Each year, campaigners mark International Women’s Day to celebrate progress and amplify our year-round work to achieve opportunity, justice and safety for women. At AVA and Homeless Link, we work to make sure charities have the evidence and resources they need to support survivors of gender-based violence and homelessness. Reflecting on our work over the past year, what can the homelessness sector learn about supporting women?
When homelessness and domestic abuse intersects
Research by the World Health Organization highlights that one in three women globally are subjected to gender-based violence. Domestic abuse is near universal in the lives of women rough sleeping. Often women become homeless through fleeing abuse, with the vulnerability of homelessness making them susceptible to further abuse in the future. This leads to complex, interrelated problems that are often compounded by ethnicity, race, age sexuality, immigration status, disability and any other personal circumstance. Women are also more likely to experience hidden homelessness, so being proactive and taking services out into the community is vital in engaging those who haven’t come forward for support.
Standing in solidarity
The statutory homelessness statistics for April to June this year showed the number of new homeless cases due to domestic abuse was the highest since record began. Despite being a growing issue, there is a lack of appropriate accommodation and established good practice on how to support women experiencing homelessness with multiple disadvantage. This means that some women end up falling through the cracks, with AVA and Agenda describing how this can be particularly pertinent for women involved in the sex industry and survival sex.
Delivering for women
Building on the success of Homeless Link’s Ending Women’s Homelessness Grants Fund (EWHF) funded by the Tampon Tax, which shared £1.85 million across 29 diverse cross-sector partnerships comprising of the homelessness and women specialist sector, Homeless Link commissioned an Insights and Impact report collating learning and good practice around gender and trauma informed approaches for working with women. Thanks to 29 amazing grantees, AVA included, Homeless Link has identified five key effective principles for working with women as illustrated in the rich picture below.
Grantees from across the fund found that centring women’s voices and recognising different needs is essential in delivering for women, as one woman with lived experience of homelessness said:
“The way the place is (set up is) really good, especially for someone like me with complex needs because I’ve come from addiction and domestic violence and mental health. It’s helping all of that in one go.” Woman with lived experience of homelessness
Meanwhile, women only spaces help women who’ve experienced domestic abuse feel safer when engaging with support:
“Women only is very important. Male presence would really not be ideal. We’ve all gone through different experiences with men. Women you grow bonds with, get to know each other.” Woman with lived experience of homelessness
As part of EWHF project, AVA worked closely with survivors, Haringey Council, Solace Women’s Aid and IMECE to carry out peer research with women in Haringey facing homelessness and domestic abuse. The project produced a suite of support and learning resources for professionals working with homeless women.
Making sure all staff are properly trained in gender and trauma informed issues helps organisations better understand the best way to help women engage and leave homelessness behind. Nominating a female lead can help to make sure this learning is embedded across the organisation.
Call to action
- form partnerships with women-led specialist services
- develop a coordinated approach to support underpinned by an understanding of intersectionality, including gender, trauma, and culturally informed care.
Ending women’s homelessness and gender-based violence requires coordinated action — will you join us on our journey this International Women’s Day and beyond?
Homeless Link launched their Ending Women’s Homelessness Fund Insights and Impact report on Thursday 25th November 2021. Links to the report can be accessed below
Got some time on your hands? Read the full report complete with full recommendations and findings.
A little rushed at the moment? Read just the Executive Summary with top line findings and recommendations.
Really busy? Read a blog from the researchers.