$45k grant gives women's refuge staff 'breathing space'

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Angela Warren-Clark
Angela Warren-Clark

Tauranga Women's Refuge has been given $45,000 to help staff take regular breaks and pay for the "nuts and bolts" of running a safe house for those fleeing domestic violence.

The BayTrust grant has been welcomed with open arms by refuge staff. The refuge is one of 160 community organisations to receive some of $4.5 million in grants over the past financial year.

Manager Angie Warren-Clark said the grant would help pay for operational costs and relieve some of the pressure of having to fundraise $120,000 a year to keep the organisation running.

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"This funding certainly gives us some breathing space. It helps pay for the nuts and bolts - the power, the phone lines, the wages for my staff.

"We can have up to 10 women and children in our safe house at any one time so you can imagine the amount of food and toilet paper we go through. It's not sexy but funding for operational costs is crucial and it's often difficult to find."

The money would also help pay for a new team of trained casual employees who would answer the refuge's 0800 crisis line at night to give refuge staff a much-needed break.

"We used to take it in turns to answer the crisis line in the evenings and weekends but now my staff can go home at night and actually have some rest."

Ms Warren-Clark said the refuge's seven staff were all professionally trained and well supported to deal with the traumatising stories of abuse victims.

"But we're not here to rescue people. We're here to support them to make a change.

Sometimes it's tough - that's what professional external clinical supervision is for, and that's another cost which BayTrust's grant will now help cover."

Tauranga Women's Refuge receives Government funding to answer 320 crisis calls a year.
"Last month alone we answered 264," Ms Warren-Clark said.

"Our numbers are unprecedented and continue to grow as our intervention becomes more thorough and professional. We simply need more money to keep operating."

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the world. But Ms Warren-Clark was heartened by people's willingness to report crimes to police and seek help.

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"Actually seeking help is a positive indicator of change in our society. We're seeing more neighbours, friends and family picking up the phone and calling for help and that's a good thing."

Tauranga police attend the second highest rate of domestic violence callouts in New Zealand behind South Auckland and were doing a "fabulous job".

BayTrust chief executive Alastair Rhodes said Tauranga Women's Refuge had been providing a crucial service in the region since 1980, and was working hard to break inter-generational cycles of abuse.

"In addition to the safe house and crisis line, they provide an extensive range of services to help local women and children including free counselling, advocacy, information and education in our wider community," he added.

The refuge's secondhand store, Upcycle, donated clothing, toys, furniture and other household items women needed to start again, while their Whanau Protect service helped families take practical measures to improve safety at home by installing security lights, window latches and alarms.

"All of these services cost money to run - and BayTrust is pleased to grant $45,000 to help continue the valuable work Tauranga Women's Refuge is doing here in the Bay of Plenty."

BayTrust had invested over $60 million into hundreds of community groups across the Bay of Plenty. The Trust also provided scholarships to people with significant disabilities and helped community groups achieve sustainability through social investments and loans as well as providing capacity building and other services.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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