Refuges if you're at risk of domestic abuse

Most refuges are safe houses for women to escape domestic abuse.

They are for women on their own, or with their children.

You do not need to have experienced physical abuse to stay in a refuge.

Very few refuges are for men but several domestic abuse charities do support men.

How to get a place in a refuge

You can stay in a refuge if:

  • you're at risk of domestic abuse

  • there is a refuge space available on the day you call

  • refuge staff have checked that it's a safe option for you and other people living there

There is a shortage of refuge spaces. You cannot usually book a refuge space in advance. You need to be ready to move in if there is a space available.

The charities below can help you find a refuge space and advise on other emergency options.

Contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline run by Refuge.

0808 2000 247
Free 24 hour helpline

Use the Women's Aid directory to find a refuge in a particular area.

The directory also shows services that offer support to men.

Contact the National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline run by Galop.

The helpline is staffed by LGBTQ+ advisers and can refer to trans-inclusive services.

Contact Stonewall Housing if you are LGBTQ+ and have difficulties finding a safe refuge space because of your gender or sexuality.

Stonewall Housing provide specialist advice and accommodation for LGBTQ+ people who are homeless or experiencing domestic abuse.

Contact Karma Nirvana if you're experiencing honour based abuse, or are being forced or pressured to marry someone.

Karma Nirvana can advise on safe options regardless of sex, gender or sexuality. They also advise professionals helping people at risk of honour based abuse or forced marriage.

You may be able to get free rail travel to take up a place in a refuge. Ask the National Domestic Abuse Helpline or the Women's Aid live chat service about this.

Specialist refuges for Black, Asian and ethnic minority women

You may be able to stay in a specialist refuge if you are Black or Asian or from an ethnic minority community.

Many women prefer to recover from domestic abuse in a specialist refuge where you are less likely to experience racism, or where the staff and other residents speak the same language or have similar cultural or religious backgrounds.

Find out more about some specialist refuges run by:

Help from the council if you cannot find a refuge space

The council must usually help with emergency housing if you're at risk of domestic abuse regardless of your sex, gender or sexuality.

The council can only help with emergency housing if you also meet immigration conditions.

If you cannot get benefits for immigration reasons

Some refuges have spaces for women who cannot get benefits or other housing help because of immigration conditions.

If your immigration status means you have 'no recourse to public funds' or you cannot claim benefits for immigration reasons, these charities can give specialist advice and support:

What it's like to live in a refuge

Most refuges are ordinary houses although some are larger purpose built buildings.

You usually get a room of your own or to share with your children.

You have to share other spaces such as the living room, kitchen and sometimes a bathroom with other families living in the refuge.

Refuge staff will offer emotional and practical support as well as advice.

How long you can stay

You can usually stay as long as you need to. Staff will help you to move you into a safe settled home when you leave the refuge.

You count as homeless if you live in a refuge. The council must usually help with longer term housing if you make a homeless application.

How much it costs

You usually have to pay rent but you will not need money up front.

Housing benefit usually covers some or all of the cost. Refuge staff can help you to claim.

If you have to pay rent on the home you've left, you can usually get benefit for both homes for up to a year as long as you intend to return to your old home.

House rules in a refuge

Refuge addresses are confidential to protect the people who live there from further abuse.

If you live in a refuge, you must not share the address with others as it puts people who live there at risk.

You usually sign a licence agreement which contains the refuge rules.

Many refuges do not allow:

Informal rules in a refuge are often worked out by the people who live there. For example, rules around children's bedtimes or use of the washing machine.

Still need help?

Find out about other housing help if you're experiencing domestic abuse.

Last updated: 3 December 2021

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