Pastel colours have been introduced to give life and warmth to communal spaces
Senior Practitioner Rio Argent talks about the challenges and changes faced by BCHA’s Bournemouth and Christchurch domestic abuse service.
"I only started at the service in July 2020, but I could not be prouder of the work we do and the impact on homelessness and mental health, which is a result of domestic abuse.
"One of our biggest challenges our residents face on a day to day basis is isolation. Our residents are often from a community far from our own and they are forced to leave their social network behind for their own safety.
"During Covid-19, we have had to push that level of isolation even further and this has been really difficult especially for young families. Some of our families share a flat with a second family. For them, a closed play park carries an element of sadness as it can be a lifeline for someone new to the area looking to rebuild their life. Despite this, our residents have always handled lockdown and the isolation with a smile and we couldn’t be more in awe of their strength at such a difficult time.
"On a more positive note, we have moved into a period of renovation and we have introduced some beautiful pastel colours to put some life and warmth back into our communal spaces. We feel especially passionate about the main entrance so that a family fleeing abuse arrives to an inviting reception.
"First impressions matter and we appreciate the massive step that has been taken in coming through our front doors. It is always the most rewarding part of what we do - greeting women and children at a time of crisis and change when they arrive with virtually nothing and know nothing of their future ahead.
"We have recently been lucky with our support from various charities and organisations. We now have a range of fresh food donations in our community fridge freezer for residents to help themselves.
"A full time family therapist, funded by AFC Bournemouth, is now based at the refuge.
"Our children’s worker has had support from the food bank in funding an in-house breakfast club for the children before the mad rush that is the school run. Every child’s birthday is celebrated with a party with cake, presents, bouncy castle and games.
"We run a weekly book club, and have introduced a laptop library for residents to use as Covid has pushed vital appointments and meetings online. And we have moved our pattern changing course online so that victims and survivors of domestic abuse can still access the skills needed to break the cycle of abuse. This is all possible because of the ongoing support from the public who are always so supportive and generous to the cause, as well as grants from organisations such as the Police and Crime Commissioner.
"Our empathy and understanding goes out to any victim in the community who has suffered even more as a result of self-isolation and Covid-19. Self-isolation is likely to shut down routes to support and safety for victims, who may face even greater barriers to finding time away from the perpetrator to seek help.
"We anticipate a busy few months for our service, and we would like to remind everyone that we are here to provide a refuge, advice, and emotional support to anyone experiencing domestic abuse."