A new shelter providing accommodation for homeless and vulnerable women has officially opened, providing a safe and supportive space where they can work on finding and nurturing their strengths.
Venetia House is being provided by The Shelter Trust, and was formally opened on Tuesday 28 June by Lady Dalton.
The facility has been named in recognition of a former service user well known to the Trust as a long-term advocate of specific provision for disadvantaged women.
Pictured: Venetia House offers 19 rooms in the main building, as well as two independent flats at the back.
Located on the outskirts of St. Helier, the former hotel building has been completely renovated to provide an appropriate and safe living environment while facilitating access to a range of services including health and social care, counselling and trauma informed support, and assistance with education, training and employment.
Until recently, Jersey did not have any ‘women-only’ provision for those in urgent need of emergency accommodation, with the exception of the short-stay Women’s Refuge, which has limited capacity.
Pictured: The new provision was opened by Lady Dalton in front of Shelter staff, supporters and funders attending the opening event.
This new service will provide an emergency alternative, especially for those women who are homeless and/or cannot access Women's Refuge, as well as an onward referral option once they have left the Refuge.
The manager of Ventia House, Tessa Purvis, has worked for The Shelter Trust for over 20 years but actually retired a few years ago to move to France.
However, when the long-awaited opportunity to open a shelter for women finally came to fruition, she couldn't resist the opportunity to get involved again.
She said: "It was very difficult trying to find someone to be the manager for Venetia House, and then I realised I'd love to do it! It's something I've been desperate to do for a really long time, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity. However, I am just here to get it up and running, I won't stay forever."
Pictured: Venetia House manager, Tessa Purvis, treated guests to a guided tour of the facilities.
Ms Purvis added: "It's been absolutely amazing so far.
"I know it's early days and we only have eight women in, but the building itself just has a relaxing atmosphere.
"We just want to make it feel like home for the women who stay here; they don't have to ring the doorbell, they can come in and out whenever they want, they can eat and drink whatever and whenever they want."
The facility focuses on "strength-based" working, which focuses on what people are good at.
Ms Purvis explained the approach in more detail: "We all have talents, but when someone is told time and time again that they are no good then they have no self-esteem whatsoever. However, once you talk about someone's talents and highlight how good there are at something, they start realising they can do other things too.
"At the moment we have women who have been drawing, one resident who is a barista, and we have one lady who is great at knitting.
"She has been making a blanket, as well as teaching other people how to knit. Even the cupcakes served at the opening event this afternoon were made by one of then women staying at Venetia House!"
Pictured: The cupcakes served at the opening event had been baked by one of Venetia House's first residents as part of her strength-based work.
Neville Benbow, chair of The Shelter Trust, added: “There has been a pressing need for a dedicated service for homeless and socially excluded women and this new initiative aims to address current gaps in provision and enhance the level of care and support available to them.
"We hope it will provide a safe and secure environment for those women who need the time, space, and encouragement to enable them to progress to full independence.”
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