This Sunday 25 November 2018 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and marks the start of 16 Days of Action against domestic abuse. Cat Glew, Women’s Strategy Manager, explains how homelessness and domestic abuse are linked and how St Mungo’s is taking action.
Women experience homelessness differently to men. In particular, gender based violence can be both a cause and a consequence of homelessness. Shockingly, half the women in St Mungo’s accommodation that have slept rough tell us that they have experienced violence or abuse from a partner or family member.
As Women’s Strategy Manager, my role is to improve the situations of the women we work with who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
We’re making a stand for women
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 St Mungo’s is proud to sign the Make a Stand pledge from the Chartered Institute of Housing. Developed in partnership with Women’s Aid and the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance, the pledge is a commitment to support all our staff and clients experiencing domestic abuse.
You may have read our recently published report from the University of York about 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 they are hidden from help.
The 16 Days give us the chance to us to bring hidden issues to light. Across the organisation, we’ll be having honest conversations about abuse and relationships and connecting people with specialist support.
The United Nations’ theme for this year’s campaign is #HearMeToo. 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 #MakeHerSeen.
The women we work with are blooming strong
It’s important that we take domestic abuse seriously, and understand the harms and risks. But as Women’s Strategy Manager, that’s just one part of my role.
The best part of my job is celebrating our women. Women face added stigma and shame while they are homeless. But that’s not how we see our female clients. We see women who have survived, who are strong and determined.
That’s why we’re taking part in the Blooming Strong campaign in our services this year, presenting a variety of women with a single flower, and celebrating in other ways such as planting flowers, creating sculptures and making time to chat over a cup of tea. The campaign is a celebration of the strength of women, including those who have survived gender based violence and abuse.
I can’t wait to see how our creative staff and clients will celebrate. Look out for more updates on our social media channels during the #16Days of Action.
Survivors of domestic abuse need a home for good
Everybody deserves a home where they can be safe from harm. Our Home for Good campaign report highlights that being forced to flee violence or abuse is one of a number of reasons why people struggle to move on from homelessness.
It’s vital that specialist support is in place so that women can leave the streets behind and we can end rough sleeping for good. During this 16 days of activism, why not sign our #HomeForGood open letter and call on the government to give homelessness services the funding they need.
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