Women's Safe Space, Camden
Safe Space is an approach co-developed by St Mungo’s and the London Borough of Camden to explore and implement new ways of working with women experiencing homelessness and multiple disadvantage.
This approach can be adopted by any team (mixed gendered or single sex services) working with women with multiple disadvantage. It can also benefit male clients and support staff. Safe Space is a culture of understanding how trauma, gender and the effects of multiple disadvantage impact our clients’ experience, while acknowledging sexism and inequality within wider society.
We do this through the whole team being trained on gender and trauma, PIE, trauma informed care and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Moving away from an outcomes based approach, instead focusing on offering time and space for clients to stabilise and build trust in services.
Safe Space recognised that if a client doesn’t trust our service she is unlikely to engage with the service offer. Relationships with clients are therefore at the centre of everything the team do. Lead workers offer meetings in a relaxed and informal way.
Choice and control
Offering choice to our clients, we are able to build trust and show ourselves to be non-paternalistic in our care. As a service provider, we can often mimic ‘perpetrator like’ behaviours, e.g. by asking about their drug use. This may feel harassing or invasive to our clients who have experienced trauma. Allowing clients to choose certain options, building choice into many aspects of service, like lead worker, meal planning and meeting locations.
What's the impact?
As part of the Safe Space service, we worked with the London Borough of Camden to produce a specific eLearning for all staff working in Camden’s Adult Pathway. This was based on research into the experiences of women in the homelessness pathway in the borough.
The Women’s Safe Space has been key in lifting the voices of women accessing services in Camden and helping to share our support. Our service has developed and changed with the understanding of women’s experiences – what we have learned, and continue to learn, will inform how services are developed and delivered in future.