Who are Family Help Darlington CIO?
Family Help, the Darlington Women’s Refuge, was founded in 1976 in order to provide safe, temporary accommodation for women and women with children fleeing domestic abuse. We accept women and women with children from all areas. The former registered charity was wound up in 2013 with all activities transferred to the present charitable incorporated organisation “Family Help Darlington CIO” although we continue to use “Family Help” as a working name.
Family Help have been keeping women and children safe since 1976.
We started our journey in a condemned small terraced two bedroom house in the centre of town. Hells Angels lived a couple of doors away and were like guardian angels to the families. It was a pilot project with no funds to run on. The house was very basic with just a yard (no gardens), and all the furniture was donated.
How did Family Help become Family Help?
Family Help began due to the dedication and support of a small group of local people. During one of the first meetings it was asked what should we call ourselves? The answer came in the form of – what do we do? We help families, therefore we became ‘Family Help’.
We moved from the condemned house into an ex-army hut. Where we stayed until we moved into Orchard House in 1985. Orchard House was a homeless unit owned by Darlington Borough Council. We were known then as a refuge for battered wives rather than a safe haven for survivors of domestic abuse.
We shared the building with the homeless service, and there was only a locked door in a corridor between the two services. We had use of 5 large bedrooms that the clients sometimes had to share, a communal toilet block with 2 toilets for the whole service, 1 bathroom with just a bath, a very small kitchen, lounge/dining area, lots of long corridors with very small windows, no playroom but we did have a large garden with some play equipment.
Over the years, the old Orchard House building became unsuitable and outdated. During the late 90’s we started a consultation process with Stonham Housing Association to build a new purpose built refuge for Darlington.
This was completed in 2003. The doors opened for the new refuge in April 2003, with Stonham Home Group as the landlords and Family Help as the managing agent. The building was officially opened by Cherie Blair in June 2003.
Over the last 40+ years we have seen tens of thousands of women and men champion the rights of abused women and children, all over the country, not only by changing attitudes, but changing laws, changing hearts and minds, and saving lives.
There are thousands of stories to tell from the families that have come through our doors over the years, both of the success of women and children who were able to rebuild their lives and of those whose personal tragedies we witnessed or shared in.