Creating change for women facing homelessness

Photo fo Cat Glew, Women's Strategy Manager for St Mungo's
Cat Glew, Women’s Strategy Manager

St Mungo’s has published a new three year ‘Women’s Strategy’ setting out how we plan to improve our services for women and influence policy on women’s homelessness. Our Women’s Strategy Manager Cat Glew introduces our approach.

Five years ago St Mungo’s published our ground-breaking Rebuilding Shattered Lives research into women’s homelessness. We found that homelessness services are often designed with men in mind, and were often failing to support women effectively.

Sadly, it remains the case that women facing homelessness are still at a disproportionate risk of harm from those they love and trust, alongside the existing dangers of homelessness. Since 2014 a growing body of evidence has highlighted the connections between women’s experiences of violence and abuse, poor physical and mental health, substance use and homelessness.

According to the latest figures, 642 women sleep rough on any one night in England, up from 509 in 2016. Many more women are likely to be experiencing hidden homelessness – seeking shelter with abusive partners, squatting or sofa surfing with friends and family – so may be missing from the statistics.

Women’s homelessness often occurs after prolonged experiences of trauma, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse by those closest to them. Violence and abuse are both a cause and consequence of women’s homelessness, with women experiencing further abuse, exploitation and violence while homeless.

Women-only spaces are a matter of safety for many women. Despite this, just 7% of homelessness services in England offer women-only provision, according to data from Homeless Link.

Our greatest challenge and our most important aim is to create an environment of physical and psychological safety for women in homelessness services. We’ll be working hard to make sure that each of our female clients has a safe place to live and has every reason to feel safe in our services.

We know that funding for women-specific work is falling, but we also understand that our female clients cannot wait for the Government to prioritise women’s homelessness.

As a homelessness charity, it is our responsibility to make sure that we are achieving the best possible outcomes with women, as well as men. We have made the decision to make women’s safety and women’s recovery a priority. Our new Women’s Strategy sets out some ambitious aims that will help us improve our practice and influence government policy.

Our ambitions for the next three years include:

  • Offering women-only services and spaces as an option for all female clients, at every stage of their recovery
  • Supporting and equipping St Mungo’s staff to better recognise and respond to violence and abuse
  • Improving rough sleeping services so that they are even safer and more effective for women
  • Working with specialist agencies to offer individual support to women around domestic and sexual abuse

There’s plenty to do, but I’m really looking forward to working with all our clients, staff and partners to make our ideas a reality. Listening to the ideas and experiences of St Mungo’s women is an amazing privilege and the very best part of my job. I hope that partners, politicians and the public will read our strategy and join us as we create change with women facing homelessness.

Read our brand new women’s strategy here