Leading homelessness charity St Mungo’s has partnered with domestic abuse charity Standing Together to make sure that its female clients experiencing homelessness and domestic abuse get the best care and support possible.
The two charities have worked together to produce new guidance, called Keeping us Safer which aims to provide St Mungo’s and other staff within the homelessness and women’s sector with the skills and confidence to be able to best support female clients who are also survivors of domestic abuse.
The guidance – which forms part of a larger project called Safety by Experience has been carefully informed by staff at St Mungo’s and women with lived experience of homelessness, abuse and violence and comes following research that has shown women are more likely to experience abuse and violence compared to men.
It was trialled in three pilot areas – North London Women’s Project, Southwark SPOT Team and Longhills Mixed Hostel in Bristol – with the results being fed back into the final guidance.
Keeping us Safer was launched at a virtual event on Thursday 24 June 2021, where the audience also heard about the experiences of homelessness, abuse and violence from two of St Mungo’s clients: Claire and Paula, as well as from a panel of experts on the frontline who have been involved with the first pilot of the project, about how the new guidance has helped them to support their female clients more effectively.
Jillian Thursby, Women and Domestic Abuse Lead at St Mungo’s, said: “At St Mungo’s, we know that women experience homelessness differently from men and it’s our job to improve our support offer to fit their needs.
“The Safety by Experience project has taken the perspectives of women experiencing homelessness, violence, and abuse and created an approach which encourages staff to consider these experiences in order to improve the support offered through the Keeping Us Safe guidance.
“I’d like to give a huge thank you to our amazing partners at Standing Together for all their incredible work.
“Their domestic abuse expertise has been absolutely invaluable to the project. I would also like to thank our funder, Homeless Link, and our three pilot sites. Last, but certainly not least, thank you to all the women who shared their experiences with us. Without them, this project would not have been possible.”
Louisa Steele, Standing Together’s Housing First and Homelessness Project Manager said: “We are so pleased to have worked on the Safety by Experience project with our partners at St Mungo’s.
“It was a real privilege to speak to women in St Mungo’s services and the staff that support them, about the brilliant work they already do to support women experiencing homelessness, violence and abuse, where services can be improved and how we can work together to overcome them.”
The women with lived experience of homelessness who were interviewed for the project, detailed their experiences of the domestic abuse and violence they endured when they were sleeping rough from mainly male members of the public or other people who were also homeless.
In addition to this, their gender meant they were more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, and many women felt they had to make themselves invisible, by dressing as a male or sleeping in hidden locations or public places such as A&E or fast food restaurants in order to keep safe. Finally, many women reported being subject to discriminatory behaviour because of their ethnicity, class or sexuality.
St Mungo’s has also submitted evidence to the government about the women’s health strategy, which you can read about in more detail here.