First National Census of Women Sleeping Rough

As a female, you feel vulnerable and I was scared to sleep outside in case anything bad happened to me. You feel people look down on you. I think a lot of girls choose random places to stay, and there are a lot of homeless women.

Women’s Census participant

Solace has worked in coalition with Single Homeless Project, London Councils and Homeless Link to deliver the first national census into the scale of women’s homelessness. For the first time councils from across England came together to undertake gender informed outreach to understand the number of women rough sleeping and how their experiences differ from men. 

The National Women’s Rough Sleeping Census Report 2023 sets out the key findings from a week-long, national census of women sleeping rough in 41 local authorities across England. Teams conducting the census found 815 women, a far higher number than Government counts in those areas indicate. 

Read the full 2023 national report here:

Key findings 

The National Women’s Rough Sleeping Census Report found that:  

  • Gender bias in existing Government counts, means that women are likely to be significantly underrepresented in rough sleeping data. 
  • In the 41 local areas that took part in the Census, 815 women were identified compared to just 189 through the Government’s Rough Sleeping Census in 2023. 
  • Women reported sleeping and sheltering in ‘hidden’ locations including A&E waiting rooms, on buses or trains, in squats, walking around all night, and staying with strangers.
  • These forms of rough sleeping are not all encompassed within the current government rough sleeping definition, meaning that women’s experiences are not recognised and their homelessness is less likely to be resolved. 
  • Women reported rough sleeping patterns which were transient and intermittent, meaning they are less likely to be identified by outreach workers tasked with verifying and supporting people sleeping rough (i.e. because they spend nights walking around rather than ‘bedding down’). 
  • A third of respondents reported that they had been in some form of homelessness accommodation prior to rough sleeping. This included council and government provided homelessness accommodation, and homelessness services such as hostels and refuges. This demonstrates that for many women, the accommodation offered to them is not resolving their homelessness, as it is either unsuitable for their needs or they have been unable to sustain it.

The 2023 census report was launched in an online webinar on 7th May 2024. You can watch the webinar recording below. Passcode: g8fS=0=&

I would roam around and travel on buses. As a female, you can’t just go the the corner of a road and sleep. It’s not safe.

Women’s Census participant


To ensure that the women in which women’s rough sleeping is counted, understood and addressed,  the report calls on Government to:  

  • Make homelessness policies gender-informed: Current rough sleeping definitions, strategies and practices are based predominantly on the experiences of men. The government should use the findings from the census to ensure its policy and guidance are gender-informed and provide an equitable response to those who are rough sleeping.
  • Resource and lead the women’s rough sleeping census: The Government should lead the women’s rough sleeping census, supporting every local authority in England to conduct it annually.
  • Conduct an equalities impact assessment: All government data collected on rough sleeping should be subject to an equalities impact assessment to ensure that data collection methods are inclusive of women and minoritised groups.

You can read the full list of recommendations here.

The client would stay in McDonalds until night buses started running, where she would sleep. The client said that indoor spaces made her feel safer as she feared harassment from men – men on the streets made her feel ‘unsafe and uncomfortable.’

Women’s Census volunteer

You can find out how the Women’s Rough Sleeping Census is conducted and how your local area can get involved in a future census here