We have swung through a range of emotions this year, losing a high number of women who passed away. There are no words for the sadness this brings to the team when they have worked many years with women – when everything we do is about supporting them away from danger.
But at the same time we hear women say “You have kept me going” and “Thank you for being there for me when my mother died… you were all I had at the time.”
Staying true to our values, we did all we safely could through lockdowns to reach the women. Established relationships with partners came into play as we advocated by phone for women in real hardship and danger. Women were so grateful for our supply bags full of food, activities and sometimes messages of support from other women.
But for every last person, the pandemic has been a challenge to mental health. So for marginalised women – often in addiction and violent relationships, with dangerous drugs going round at inflated prices – this has reached critical levels. The pandemic saw what one partner agency called ‘bored anarchy’ with 82% more women reporting violence to us. And we saw some women come back onto the streets, forced there by the pandemic. Even on Christmas Eve, women had to go out and street sex work. But we were there too with our van, decorated for Christmas, giving out gifts.
Since hearing from women how hard the weekend can be without One25’s night outreach van, I’ve had my heart set on getting it out seven nights a week. This pilot will start in the autumn! At the other end of the spectrum, we’re also planning a new service for women progressing from Peony who are ready to get into volunteering, training and work.
We have been so heartened to receive the Centre for Social Justice Award which recognised the impact we make locally in our community. I believe it’s this relentless hope for justice that motivates us all. Even at a time that has tested us all, the commitment of staff, volunteers and supporters is inspiring and is testament to this.
We know that the end of the pandemic will not be the end for women in their journeys to safety, healing and thriving. Now, more than ever, we need to keep on working with others to provide what they need. We love these women and we’ll never give up.