News: Connection at St Martin’s and Solace join forces to tackle the response to women’s homelessness and rough sleeping

Women can face many different forms of homelessness, including sleeping rough.

Domestic abuse is the third most common cause of homelessness and sleeping rough (Gov UK, Domestic Abuse Bill Policy paper: Homelessness 2020). Many women become homeless after experiencing violence, and more still will experience abuse while they are homeless.

Despite this, women are underrepresented in homelessness services which are often designed with men in mind and in which women can feel unsafe. Vital support services for women experiencing domestic violence and abuse can also be inaccessible to women experiencing homelessness, and yet could help to increase their safety and end their period of homelessness sooner. Women experiencing homelessness are often also experiencing multiple forms of disadvantage and are therefore left out of services they need most.

Our response to women’s homelessness clearly needs to change.

A joint project between The Connection at St Martin’s and Solace Women’s Aid (Solace), the Women’s Development Unit will work collaboratively with women, services and stakeholders across the capital. Bringing together the wealth of expertise across the homelessness and Violence against women and girls (VAWG) sectors, we will develop a pan-London women’s homelessness strategy to make a tangible difference to the lives of women.

Pam Orchard, CEO of The Connection at St Martin’s said:

“Sleeping rough is incredibly dangerous for anyone. For women, however, it can be particularly tough. We know that women on the streets are more likely to be threatened, attacked or exploited than men. Women often remain in damaging relationships rather than face sleeping rough.

We also know that women are underrepresented in rough sleeping support services. Anecdotal evidence suggests that women avoid these services because they are perceived as a ‘male space’.  Services need to change so that they can meet the needs of women who are sleeping on the streets or at risk of doing so. This is why we’re so excited to be working with Solace on the new Women’s Development Unit.

Fiona Dwyer, CEO at Solace said:

“Women with experiences of homelessness have disproportionately suffered violence and abuse in their lives and often continue to do so whilst on the streets. However, homelessness services often do not cater to the needs of women and are not able to support them with lasting the trauma related to this abuse. At the same time, organisations supporting survivors of violence against women and girls can also feel less able to fully address the multiple and complex needs of homeless women.

Women should be offered access to holistic support services which are designed for their needs and help them rebuild their lives from abuse and support them out of homelessness. By working together with The Connection at St Martin’s we want to ensure that services understand the experiences of women and can meet the needs and risks that are a day-to-day reality for homeless women in London.”

The Women’s Development Unit is funded by The London Community Foundation and ESI The Homeless Fund. 

If you’d like to learn more about the project or would like to work with us, contact the Unit at e.greenhalgh@solacewomensaid.org.