By BWV Reporter Ruth O’Leary outlastandoutlive.com
Mehala is currently fleeing domestic violence with her one year old baby boy, and now lives in a refuge. This one sentence is enough to make anyone sympathise with Mehala but she is one of the strongest women I have ever had the opportunity to meet. Though she is currently living in a refuge, and her world has been turned inside out, she is challenging the council to raise banding for those fleeing domestic violence. Now if any of you reading this have had the ‘lucky’ chance to use Home Choice, you will know the agony of banding. Mehala herself states, “It’s the last place I want to be.” So essentially banding is what happens after you apply for council housing. You will be assessed into one of four bands depending on you ‘housing needs.’ Of course in my head domestic violence would equal band one, the highest banding. But nope, not in this case.
When Mehala first went to the council they told her that due to her conditions she was essentially making herself homeless, so she had to go through the charity route of getting support. This is how the refuge came into play, though due to there not being enough rooms available at the time she had to wait. Imagine waiting with your violent perpetrator hoping they do not find out you were leaving, this is not a safe place to be. Statistics show us this is the most dangerous time in an abusive home, but even after everything she had been through leaving was still one of the scariest moments of her life.
Living in a safe house, Mehala tells me, is like permanently having your life on hold. “There is a lot of trauma and emotional instability in the house, with women who have ‘grabbed a bag and gone.’ It feels like a place void of hope.” Some women have waited months upon months for a new home. One women has been stuck in the safe house for over a year. This is because the application process states you cannot be moved into social housing if you previously owe money for properties, which her perpetrator does. This is just one of the situations that leave you stuck in limbo after fleeing domestic violence.
Support Mehala and women like her by signing the petition to change the social housing banding in Bristol for domestic violence survivors and spreading the word about the campaign – https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/change-social-housing-banding-for-domestic-abuse-survivors