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Voices blog

Anawim celebrates its thirtieth birthday with new housing in Birmingham for women leaving prison

Joy Doal, Director of Anawim women’s centre, in Birmingham blogs about its new housing for women ex-offenders

Anawim (which comes from the Aramaic word (ah-nah-weem) meaning the poorest, the outcast, the persecuted – those with no voice) was set up thirty years ago to support women in the Birmingham area who have multiple and complex needs to lead stable and fulfilling lives with their children and families. Anawim’s mission is to keep families together and support women and children towards independence, regular employment and dignity using restorative and reparative principles.

In a new and exciting phase our women’s centre is building its very own accommodation on site for up to six women at a time, who are released from prison.  Our prison in-reach and street outreach team, crèche and money advice service will be housed downstairs. We have been managing in some temporary buildings that turned out to be not very temporary. So having boiled in the Summer and frozen in the Winter in metal units, we are delighted to be in the process of planning for new accommodation.

Anawim's existing accommodation

Anawim’s existing accommodation

We have secured over £1.1 million to cover the construction of the building which will be on the same site as our women’s centre.  As far as we are aware this is the accommodation of its kind in England.  We hope that one day it will be used as one of the alternative to custody units recommended by Baroness Corston in her 2007 report.

We know that the needs of women offenders are quite different to men but once they turn their lives around the impact extends to their partners and children. Women offenders are more likely to have  experienced trauma in their lives, so careful thought is going into making the building as pleasant and sympathetic as possible. The whole centre is being taken through the ‘Enabling Environments’ process at the moment and we are meeting with an academic who specialises in the architecture and design of buildings such as prisons to ensure that the new building creates the most positive environment possible.  At the same time as having a new building, we will be having an extensive evaluation undertaken by Birmingham University to assess and compare the effectiveness of having accommodation on the site of a women’s centre.

Architects' drawings for the new accommodation

Architects’ drawings for the new accommodation

The current social housing situation is dire for everyone but especially for women who are released from prison.  Our prison in-reach team identifies women who we can accommodate and offer a real chance of recovery.  The Centre will also be a ‘pathway’ from the CAMEO personality disorder unit in Foston Hall Prison where Anawim currently works.

Every day we see women released from custody ending up back in the area where they were previously criminally active such as red light districts.  Not only is this incredibly harmful to their recovery and readjustment to life outside of prison but it also makes them vulnerable to returning to old ways and unhealthy relationships.

We are so excited to be able to offer this new service and so thankful to our funders the Jabbs Foundation.