18 June 2012
UPDATE - Listen Again to Lucy and Alexia talking about the campaign on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour, Mon 18 June.
Concerted action is needed to stop women becoming homeless and develop improved services for those who already are.
The call for action comes as St Mungo's launches its Action Week campaign called Rebuilding Shattered Lives. Over 18 months this new campaign seeks to raise awareness of the issues faced by homeless women, and those at risk of becoming homeless, and find policy and practice solutions.
By 2014 St Mungo's aims to have created a national showcase of best practice for what works for women and produced a comprehensive policy report that will drive lasting change for women in need.
More than one in ten people contacted sleeping rough in London are women and, in England, over half of those living in temporary accommodation are women. In St Mungo's experience, homeless women face greater hurdles than homeless men:
Charles Fraser, St Mungo's Chief Executive, said: "Women who end up on the streets often have a complex mix of problems, but the services available to them have been mainly designed for men. These services in themselves are also facing cuts so we urgently need to look deeper and try different approaches.
"At St Mungo's we want to galvanise action. The first step is make sure people recognise there is a need, the second is to share and showcase good ideas and practice from across the UK on what can work, and finally, we need to find ways of implementing that practice.
"Our Rebuilding Shattered Lives campaign will raise the profile of this neglected issue and become a crucible for new ideas which energise policy and practice. I hope we can encourage everyone interested in women and homelessness to get involved with this concerted campaign so we can make vital and lasting changes."
Experts from across different charity and voluntary organisations will lead on gathering evidence from practitioners and individuals across the UK on nine themes including; domestic abuse, families and children, childhood trauma, employment and education. St Mungo's female clients will also be contributing their ideas and experiences of what works.
One client is Lucy. She said: "I became homeless after health problems and a marriage breakdown caused by financial pressures during the recession. It's hard for anyone without a home but I now know from experience that being a homeless woman can leave you feeling very vulnerable, afraid and not knowing where to turn.
"The hardest thing to deal with is the mental health problems which caused you to be homeless in the first place. You have to focus not just on whether you have a roof over your head but who you are under that roof, who you want to be."
Lucy, who has now moved on from St Mungo's supported accommodation into her own flat, has completed a degree course and is developing her own acupuncture business. She is taking part in a sponsored walk for St Mungo's Action Week in support of the Rebuilding Shattered Lives campaign.
Jacqui McCluskey, Director of Policy and Communications at Homeless Link, is lead contributing expert on the first theme of Housing and Homelessness. She said: "I think this campaign, by focusing on solutions, will lead to real and lasting change and improvements. A key strength of the campaign will be the involvement of women who've experienced homelessness themselves, such as St Mungo's clients. By rooting the campaign in real experiences I do believe that real change will be achieved."
Notes to editors
Contact Gemma Hollingshead at St Mungo's on 020 8762 5570 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
St Mungo's opens doors for homeless people across London and the South. Each night the charity provides accommodation for over 1,700 homeless and vulnerable people. Around a quarter of these clients are women and St Mungo's runs two women only hostels in London as well as sector-leading projects that help women with complex problems recover and rebuild their lives.
Why are we focusing on women?
Existing homelessness provision has traditionally been designed for men, yet research shows that homeless women have both more complex and more severe needs than homeless men and can become homeless for a number of different reasons, and as a result of a range of traumatic experiences such as domestic violence, time spent in custody, or having their children taken into care.
A 2012 survey of St Mungo's female clients shows that:
Within England, over half of those living in temporary accommodation are women (DCLG 2012, live tables on homelessness).
The campaign's nine themes over 18 months will be:
A group of experts, each with exceptional levels of knowledge and experience, are supporting the campaign across each of these different themes. They are:
Wednesday 20 June - Homeless Link Spotlight on Homeless Women event, South London. This event will bring together speakers from AVA, the Against Violence and Abuse Project; DCLG; Women's Aid; Stonewall Housing and St Mungo's. Contact Hannah Cornford, Homeless Link Senior Communications Officer (Communities) | 020 7840 4467.