On 21 November, a roundtable of the ‘Safe at Home’ project organised by FEANTSA- the European Federation of organisations working with the homeless- took place in Brussels with EU policy makers, representatives from the housing sector and the women’s sector. Muriel Boulmier, CEO of Ciliopee Habitat- a member of our French member, USH- represented Housing Europe and talked about the experience of social housing providers in France in tackling domestic violence. The ‘Safe at Home’ project aims to include Housing Providers in Tackling Domestic Violence and more precisely working to strengthen the vital role that housing providers can play in responding to domestic violence.
Participants included managers and employees of housing associations and policy officers in the field of domestic violence. At the conference, the results of the project were disseminated and various speakers contributed to the discussion about the role of housing corporations in tackling domestic violence.
The policy recommendations towards decision makers and housing providers call inter alia to:
- Ensure sustainable housing for victims of domestic violence and their children
- Ensure fast access to a range of different and affordable housing options for survivors and their children who need to be rehoused
- Establish Domestic Violence (DV) policies at organizational level which define DV-related procedures, data recording and protection, appropriate responses to (suspected) DV and referral pathways to specialist services, so that staff
- advocate for a clear distinction between Anti-Social Behaviour and domestic violence.
Muriel Boulmier participated in the panel discussion and pointed out that Ciliopée Habitat, a social housing provider in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine department, France, provides housing and specific support for women survivors of domestic violence. Survivors and their children have priority access to housing and are provided with specialist support by a nurse and an early-childhood specialist. Ciliopée also collaborates with local homeless services. Furthermore, a mobile help team for survivors of DV was established. The mobile team, for instance, picks up survivors from home and accompanies them to a safe place. The help team works during weekends (initially, it was available 7/7 but was affected by cuts). It also collaborates with the local police to ensure protection. Muriel Boulmier pointed out that so far 170 women and more than 100 children were supported by the mobile help team.
Ms Boulmier emphasized that it still takes too long to get perpetrators sanctioned by the police which makes it more difficult to effectively protect women and children against domestic violence. The gender pay gap and the general income situation in the area, where a considerable share of households live below the poverty line, make it more difficult for women to access independent housing.
During the roundtable, the training dimension of the Safe at Home project was also presented aiming at training employees of 25 housing providers in the UK and in the Netherlands about the vital role they can play in response to domestic violence. The training mobilized 1,320 employees in total.