A Home of Her Own: Women with Lived Experience of Homelessness Wisdom Report
[Written consent obtained from those photographed during the pilot launch of A Home of Her Own and socially distanced sleep-out Friday 9th October 2020 - Centre: Michaela Campbell Project Lead A Home of Her Own KairosWWT, Centre left: Hayley Lenton Coventry Haven Women’s Aid, Centre Right: Coventry South MP Zarah Sultana, Back row left: Jaime Richards Coventry Haven Women’s Aid, Yellow jacket: Emma Mitchell A Home of Her Own Housing Practitioner KairosWWT, Black Jacket: Adele Canterbury KairosWWT, Hoody: Lisa Miller KairosWWT, Pink dressing gown: Flori McGill Coventry City Council Rough Sleeper Outreach Team, Grey dressing gown: Lauren Masterson Coventry City Council Rough Sleeper Outreach Team, Purple t-shirt: Lisa Powell Coventry Haven Women’s Aid, Orange hat: Zoe George KairosWWT]
Sex workers are one of the most marginalised, stigmatised, and disenfranchised subgroup populations in the UK. A Home of Her Own is looking at the challenges for women engaged in street-based prostitution who are at risk of sexual exploitation and experiencing homelessness. This cohort of women is invisible, excluded and stigmatised , forced to live on the periphery of society . They are neither acknowledged nor supported, they are marginalised politically and socially, and are often not researched (Platt et al., 2020 and Milaney et al., 2020). Specialist female-only accommodation is non-existent in Coventry, culminating in a cataclysmic experience of housing instability, which contributes to the revolving door of homelessness for this client group. COVID-19 has highlighted the palpable gap in housing provision, which changed the aims of A Home of Her Own from mapping a women’s housing journey to identifying trauma and gender-specific housing solutions. It is with this backdrop that the scene is set for KairosWWT first Women with Lived Experience of Homelessness (WLEH) wisdom report.
Whilst COVID-19 presented the women’s homelessness sector with many challenges, adversity provided opportunity. The Everyone In initiative was the catalyst for collaboration and coproduction of the WLEH wisdom report. A women’s working group was formed with five partner agencies including Coventry City Council’s Rough Sleepers Team. The purpose of the WLEH wisdom report was to:
- Amplify the voices of women with lived experience of homelessness
- Understand what homelessness accommodation has been like for women
- Understand what challenges women have faced whilst staying in homelessness accommodation
- Understand what needs to change within homelessness accommodation in Coventry
- Use this data to inform the service design/delivery of A Home of Her Own
Nine narratives were collated and analysed (trigger warning), the findings highlighted women have been exposed to sexual violence, felt sexually objectified, witnessed domestic abuse, and were afraid whilst accommodated within homelessness accommodation. One participant felt being in mixed homelessness accommodation was a set-back. Similarly, another participant described being accommodated within the same homeless project at least five times. Subsequently, women reported wanting “female only accommodation, safe and secure, supported by people who understand” (Campbell, 2020). Interestingly, themes relating to a trauma and gendered-informed approach were inadvertently indicative and consistent across each narrative.
Recommendations included highlighting the aforesaid findings and concerns to all providers of homelessness accommodation in the city. Following dissemination of the report and a news article in the Coventry Live, KairosWWT has met with Coventry City Council’s scrutiny panel. There will be a public meeting with housing cabinet members and external stakeholders to discuss the report further.
Housing stability is essential for vulnerable women, moreover it has been identified as a key systemic barrier to women exiting prostitution (Kairos, 2019). However, supporting women engaged in prostitution goes beyond bricks and mortar, and requires a trauma and gender-specific response. Equipped with the knowledge from the WLEH findings, and with women’s voices at the core of the work we do, the journey to end women’s homelessness in Coventry continues for KairosWWT.
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Michaela Campbell is a Project Lead at KairosWWT.