16 Days of Activism

Each year, St Mungo’s marks the 16 Days of Activism on domestic abuse and gender based violence, starting on 25 November with the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and ending on 10 December with Human Rights Day. Jill Thursby, Women and Domestic Abuse Matrix Lead, explains how homelessness and domestic abuse are linked and how St Mungo’s is taking action.

As Women and Domestic Abuse Matrix lead, my role is to improve things for St Mungo’s women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

We know from our work that the causes, experiences and solutions for homelessness are different for women. In particular, women carry the added burden of gender-based violence, which can be both a cause and a consequence of homelessness.

A safe and secure home is the first step to recovery, so we must do all we can to keep women safe from abuse. That’s why we’ve recognised that our biggest challenge is creating an environment of physical and psychological safety for our female clients. Women face disproportionate risk of harm from people they love and trust as well as the dangers of homelessness. We know that expecting women to thrive in traditional, male-dominated homelessness services is not good enough.

Hidden Homelessness

Research commissioned from the University of York highlights the hidden harm of women sleeping rough. Women on the streets are exposed to frightening risks of sexual harassment, abuse and violence, but hiding from harm can also mean that women are hidden from help.

The 16 Days give us the chance to us to bring the issue of women’s hidden homelessness to light. Across the organisation, we’ll be having honest conversations about abuse and, relationships and connecting people with specialist support.

St Mungo’s was proud to be a part of the recent London Women’s Rough Sleeping Census, aiming to better capture data about the extent of women’s rough sleeping. Findings from the census will not only evidence need, but also inform future provision.

The United Nations’ themes for this year’s campaign is UNiTE! Activism to end violence against women and girls. We must make sure that the global movement against harassment and abuse also reaches women who are homeless and hidden. We need action in government and in homelessness services to ensure that the needs of women experiencing homelessness are met.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, you can contact a specialist organisation for support:
National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247
National LGBT+ Helpline: 0800 999 5428
Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327