CONCERNS have been raised for the safety of vulnerable women and their babies after plans to axe a ‘life-saving’ specialist homeless refuge in Winsford have come to light. 

Cotswold House provides a safe home for up to nine women and three babies, often fleeing domestic violence, who have nowhere left to turn. 

With 10 staff providing round-the-clock support 365 days a year, it’s both a safe haven and a support network, providing tailored services to women and girls in real danger of slipping through the net.

Weaver Vale Housing Trust (WVHT) now plans to close Cotswold House, which they say they can no longer afford, and create four new affordable homes for families living in the area.

In a letter to WVHT volunteers sent on Friday, July 14, chief executive, Wayne Gales, said: “We have been financially supporting the additional, non-statutory service of Cotswold House, a supported accommodation service in Winsford.

“We are now proposing the closure of Cotswold House. This proposed closure will yield a considerable financial saving and will also see Cotswold House returned to four individual homes to be let at affordable rent to local families."

Concerns have been raised over the impact on residents, who stand to lose not only a safe home, but also their only support network, when they're trying desperately to rebuild their lives for themselves and their young children. 

One former resident, who wants to remain anonymous, says she lived with women whose life stories were so horrendous, most people would never be able to comprehend them.    

She said: “It’s utterly heart-breaking. It’s horrible. Cotswold House has been a life-saving project for so many women and girls, and their babies.

“Many are fleeing domestic violence, with some under the care of social services. Cotswold House staff support residents through the family court system, often advocating for them.  

“I ended up being street homeless for nine months, and I was in a very dark place. I wasn’t suffering from alcohol or drug addiction. I just didn’t have anyone to turn to.  

“A homeless charity helped me reach out to Cotswold House, and I was interviewed over Skype. They offered me a place, despite not having connections to the area. They just accepted me as a woman who needed help.

“The council where I'd been living on the streets paid for my train because they wanted me out the area. I was just a statistic to them, but Cotswold House welcomed me with open arms.

"I turned up on their doorstep with literally nothing. They provided me with clothes, food, toiletries, and a room. I can’t tell you what a relief that was. I can’t put into words what it’s like living on the street. I saw so many horrific things.

“They allowed me space and time to heal, and to get my strength back. I was just so tired, both emotionally and physically. They put me back together.

“I’d worked all my life up until I became homeless, so I had no idea what help was available.  

“When I was ready, they put me in touch with services I needed to help me rebuild my life, which I’ve now done.

“Some of these girls are only 16 or 17 years old, and may have been in the care system their whole lives. They’re just not to ready to strike out on their own.

“By closing Cotswold House, you’re setting them up to fail. I just can’t believe it’s happening.”

Gareth Rigby, executive director of customer, place and services at WVHT, said: “We can confirm that we are exploring plans to close our supported accommodation service at Cotswold House in Winsford.

"Like other landlords, the Trust has had to make tough financial decisions as we feel the impact of the increasing costs of running our services.

"We are committed to ensuring that vital investment in our existing homes and services will continue, however, we are no longer in a position to run the specialist services provided at Cotswold House.

“We are working closely with affected residents to support them to find suitable alternative accommodation and the proposed closure would not take place until these supported moves are completed.”