was born from two friends who saw first-hand the emotional and psychological trauma caused by sexual exploitation. They saw that many women selling their bodies had a back story of abuse, coercion, poverty, violence and homelessness that led them to this point. They were inspired by the women’s courage and strength and wanted to help them towards a life free from exploitation.
The charity now partners with local churches to provide safe housing, counselling and support for vulnerable women. At the beginning of 2020, they set up their first safe flat with Beacon Church, in South London. A Benefact Trust grant of £2,000 has enabled Orchards to expand this vision and they have since opened their second property, as a place of sanctuary and healing for women to take their next steps towards a new life.
More recently, a Benefact Trust Hope Beyond grant of £8,950 is supporting Orchards to launch a remote support programme for women who have experienced sexual exploitation and are feeling increased isolation and trauma as a result of the pandemic.
“Orchards were willing to offer me accommodation which was a huge step. I would have been homeless otherwise. I receive 1:1 support sessions which help me think about the future and I find them really supportive.
I’ve been able to try different work placements, things I’ve never tried before and gain confidence meeting new people. I didn’t realise that I could try different things and explore different fields of work. I have gained self-confidence and self-belief which I haven’t had in a very long time.
Things have changed massively for me. I feel like I’ve been given a second chance to be able to live the life that I’ve always wanted to live with support and not always having to worry about selling myself as a form of survival.”
This housing provision has remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and the one bed flat model has facilitated this in a safe way. The charity has also made links with The Salvation Army, who have carried out shopping deliveries to the women, and Orchards has continued to provide counselling sessions over the phone and via video calls to ensure their clients feel safe and supported.
Emma Goulds, Co-Director for Orchards, said: For many women in sexually exploitative situations, lack of housing is the biggest barrier to exit. This has been exacerbated during the COVID pandemic, which has seen a rise in domestic violence, putting pressure on women's safe housing provision. There simply isn't enough housing to meet the demand. We are really grateful for the grant from Benefact Trust, which enabled us to open the doors to our second safe property last year - a sanctuary for women to recover and move on from. We look forward to reaching more women over the next year with this support.”
Orchards is looking to open two more properties linked to Beacon Church and grow to a cluster of four over the next two years. The charity is looking to develop links with churches further afield and, in turn, support more women who desperately need a helping hand and the foundations to start a new journey.