Refuges for women

If you have to leave home because your partner is behaving in an abusive or threatening way towards you, you may want to stay at a women's refuge. You don't have to leave your partner permanently in order to get a place in a refuge. You may just need a break, to give you time to think and make decisions.

Who can go to a refuge?

Any woman who is being abused can go to a refuge for safety. You don't have to have children to get a place in a refuge, and you don't need to have left your partner permanently.

What are refuges like?

Refuges vary from area to area. Some are shared houses, while others offer self-contained apartments. You will usually have your own room, although if you have children you may have to share the room with them. You may be able to choose which kind of accommodation you'd prefer.

Some women find the communal aspect of living in a refuge hard, but gaining the support of other women who have been through similar experiences can help you recover and move on.

You can find out more about living in a refuge at the Scottish Women's Aid website.

Where will the refuge be?

The addresses of refuges are kept confidential to protect residents from abusive partners. If you want to get away from your partner, you can ask your local women's group to find you a place in a refuge in another area. You may have to stay in another area if there are no places in your nearest refuge.

What help can I get in a refuge?

Refuge workers offer both emotional and practical support. They can:

  • give you advice about your situation
  • help you claim benefits
  • help you find other housing
  • help you access nurseries and schools for your children
  • offer counselling for you and your children
  • put you in touch with other agencies such as the police, solicitors or the council's housing department.

How do I get into a refuge?

Call the 24-hour Scottish Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 027 1234 or Shelter's free housing advice helpline on 0808 800 4444. An adviser will do their best to find you a place in a refuge that suits your needs, or will help you sort out somewhere else safe to stay if there are no places available. You can also ask the police or social work department to refer you to a refuge.

Be aware that you may not be able to get a place in a refuge straight away, as such places are limited.

What are my rights if I'm staying in a refuge?

When you move in, you'll be given an occupancy agreement which will explain your rights and responsibilities, as well as any rules the refuge has. For example, you won't be able to have any male visitors or act in a disrespectful way towards other residents.

What if I'm disabled or I have a disabled child?

If you are disabled, it may be more difficult for you to get away from your home, especially if you have mobility problems. In addition, many refuges aren't fully accessible for disabled people. An adviser from the Domestic Abuse Helpline will be able to help you find a place in an accessible refuge, and you can also get help from the council's housing department.

What if I'm black or from an ethnic minority?

Some refuges cater specifically for women from black or ethnic minority backgrounds. Go to the getting help page or call the Domestic Abuse Helpline to find out more.

How do I pay for my accommodation?

Refuges are not free: you will have to pay rent while you are staying there. However, you may be able to claim housing benefit to help cover the cost. If you still have to pay rent on the home you have fled, you should be able to get housing benefit for two homes.

The important points

  • Any woman who is being abused can go to a refuge for safety.
  • Refuges vary, some are shared houses, while others offer self-contained apartments.
  • The addresses of refuges are kept confidential to protect residents from abusive partners.
  • Call the 24-hour Scottish Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 027 1234. An adviser will do their best to find you a place in a refuge that suits your needs,

Speak to a Shelter Scotland adviser

Call Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline

0808 800 4444
9am-5pm, Monday to Friday

Email an adviser

You can also email a housing adviser. We aim to respond within three working days.

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