Continuing to put women and children at the forefront and ensuring more services can be offered to the community is the reasoning behind the Napier and Hastings Women's Refuges coming together as one.

Hastings Women's Refuge manager Julie Hart said while they had talked about merging for years, it was never the right time until 12 months ago.

"Women are a lot more transient than they used to be, particularly with the housing issue, so we felt that by merging, then women and children could get a standardised service across Hawke's Bay, so no matter what entry point they came into the service, they would receive the same style and high standard."

The two separate entities will come under the name Family VIP (Violence Intervention and Prevention) services. And while they may be acting as one already, they hope to make it official in September once all the legal work has been completed.

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"Already people are seeing that the two refuges are working as one. Woman and children in essence should see no difference, they should still just be getting the service that is intended and it is just the background stuff," Hart said.

They hope it will grow their capacity. "Through our lack of funding for many, many years our capacity has dwindled we are hoping that the merger will be able to bring that capacity back up.

Hart said the name change also meant they could attract more male victims to ask for help.

"We've also noticed a gap where male victims struggle to find somewhere to go to for help and often the name Women's Refuge will prevent them from picking up the phone because they don't think it is a place for them and under the new heading they will be more likely even if it is just to seek information."

Chairman of the Hastings and Napier Women's refuges Shawn Hill agreed adding that it made sense to merge.

"The driver for me was the women and children. What this does do is it gives us the groundwork of doing more, so by doing this we've improved how our teams work and communicate and we've now set the groundwork to add more services into the realm of what we deliver today.

"By the nature of the way we work on a day-to-day basis today, it's almost like we are one organisation already - there is a lot of crossover so there are a number of occasions where a woman will be in Napier and use that refuge a couple of times and then she might end up in the Hastings refuge some months or years later. So the continuity of care is important and we can start doing more and more of that as we are a closer organisation."

And while they are keeping both safe houses, they are currently in the process of finding a premise in Napier, which is proving difficult.

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Napier Women's Refuge manager Megan Thomassen-Clarke said it was all about being the fence at the top of the cliff rather than the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.

"If you've ever wondered how you can help the Women's Refuge just give us a call and we can talk to you whether it is monetary, the offer of services, or helping along the line of governance - there's roles for everybody and if people want to help we are just a phone call away," Hart said.

Where to find help:

• If you need help, support, advice or more information, call the Crisis Support Line 24/7 on 0800 733 843, or the Hastings Women's Refuge office on (06) 870 6024.
• To donate, ring (06) 878 9519.

Hastings Women's Refuge pop-up shop: Drop off clothes or household goods to the shop at 108 Heretaunga St West, from 11am to 1pm.