The Wolverhampton charity providing a safe sanctuary for women and children for 50 years
For the past 50 years The Haven has worked tirelessly to provide a safe sanctuary for women and children experiencing violence, abuse and homelessness.
The charity offers a wide range of practical and emotional support that is tailored to each individual’s unique circumstances.
Since it was founded by Colin Brown and Honor Pringle in 1973, The Haven has grown and evolved to meet the ongoing needs of women, children and young people in and around Wolverhampton.
“It started off as a small house leased from the local authority, now we’ve developed into one of the largest providers of refuge accommodation in the country,” says chief executive Popinder Kaur.
The charity has 77 units of safe accommodation and a £1million project to build eight new apartments is also in the pipeline.
More than 4,000 women, children and young people were supported in 2022/23 alone and during the 12 month period 542 women, children and young people were safely accommodated in refuge and 1,750 received assistance in the community.
A total of 12,563 calls were also made to its 24-hour helpline which is a service that Popinder believes has been one of the charity’s biggest achievements. The helpline is the first point of contact for referrals directly from women and children, as well as agencies.
“I think it’s very important for women to be able to reach us at any time of the day or night,” explains Popinder, who adds that she is pleased that so many women feel comfortable getting in touch directly when they are going through such a difficult time.
There have been made changes since the charity was founded including the passing of the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 which created a statutory definition of domestic abuse, emphasising that domestic abuse is not just physical violence, but can also be emotional, controlling or coercive, and economic abuse.
“When we were set up in the 1973, domestic abuse was considered a domestic issue, neighbours weren’t reporting it because it was a domestic. People kept themselves to themselves,” says Popinder.
“The Domestic Abuse Act changed that. Now it’s everybody’s responsibility and there are statutory requirements for local authorities to provide support services and funding.
“Children are now seen as victims of domestic abuse in their own right,” she explains.
Popinder is proud not just of the safe accommodation offered to victims but also the wide range of support services offered by the charity to support women and children as they start rebuilding their lives.
This ranges from counselling and play therapy to assisting with housing applications or taking cases through the criminal justice system.
The Haven also steps in to support women subjected to harmful practices like female genital mutilation, forced marriage, so-called ‘honour’-based violence, human trafficking and modern slavery.
“Although we are seen as a domestic abuse charity, when women are vulnerable to violence and abuse, we will support those women,” says Popinder.
The charity, which received The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services in 2017, has also been involved in a number of innovative projects.
This included the Comic Relief supported and funded You Matter which was a website which enabled women to read real-life stories of domestic abuse and access support. It was published in languages commonly spoken by those who use the services.
In 2018, the charity received a visit from soul star Beverley Knight, who was helping to raise awareness of its work.
To mark The Haven’s 50th anniversary, a charity ball was held at Grand Station attended by more than 400 guests.
It included a performance by singer Megan Reece, who appeared on The Voice and is an ambassador for the charity which helped her after the endured years of domestic abuse.
Charity staff and volunteers also received a visit from the Mayor of Wolverhampton Dr Michael Hardacre earlier this month.
The celebrations have coincided with October’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the launch of ‘buy a brick’ fundraiser to support the development of the new apartments.
Speaking about the development, Popinder says: “Offering accommodation to those in need so they can live lives that are free from abuse is the very foundation of our organisation, and that’s why adding to the city’s current provision is essential.”
To support the fundraising by buying a brick in The Haven’s virtual wall, visit havenrefuge.org.uk/buy-a-brick. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, please call the free helpline on 08000 194 400.