In the next chapter of our work on ending women’s homelessness, Homeless Link is innovatively leading the way as a catalyst for change within the homelessness sector, redressing the issue of homelessness as a gendered phenomenon by building capacity around gender-informed support.
In a 2019 publication by Homeless Link and the Women’s Resource Centre, gender-informed support is defined as an approach that “seeks to adapt and configure elements of support or parts of the service to better support women in the way that works for them, noting that their experiences are different to men”.
As we enter the last few months of our Ending Women’s Homelessness Grants Programme, we are delighted to announce that the Garfield Weston Foundation is supporting us to deliver a new project which will enable us to assist the sector to improve the support, and outcomes, for women experiencing homelessness.
What’s the issue?
When it comes to supporting women, research highlights a lack of established practice within the homelessness sector. This is compounded further by limited gender-specific accommodation and expertise to identify and appropriately respond to the needs of women. Women’s support needs are not always met, and as a result, they are finding it hard to engage in the support that is on offer. The impact of this means women are at risk of falling through the cracks and into entrenched homelessness.
Despite the good work of our sector, most provision has been designed around the needs of homeless men. Although there has been an upward trend in the number of women rough sleeping in recent years, only 10% of accommodation in England is women-only. The conventional homelessness pathway continues to comprise of mixed-sex accommodation which is often unsuitable for women who have experienced multiple disadvantage and trauma.
Learning from our grantees
In the wake of the pandemic, some of our Ending Women’s Homelessness grantees have reported increased visibility of women who would usually be hidden homeless. We believe action is required to redress the gap in gender-specific accommodation and support, as the issue is more palpable now than ever.
The impact of COVID-19
The pandemic has illuminated racial disparities, disproportionally affecting the Black Asian and Minority Ethnic communities. Evidence highlights the adverse effect the pandemic has had on Black women. We intend to contribute to this evidence base from a homelessness perspective applying an intersectional approach to the development of resources, to ensure they reflect the needs of all women. Look out for further information exploring the lived experiences of Black and Minoritised women experiencing homelessness.
What’s the solution?
The words of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg “real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time” aptly encapsulates our two-stage strategy to improve the outcomes for women experiencing homelessness. At Homeless Link, we have set ourselves the timely goal to ensure women experiencing homelessness can access appropriate services and gender-informed support.
As the Ending Women’s Homelessness Grants Programme, funded by the DCMS Tampon Tax, approaches the finish line, my project will take on the baton to create enduring change across the sector.
We are intent on driving the learning from the grants programme forward. Over the next two years, we will focus on building workforce knowledge and establishing good practice on gender-informed support, including the development of a toolkit. Showcasing the successes of cross-sector working, and learning from the failures to improve outcomes for women experiencing homelessness, we hope the project will enable long-term culture change.
We ultimately hope to increase the number of homelessness services adopting gender-informed approaches, increase the confidence of frontline staff to support women experiencing, or at risk of, violence and abuse, and increase collaboration between the homelessness and women’s sectors.
This is a unique opportunity to instigate real change and is a movement in the making. Change happens one step at a time so will you join us on our journey? Let’s keep the conversation going with a meet-up called Women’s Homelessness: What’s the Tea on Tuesday 16th March from 13:00- 13:30. If you would like to attend the meet-up or get involved with this project contact Michaela at Michaela.Campbell@homelesslink.org.uk and follow our journey on Twitter @M_HomelessLink.