A new weekly women’s drop-in service launched this month at the Connection for women experiencing or at risk of homelessness in Westminster. It’s open every Wednesday morning at our Adelaide Street centre. Anyone who identifies as a woman is invited to attend.
This free session every Wednesday morning, 9am–midday, offers access to:
• Practical services – a hot meal, laundry, showers and computers
• Group activities
• A space to relax
• Advice, information and support
Katy Parker, of the Women’s Development Unit, said: “The Connection aims to offer a safe, accessible space for women who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness, to come along to access services and – if they wish – get support. It’s an opportunity seek help, relax and connect with other women, and to take part in activities that prioritise making them feel good about themselves and building confidence.”
16% of The Connection’s clients last year were women, but we know that there are more women out there who need help but do not feel safe accessing services. Women’s experiences of homelessness often differ from men’s. People often equate homelessness with rough sleeping, and when we think of people rough sleeping, it’s often men that we picture. Official statistics released in February revealed that most people sleeping rough in England in autumn 2020 were male, aged over 26, with women 14% of the total overall.
However, women form a bigger part of the hidden homeless population – sleeping on sofas, in friends’ houses and hostels – which can often be very unsafe situations. In fact, as women are at such high risk of violence and abuse if they sleep on the streets, they will turn to this as an absolute last resort.
This can mean that homelessness services are designed more with men in mind, and male-dominated spaces can be intimidating for women, especially if they have experienced male violence. Studies have found the experience of domestic violence and abuse a near-universal experience among women experiencing homelessness.
Through our partnership project with Solace Women’s Aid, the Women’s Development Unit is working hard to understand the barriers that women forced into homelessness face when trying to access help and how services could be adapted to better meet their needs. This new women-only service is a response to the need we’ve identified amongst our clients, and we hope that by making this space available more women will feel empowered to access the help that they need.