The difference a home makes for women in the justice system

This week we feature Andrea Williams, currently on secondment from Wheatley Group to the Tomorrow’s Women project.

This extract of her blog was first featured on Third Force News and is kindly reproduced with their permission.

We all know the difference that a secure, stable home makes, but since I started my secondment from Wheatley Group to the Tomorrow’s Women project, I see that difference every day.

The centre is a one-stop shop where health, social care, housing and homelessness and the Scottish Prison Service work with women leaving prison, and those referred by the courts, to turn their lives around and stop offending.

The women have complex needs including poor mental health, domestic and sexual abuse, and drug and alcohol problems.

In a nutshell, I make sure that our women have a place to call home where they feel safe and can rebuild their lives.

But housing is often a huge issue for them. More than half of the women we work with are homeless, and two-thirds are experiencing some kind of difficulty with housing – which is where I come in.

Prison affects people’s tenancies in many different ways.  They could stop paying their rent while inside, or lose their benefits so struggle to get on their feet when they leave. So when they walk out of the prison gates, they are really vulnerable and often destitute.

In a nutshell, I make sure that our women have a place to call home where they feel safe and can rebuild their lives.

That could mean working with different agencies to find them somewhere to live, or just doing everything possible to keep them in their tenancy.

My background as a housing officer and knowledge of the housing system means I can keep lines of communication open, build relationships and really explain the system to the women.

I love seeing the difference a home makes.

For the full version and to read about Norah’s story, please visit Third Force News.