Cherie Blair Marks Opening of Women's Refuge in Middlesbrough
Published by Esme Trelease for Endeavour Housing Association in Housing and also in Environment
Cherie Blair meets Natalie and son Keane
An innovative Endeavour Housing Association development to accommodate women with complex needs and those fleeing domestic violence, was officially opened today by Cherie Blair, an active supporter of women’s causes.
Mrs Blair, wife of the former PM Tony Blair, took a tour of the scheme located in Middlesbrough and heard from tenants and representatives from Endeavour Housing and domestic abuse charity Harbour Support Services, before unveiling a plaque to mark the opening of Rainham House and Harbour Middlesbrough Refuge.
The buildings deliver housing and support for up to 26 women. Both buildings were built by Endeavour Housing Association, with Endeavour staff offering direct support for the clients who have complex needs and Harbour providing the specialist support within the refuge for women and any children who have left an abusive relationship.
Mrs Blair, who supports many women’s causes around the world and set up her own charity, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women in 2008, was pleased to mark the official opening of the development. She said: “This is a marvelous facility. Ever since I was a young lawyer representing women who were the victims of domestic violence, and was shocked to discover what went on behind closed doors, I have been very committed to their cause. I'm so pleased I was asked to open it.”
The scheme was developed to replace previous Endeavour owned services that were operating out of ageing and unsuitable buildings in central Middlesbrough. The new development contains a mix of one, two and three bedroom fully furnished and equipped flats. Children are also well catered for and the refuge features a playroom, teenage room and outdoor play area, all within the secure scheme.
The buildings incorporate a number of cutting edge eco features, including a bio-diverse, living sedum roof. Middlesbrough’s first ‘green roof’ is designed to help reduce water run-off, thereby reducing the burden on public sewers. It also helps to insulate the building and provides a habitat for plants, insects and birds.
Angela Lockwood, chief executive of North Star Housing Group, Endeavour Housing Association’s parent company, says “Today is the culmination of many years of hard work for Endeavour, working in partnership with the local community, the Homes and Communities Agency and Middlesbrough Borough Council, to bring this development, which is so vital in supporting vulnerable women, to fruition. We’re extremely honoured that Mrs Blair was able to join us for the official opening of the new facility, which not only benefits tenants, but also the environment and wider community.”
Whilst living at the new refuge women receive support from Harbour staff, both with practical tasks such like finding permanent accommodation, but also in building their confidence so they can move on in a planned and measured manner, with the full support of relevant agencies. The children living in the refuge are also supported as they often carry with them the effects of witnessing the abuse.
The scheme was developed following significant consultation with local residents and service users. To date, it has brought £3 million worth of investment to the area. The development has been nominated by Middlesbrough Borough Council in the Best Local Authority Sustainable Development category in the Northern Regional Building Excellence Awards taking place later this month.