We provide accommodation for 6-9 months, counselling and case work in partnership with the local church, for women who have experienced sexual exploitation and are ready for a degree of independent living. We come alongside women as they tackle barriers to sustained exit such as debt, unemployment and mental health issues. Each woman receives a minimum of 24 individual support work sessions, linking with specialist partners where necessary and a minimum of 20 counselling sessions. This is followed by on-going counselling and coaching support, focused on empowering women to move towards independent living, with strong onward referral routes into housing, training and employment.
We registered as a charity in August 2018 and have just opened our first one bedroom flat through our partnership with Green Pastures. We are really grateful for the support of Green Pastures in getting us to this stage and helping us navigate the world of supportive housing and the benefits system!
Lack of housing can act both as a reason for entry into prostitution and as a barrier to exit, trapping many women in a cycle of poverty and homelessness. There are very few specialist safe houses supporting this client group after the initial emergency phase and current provision does not meet the high demand, so the risk of women re-entering exploitative situations or experiencing homelessness is high; Orchards wants to fill this gap with the provision of move-on accommodation.
Whilst we are really thankful to be at the stage of opening our first property, our work is by no means over; the need for more specialist housing for women seeking to exit sexual exploitation is high. We hope to grow to a cluster of four flats over the next few years with a community hub at our current church partner. We then hope to open a second cluster with another church partner.