St Mungo’s has launched a new homelessness strategy for women.
According to the latest figures, 642 women sleep rough on any one night in England, and many more are likely to be experiencing hidden homelessness – seeking shelter with abusive partners, squatting or sofa surfing with friends and family – so may be missing from the statistics.
The launch of the strategy builds on five years of work following the publication of St Mungo’s ground-breaking report Rebuilding Shattered Lives, which found homelessness services are often designed with men in mind, and can fail to support women effectively.
Women’s homelessness often occurs after prolonged experiences of trauma, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse by those closest to them.
Violence and abuse are both a cause and consequence of women’s homelessness, with women experiencing further abuse, exploitation and violence while homeless.
The strategy looks at support for women experiencing homelessness across all areas of St Mungo’s work, setting out the charity’s ambitions for the next three years, including:
- Offering women-only services and spaces as an option for all female clients, at every stage of their recovery
- Better supporting and equipping St Mungo’s staff to recognise and respond to violence and abuse
- Improving rough sleeping services so that they are even safer and more effective for women
- Working with specialist agencies to offer individual support to women around domestic and sexual abuse
The charity will also continue to advocate for the needs of women experiencing homelessness with local and national government, to make sure they get the support they need to rebuild their lives.
Catherine Glew, Women’s Strategy Manager at St Mungo’s, said: “We know that funding for all specialist work with women has been falling, but our clients cannot wait for government to make women’s homelessness a priority. We choose to prioritise women’s safety.
“With this new strategy, we aim to create an environment of physical and psychological safety for our female clients, who face disproportionate risk of harm from people they love and trust as well as the dangers of homelessness.
“We will work hard to make sure that each of our female clients has a safe place to live and has every reason to feel safe in our services. We will continue to speak out about the link between gender, violence and homelessness, to make sure women are not forgotten or left behind by government policy.”
St Mungo’s services work with women at all stages of homelessness, from women in prison at risk of losing their tenancy, to women sleeping rough, living in hostels and moving into independence.
Around one third (31%) of St Mungo’s supported housing residents are women, the charity runs women-only accommodation projects in London and Bristol.