SHE Project has survived against many odds. SHE’s belief is that no woman should leave prison without a roof over her head. A recent media spin that HMP Bronzefield issued sleeping bags & tents to women peppered my inbox with *Have you seen the news?* subject lines.
It’s been three years since I was street homeless. Three years since I lived on my mother’s sofa following my travails through the CJS. Since then, I started SHE Project, stood my ground against bigger & much better housing elements than I could ever aspire to. SHE started with a small funding grant from Allen Lane Foundation.
I’ll not forget the day SHE opened her tiny little office at BPRCVS in Burnley. There we were, with a raft of back office support I’d created whilst on licence. SHE had five volunteers then and we were bemused. We had an office. We had one house. A phone line. (No Internet, this took three weeks) Me & our five volunteers looked at each other not knowing what to do.
“Let’s ring some people up’ I screeched.
This is what we did.
SHE Project opened at a time of uncertainty for The Probation Service. Funding cuts screamed from pages of mainstream media. Within six weeks of SHE opening, my mother died. It was not going well for me as a woman launching a community project to support women from prison.
Yet, SHE would never have survived this time without her team around her. Strength comes from within. Strength also comes from comforting arms in the form of those whom have struggled as organisations to survive.
SHE’S first annual report is due for publication in a couple of months. I’ve worked this bloody project for three years since I squatted on my mother’s sofa. I’ve watched volunteers come and bless them, go.
We’ve helped 52 women from prison incorporating their families. We’ve taken part in research. We’ve struggled to survive and been threatened with closure.
In 18 months, through our doors SHE has supported 339 convictions (including mine) had 22 properties, furnished them, bought 79 packets of tampons, 24 packets of panty liners, 28 tubes of toothpaste, 19 toothbrushes, (12 sets of towels donated through our lovely friends at Cohort4women) 39 duvets and well, had 66 keys cut (TY Timpson) 19 washing machines, 12 fridges, 6 tellies, 19 sets of cutlery. That’s before support kicks in..
SHE has spent hours on telephone calls, reunited a mother from prison with her daughter from care. Shouted, screamed, argued and fought the corners of our lasses. All here in East Lancs.
As our fellow women in HMP Holloway are shipped out, to prisons hundreds of miles away from families & children, SHE opens her first six self-contained flats in Greenwich London.
Women from Holloway serving sentences are now hundreds of miles away from family links, families are hundreds of miles away from women in their lives.
SHE is not delighted to be offering this service. SHE felt she had to do something to support women as we have done in the North.
But out of the ashes rises women. When the gates of Holloway close for the final time, SHE can do a tiny part in our big dirty capital to help and support six women.
SHE Project and Women in Prison, in the spirit of their founder, Chris Tchaikovsky, ensure that women do deserve a home on release and do deserve to at least have a foot in the trenches to dig up.
SHE Project Greenwich opens in June 2016.