. If you don’t feel safe in your own area, you may be able to go to a refuge in another part of the UK.
You can get more information on refuges from the Welsh Government’s free, 24-hour Live Fear Free confidential helpline on 0808 80 10 800.
What about men?
Although domestic abuse against men is less common, it does happen. The Men’s Advice Line provides support and information for men experiencing domestic violence.
There is less specialist housing for men experiencing domestic abuse and most refuges do not accept men. You can still apply to the council housing department as a homeless person. If you are in this situation, get advice immediately by calling Shelter Cymru on 0345 075 5005 or the Live Fear Free confidential helpline on 0808 80 10 800.
What are refuges like?
Refuges are shared accommodation for women who have experienced violence, threats or abuse from someone who lives with them or used to live with them. Other residents who have been through similar situations can provide friendship and emotional support. The staff at the refuge are usually all women as well.
Most refuges are ordinary houses but some are larger, purpose-built buildings. Some have self-contained family sized accommodation but that is unusual. In most refuges you will get a room of your own (or to share with your children) and will share a living room, kitchen and bathroom with other residents. Some have rules about bedtimes for children and when you can use washing machines or telephones. You probably won’t be allowed to have male visitors and you must keep the address a secret to protect everyone living there.
Who can stay in a refuge?
Refuges are open to any woman who needs to get away from violence, threats, intimidation or bullying. There is no age limit. It doesn’t matter whether the violent person is your husband, partner, ex-husband, ex-partner, or a relative.
Some refuges are especially for women with particular cultural or religious backgrounds, such as Asian or Irish women. Many have disabled access. If you have children you can usually bring them with you. However, if you have sons over the age of 12, they may not be able to stay at the refuge. In this situation, the staff will help you arrange somewhere else safe for him/them to stay.
How long can I stay?
You can stay in the refuge for as long as you need to – whether that’s a few days or a few months. If you are not working or have a low income, the refuge workers can check whether you are entitled to any benefits (including housing benefit) and help you claim. They can help you find somewhere more permanent to live if you don’t want to go home.
How do I get into a refuge?
There are refuges all over the country. Many are run by Welsh Women’s Aid. You can go to one in your own area, or you can go to one in a different part of the country if you are worried that the person who has been violent or abusive towards you may find you.
There are several ways in which you may be able to get a place in a refuge:
- telephone the Freephone 24-hour Live Fear Free Helpline on 0808 8010 800. An adviser will do their best to find you a place in a refuge that suits your needs, or will help you sort out somewhere else safe to stay if there are no places available
- the police or social services may be able to refer you
- the local council may be able to refer you, or may arrange for you to stay in a refuge as emergency accommodation if you make a homelessness application
- contacting your local Welsh Women’s Aid group. Use this tool to search for your local group.
What can I take with me?
Even if you have to leave quickly, try to take some essentials with you, such as:
- toiletries and any medication you need to take regularly
- money, bank account details, cheque books and credit cards
- birth certificates, passports, driving licence and welfare benefits identification
- important telephone numbers you may need, such as schools and doctors
- your mortgage details or tenancy agreement
- clothes and, if you have children, their favourite small toys.
Most refuges can’t accept pets but they may be able to put you in contact with a local pet fostering scheme.
What about long term accommodation?
The workers at the refuge can help you decide what you want to do next. They may be able to help you:
- get a court order (an injunction) telling the abusive person to stop being abusive or ordering her/him to stay away from you and your home
- make a homelessness application to your local council. Women staying in temporary refuges after fleeing domestic abuse are legally classed as homeless. In Wales, in most cases if you are a victim of domestic abuse, or will be at risk of domestic abuse if you return home, the council must provide you with emergency accommodation while they consider your application for accommodation as a homeless person. In England, slightly different rules apply
- put your name on the waiting list for a permanent council home
- put you in contact with local schemes that may be able to help if you don’t have money for a deposit
- help you apply for a grant or loan to cover rent in advance and/or essential items
The refuge can also put you in contact with a specialist legal adviser who can explain your legal rights. Even if you have a joint tenancy or mortgage with the person who has been violent or abusive towards you, you may be able to stop her/him from coming into your home.
To search for specialist legal advice yourself then contact the Civil Legal Advice helpline on 0345 345 4 345. You may be able to get help from a legal aid lawyer if you are on certain benefits or have a low income.
For more advice on what to do if you are experiencing domestic abuse click here.
We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 0345 075 5005.