Women’s Development Unit – a partnership to end women’s homelessness

Woman with a house shaped candle holder

*Domestic abuse is the third most common cause of homelessness and sleeping rough.

Homelessness and women

Many women become homeless after experiencing violence, and more still will experience abuse while they are homeless. Women can face many different forms of homelessness, including dangerous periods of sleeping rough.

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.

Our response to women’s homelessness needed to change.

We are collaborating to ensure the best possible outcome for homeless women.

The Women’s Development Unit works collaboratively with women, services and stakeholders across the capital. It aims to improve 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.

Over the past year, the Women’s Development Unit has spoken to a wealth of organisations, as well as women with lived experience of homelessness, using their perspectives to develop a strategy for women’s homelessness in London. Specific approaches to women’s needs are astonishingly rare and limited data split by gender, which limits our ability to respond. Instead, it is women who are often blamed for not being found or supported properly by the systems which have failed her, which label her as ‘difficult’ and ‘hard to reach’.

The new London-wide Strategy for Ending Women’s Homelessness brings together recommendations about the specialist services we need to expand, the different ways we can offer support and how we should all be thinking more about women. Women’s homelessness is gaining attention and, as we saw with the new Domestic Abuse Act in 2021, we can make real change. On 11th March we launched our strategy for ending women’s homelessness in London and, with it, we hope to transform how we address homelessness. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this important piece of work.

Find out more about the Strategy here. You can also read the full Strategy document and download this here.

This is a joint project between The Connection at St Martin’s and Solace Women’s Aid (Solace), a collaboration that aims to ensure 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. The London Homeless Collective is a movement of more than 25 charities that help people experiencing homelessness in London. This is where the Women’s Development Unit was born from. Collectively, the LHC group shares ideas, experience, and opportunities, and work together to ensure that nobody is left behind.

Women’s Spaces

Over the past year, we have been working with expert practitioners across a number of organisations to establish best practice around developing women’s spaces within homelessness services, a key service need in ensuring women feel safe accessing services. You can find our guidance to developing Women’s Spaces within Homelessness Settings here.

As part of this work, at The Connection at St Martin’s have a new women’s space operating on Wednesday mornings from 9am-12pm, open to women experiencing or at risk of homelessness in Westminster. Women can access the service for food, showers, laundry, activities, advice and support or just somewhere to sit and feel relaxed and safe.

Further information

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.

*Gov UK, Domestic Abuse Bill Policy paper: Homelessness 2020.