Hiding from harm: Women and rough sleeping
Sunday 28 October 2018
New research commissioned by St Mungo’s out today reveals evidence that rough sleeping numbers are “almost certainly being undercounted” and that women are more likely to be missed.
The report gives new evidence of the “horrendous” experiences of women sleeping rough, often including sexual abuse, violence and stigmatisation.
Rough sleeping has increased by 169% since 2010. Last year 4,751 people slept rough on one night in England of which 653 (14%) were women (up from 509 in 2016).
In London, where statistics are collected differently, 1,139 women spent at least one night sleeping on the streets of the capital during 2017-18 (15% from a total of 7,484 people).
St Mungo’s is calling on the government to take urgent action to recognise the issues faced by women living on our streets and do more to support them away from rough sleeping, as well as prevent them becoming homeless in the first place.
The report ‘Women and Rough Sleeping’ by academics Joanne Bretherton and Nicholas Pleace from the University of York’s Centre for Housing Policy1, offers new insights into rough sleeping and women’s experience of homelessness. For example:
– Women sleeping rough tend to be younger and are significantly more likely than men to be aged 25 or under
– Women sleeping rough are more likely than men to need support for mental health problems.
– Women are more likely to sleep rough for short periods than men
St Mungo’s own data also reveals that women’s homelessness is associated with domestic abuse at much higher rates than is the case for men (a third of the charity’s residents (33%) said that domestic abuse contributed to them becoming homeless)
The report investigated how countries across the world count homelessness and rough sleeping, for women and men, and recommends more and improved data collection to better understand the scale and scope of issues that lead people to sleep rough. The report highlights that women told researchers that they took steps to conceal themselves, such as sleeping away from busy town centres or disguising their gender.
Women told the researchers:
• (I hid in) Wendy houses in back gardens, sheds, empty garages, empty houses that were gonna be demolished…public toilets…wherever. It’s easier to find a shed in someone’s back yard than it is to sit in a doorway and risk getting a beating. That’s why women tend to hide, they think safety first.
• “We have to hide because if we don’t we’re gonna get raped, kicked, beat.
• “Women dress more like men as well when they’re out. All covered up and that…put your hoods up…big baggy stuff”
Rebecca Sycamore, St Mungo’s Executive Director of Development, said: “Rough sleeping is harmful for anyone, but this report shines on a light on the frightening levels of sexual harassment, abuse and violence being faced by women on the streets.
“It’s clear that we don’t have a true picture of the real extent of rough sleeping, and this leaves women at particular risk of harm.
“The government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy is a good first step. We want to see a dedicated effort made to find out more about women and rough sleeping, involving those with lived experience, and linking in with related work such as the government’s Violence against Women and Girls strategy.
“We hope this report is a further spur to the government not to miss the crucial need to find and help the hidden women living on our streets.”
Press and Media Contact
Gemma Hollingshead 07979 018 734 / email@example.com
Notes to Editors
St Mungo’s is one of the UK’s leading homelessness charities and exists to end homelessness and rebuild lives. Each night the charity provides housing and support to 2,800 people across London and the South and helps thousands of others with advice, health, skills and work services.
1. Women and Rough Sleeping: A Critical Review of Current Research and Methodology, Joanne Bretherton and Nicholas Pleace