Solace and the Connection at St Martin's join forces to tackle the response to women's homelessness and rough sleeping.

The Women’s Development Unit will work to develop a Pan-London women’s homelessness strategy, drawing together the knowledge and expertise of organisations across the capital.  

Domestic abuse is the third most common cause of homelessness and sleeping rough (i). Women experiencing homelessness and multiple disadvantage are underrepresented in homelessness services, and vital Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) services are often inaccessible - only 7% of homeless services are specifically for women, and 60% of areas in England and 90% in Wales have no services specifically for women (ii).  

The Women’s Development Unit, a new partnership project between Solace and The Connection at St Martin’s, will work to develop a Pan-London women’s homelessness strategy drawing together the knowledge and expertise of organisations across the capital.  

The Unit will work with women, services, and stakeholders across the capital to understand the barriers and challenges women experiencing homelessness face every day. We will gather and explore the evidence, conduct surveys, interviews and focus groups with frontline workers, service providers and women with lived experience.  

Pam Orchard, CEO of The Connection at St Martin’s said: 

“Sleeping rough is incredibly dangerous for anyone. For women, however, it can be particularly tough. We know that women on the streets are more likely to be threatened, attacked or exploited than men. Women often remain in damaging relationships rather than face sleeping rough.  

We also know that women are underrepresented in rough sleeping support services. Anecdotal evidence suggests that women avoid these services because they are perceived as a ‘male space’.  Services need to change so that they can meet the needs of women who are sleeping on the streets or at risk of doing so. This is why we’re so excited to be working with Solace on the new Women’s Development Unit. 

Fiona Dwyer, CEO at Solace said: 

“Women with experiences of homelessness have disproportionately suffered violence and abuse in their lives and often continue to do so whilst on the streets. However, homelessness services often do not cater to the needs of women and are not able to support them with lasting the trauma related to this abuse. At the same time, organisations supporting survivors of violence against women and girls can also feel less able to fully address the multiple and complex needs of homeless women.  

Women should be offered access to holistic support services which are designed for their needs and help them rebuild their lives from abuse and support them out of homelessness. By working together with The Connection at St Martin’s we want to ensure that services understand the experiences of women and can meet the needs and risks that are a day-to-day reality for homeless women in London.” 

The Women’s Development Unit is funded by The London Community Foundation and ESI The Homeless Fund. This is a collaborative project aiming to draw together the knowledge and expertise of organisations across London with women experiencing homelessness. If you would like to talk to us about the project, please get in touch at [email protected] 

References:

(i) Gov UK, Domestic Abuse Bill Policy paper: Homelessness (2020) 

(ii) The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) Rough Sleeping Strategy (2018)