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Women's Homelessness - What's the difference?

Women experience homelessness in different ways to men. Triggers of homelessness as well as experiences while homeless are unique to each person, however a person's gender and relationship to their gender impacts on their experience. To consider the impact of gender is to adopt a 'gender informed' approach.

Women are less likely to be visibly homeless, for a variety of reasons, a significant reason being the need to manage their own safety. Women are more likely to experience homelessness between temporary accommodation, other precarious forms of accommodation and rough sleeping. Women are also less easily categorised as single and homeless, their relationship to motherhood affecting their experience of being homeless.

Exploring women's homelessness

Women are often less visible while homelessness and so evidence of their experiences can be harder to find. To understand more about women's experiences of homelessness it can be important to explore and uncover national and local evidence. Evidence includes quantitative data, for example, service data on referrals. It also includes qualitative data, for example, the information that women with lived experience might share with the service. Start exploring women's experiences of homelessness by reading the following pages.

How can services improve their support for women?

Homelessness services can improve the support they provide to women's by becoming 'gender informed'. This means that the service understands the impact of gender on a persons experience and adapts the service to reflect this understanding. For example, if the service understands that women are more likely to be hidden while homeless, then the service might avoid strict access criteria which relies on a women being seen while homeless.

Homeless Link have produced the 'Gendered Lens Framework' to support homelessness services to improve their response to women. The Gendered Lens Framework communicates what we have learned from Homeless Link's research into adapting a gender informed approach to improve outcomes for women. This includes the report 'Promising Practice from the Frontline' (2019) and the 'Insights and Impact report' (2021).

The Gendered Lens Framework was also developed with women with lived experience and practitioners in the women's and homelessness sector. Read the workbook which introduces the framework to understand more about women's experiences of homelessness and how to adopt a gender informed response to women.

It contains:

Practical steps services can take to respond to women

Art produced by women with lived experience

Case studies

Practice templates

You can also watch the bitesize video series on how to adopt the Gendered Lens Framework.

All Women are Different

Women are not a homogenous group and it important to recognise how the experience of women of color, trans women, queer and disabled women among many others may be different from each other. In order to provide effective support to women, it is important to explore how their lives are impacted by forms of structural violence which shape their experiences of homelessness and their relationship to services.

Have a look at Homeless Link's other areas of expertise in diverse needs and consider how they intersect with gendered experiences of homelessness.

Responding to Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse is a primary trigger of homelessness amongst women, and continues to impact the experiences of women while homeless. Experiences of violence are 'near universal' among women rough sleeping. All services, statutory and non-statutory, have a role to play in preventing and responding to domestic abuse.

Supporting women while they are in a relationship, particularly when you might consider it an unhealthy relationship can be a really complex task. Homeless Link have supported the development of guidance on working effectively with survivors and perpetrators of domestic abuse in homelessness settings. Explore this guidance on supporting couples to understand how to effectively respond to perpetrators of domestic abuse.

Developing a Gender-informed Service : External guidance and toolkits

Toolkit: Setting up a Women's Space in Homelessness Setting

This toolkit was produced by the Women's Development Unit to support mixed-gender homelessness services to establish effective support for women.

The Women's Development Unit (WDU) was a joint project between The Connection at St Martin’s and Solace Women’s Aid (Solace).

Find out more

Guidance: Supporting Homeless Women Experiencing Multiple Disadvantage

This guidance has been designed to support frontline practitioners and services to understand and respond to the needs of women experiencing multiple disadvantage.

It was produced for ‘Safety by Experience’, a joint project between St Mungo’s, Standing Together Against Domestic Abuse and funded by Homeless Link’s Ending Women’s Homelessness Fund.

Find out more

Toolkit: Addressing Domestic and Sexual Violence, Substance Use and Mental Ill-health

This toolkit is produced by AVA and is designed to raise awareness of how domestic and sexual violence, problematic substance use and mental ill-health often co-exist. It details effective ways to engage with individuals and families who are affected by these issues.

Find out more

Toolkit: Homeless Pregnancy

This toolkit is developed by St Mungo's and sets out to how to empower pregnant homeless women to have a degree of choice and decision making over their pregnancy.

Find out more

Toolkit: Whole Housing Approach

This toolkit was produced by the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) as a practical guide for local areas on how to implement the While Housing Approach (WHA). The Whole Housing Approach is a framework to help people experiencing domestic abuse to either maintain or access safe and stable housing.

Find out more

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