Our Women’s Housing Project Update

St martin's house front door - women's housing project
St. Martin's House

St. Martin’s House is our women’s housing project in South London.

In fact, it’s one of the few women-only accommodation projects in the UK. And it’s something we’re very proud of.

We shared the project publicly last month but since its launch in November 2023, it’s gone from strength to strength.

Here’s everything you need to know about St. Martin’s House.

Why do we have a women’s housing project?

Women’s rough sleeping is something that’s often ignored, misunderstood or perceived as a ‘non-urgent issue’. Our research hopes to change this.

We’ve found that traditional data greatly underestimate the numbers of women who are homeless because they view the experiences of men as the norm. This means that the homelessness experiences of women are often ignored as researchers and support services don’t look in the right places to find women in need of support.

Meanwhile our London Women’s Rough Sleeping Census with Solace highlighted that the number of women sleeping rough is much higher than usual reporting shows. It again found that women aren’t being offered the support they need as the experiences and needs of men were centered in most support services.

At The Connection, we knew this had to change.

After working with people with lived experience to decide how to tackle this, we launched our women’s only mornings. This offers women sleeping rough the chance to relax and recover from homelessness with our support in a space that they feel safe and centered in.

The choir with no name at our women's morning
A singing session with The Choir With No Name at our women’s morning

This has been a gamechanger for The Connection. We are now able to reach women who wouldn’t have reached out for support in the past. We’re seeing over 100 women a year attend our women’s only space. Many of these women weren’t accessing support before, highlighting the importance of women’s only projects.

With St. Martin’s House, we wanted to take this further.

The project offers residents support to prepare for a more independent and stable future. This can include access to therapy, employability training and more to make sure that their next home is a permanent one.

While at the housing project, women are given their own room (with kitchen and an ensuite bathroom) as well as access to communal spaces and support workers.

This offers them, perhaps for the first time, a safe space to live and grow.

How’s the project going?

When we first re-opened St. Martin’s House as a women’s housing project, we only had four residents. This was to give our staff time to settle people in and adjust to the new service model so that each resident could receive the best support possible.

Now, we have 14 people in residency and are looking to expand to reach full capacity (we currently have rooms for 16 people, with two new rooms being built soon).

While we have no long-term outcomes to share yet, we have seen some amazing results so far.

The women we are supporting have given us a lot of positive feedback and advice on how we can make the service more suited to their needs.

Things that might seem small to us can mean a lot to those who have never had a stable home. For example, Icilda, a staff member at St. Martin’s House, has helped a few of the women to budget their weekly shop and prepare a simple meal for themselves. This practical step could be the first of many in helping someone to live independently.

We’ve also seen many of the women we’re supporting grow in confidence and their ambitions for the future.

Many of the women in the project struggled to see how they could leave the cycle of homelessness behind at first. But, by helping to rediscover their strengths some of the women we support are starting to see this as a real possibility for their future.

As one resident put it, St. Martin’s House is the perfect place to recover from their homelessness experiences:

What can we look forward to?

There’s a lot of exciting things to look forward to at St. Martin’s House.

As the project continues to grow, we’re eager to support more women on their own terms and according to their own needs. This means making connections in the local community to connect women with more opportunities.

We’re also running a fundraising project called 18 Keys. This is to help us fund the two additional rooms we’re building so that we can support more women.

We’re hoping to start building works on this soon and will be sure to keep our supporters updated.