Meet our Housing Triage Worker: Sharon Tippet

Sharon took up the post of Housing Triage Worker for NDADA in April. We caught up with her to find out what the role entails and how she helps to provide support for people facing homelessness because of domestic abuse.

Hi Sharon, lovely to meet you. Can you tell us a bit more about what you do for NDADA?

I joined the team after several years working as a debt adviser for Citizen’s Advice. I work for NDADA but within the council’s housing team. If someone makes a homeless application and mentions domestic abuse as the reason why they are homeless they’re automatically referred to me. I then do an assessment of their circumstances, including a risk assessment, and any referrals they might need for going on support, such as legal advice. I then feed this information back to the housing officer, who’s then got a better understanding of the situation. My role is essentially to make sure people experiencing domestic abuse are getting the right support from the right people.

Why is this role important for the community?

This is a role that doesn’t exist in many places, but we think it’s vital. Having been in the post just over six months, we’ve had almost 100 referrals. Not all of them have been appropriate referrals and not all of them have been at a point where they want to engage, but it’s still a significant number. There’s a clear need for this specific type of support.

What happens when someone is referred to NDADA’s housing triage?

I can often be that person’s first point of engagement with NDADA and it might be the first time they’ve spoken out about their domestic abuse. So, I talk to them and see what support they might need. 

A lot of the time I refer them to FearFree, which is the main organisation for domestic abuse services in the South West. If anyone is high risk and needs help around things like court or non-molestation orders, I refer them to FearFree to get ongoing support.

If they are already homeless or facing complex additional needs, such as drug or alcohol abuse, I can refer them to Brave Spaces which is a joint north Devon and Exeter project supporting women facing homelessness, domestic abuse or sexual violence. They’ll then refer them into NDADA or other specialist abuse services.

How does the process work once you’ve identified someone who’s facing homelessness because of domestic abuse?

You never know whether it’s safe or not to phone people, so I send them an introductory email. I tell them my name and what I do and that I know it might be hard for them to talk to me right now, so ask them when a suitable time might be to ring.

I then look into their background to see whether they’ve reached out to us before. It might be that this is the first time they’ve experienced abuse and it’s made them want to flee, or it might be someone whose experienced abuse for 20 years and finally taken the steps to leave.

I always talk to them about refuge and whether that might be suitable for them because that saves them having to access temporary accommodation in the area. Also, sometimes it might not be safe to stay in the local area if the perpetrator is still after them, so we might refer them out of area to a place of safety.

Do you have any further contact with people you’ve referred for support after they’ve spoken to you? 

Not generally, but sometimes referrals can take a while, so I always give them my phone number and let them know that I’m here if they want to chat. If something crops up or if there’s something they feel their housing officer needs to know then I can pass that on.

A lady called me this morning. She has an Independent Domestic Violence Adviser (IDVA) and housing in place but was just feeling a little wobbly and wanted a bit of a chat. She felt she needed to speak to someone today and I was available, so I gave her a bit of my time. Usually, however, I tend to sit in the background until I know that they’ve got the domestic abuse support around them and have access to the help they need.

If you are suffering from domestic abuse, NDADA can help. Get in touch with us today on 01271 370079 or email