Renovating a Women's Refuge: Escaping Domestic Violence

Last autumn, we hosted teams of volunteers from P&G at a women’s refuge in London. The refuge was in dire need of refurbishment, and the P&G volunteers helped us transform the space into a decent home for women starting a new life.

Our approach in Great Britain

Habitat for Humanity GB has been working in house improvement for several years. Given the high price of land in Great Britain, this is a great way to implement our mission to build safe and decent homes for vulnerable families.

We partner with charities, councils and organisations that have housing stock, whether it’s an empty home, a refuge, or an out-of-use building. We then bring our construction and project management expertise to refurbish and rebuild, turning these buildings into liveable and accessible spaces for people to live in.

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Our partnership with P&G

We often work with local charities who provide support to the most vulnerable people in our society. They identify them and provide the wide range of services that go into a refuge or a halfway house. And we enable that work to happen by providing the construction skills and volunteers needed to renovate their unused or unsafe spaces.

We fund this work by bringing in a corporate partner, in this case Procter & Gamble, to sponsor the work and provide volunteers to help us build faster.

That is also the advantage of our our corporate volunteer programme, as it allows our partners to see where their money is going – and to make a tangible impact.

The volunteers get to be directly involved in the work they’re supporting. They get to see all the good work they’re doing with a paintbrush in hand and up on the ladder – not excluding all the dirty work – making sure the places we’ve renovated feel like new.

A platform for a new start

The refuge is a safe haven for women and their children who have had to escape a terrible situation and leave the lives they’d known behind them. Its a comforting and supporting place, improved by the support of our volunteers.

The refuge should feel like home. It’s a safe place where the children can play with their toys and books, and have a bed to sleep in at night.

We believe that a home, a safe place to sleep at night, with lockable doors is the key to starting that next step in life, and to making what may have been a traumatic past into a new success story. The women’s refuge is exactly this.

Clearing the courtyard

Our work with Housing for Women

We have worked with Housing for Women for six years now to renovate and refurbish. We work with them because they are providing housing for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. In this case, we were involved in maintaining, decorating and improving the conditions of a women’s refuge, where women arrive after fleeing situations of domestic violence.

This is the fifth refuge we have renovated and the project has been kindly sponsored by P&G, who are a worldwide supporter of Habitat for Humanity. They supplied both the funds and the volunteers to enable us to renovate the refuge. On the build site, there are always skilled workers – usually one or two members of our team who oversee the work the volunteers are doing and train them how to do the tasks properly.

Our vision for this project was to provide the women who live there with a decent place to call home, we hope we’ve achieved this alongside the support of our partners Housing for Women and P&G.

They're not hidden or forgotten

Renovate to make a change

Erika Jenkins, Director of Supported Housing at Housing for Women, told us what a huge impact the refurbishments made to the lives of the women living in the refuge.

“It shows that other people know that they’re there and they’re not hidden or forgotten, and that’s really important for women that have been abused and marginalised”, she explains.

“I know how much difference it’s made to all the women in the refuge, to the children come back to see a new area painted and freshened up, about the new furniture that’s coming.”

Women from all walks of life

Talking about the women’s background, Erika also tells us that “they come from everywhere. From all over the country, from every walk of life, from every demographic. We have women who are solicitors, housing officers, directors of companies, mums of two.”

It’s not about the women… It’s about the men. That’s the common factor. It’s about the men’s behavior towards these women and children.”

Project statistics


  • 45 individuals
  • 315 hours

Complete refurbishment of:

  • Basement bathroom and toilet
  • Basement playroom and utility room
  • 3 residents’ bedrooms
  • Ground floor lounge and communal space
  • First floor lounge and communal space
  • Part rebuilding of shed in front garden
  • 1 new fire door
  • 205 liters of paint
  • 120 bags of rubbish
  • And much more (door handles, dust sheets, skirting boards, decorator fillings, filler, sheets of roofing ply)

Help us support more vulnerable groups in Great Britain.