The current restrictions on movement mean many vulnerable people are trapped indoors with their abusers. For some, fleeing home with no plan and nowhere to go is, devastatingly, the only option.
The impact of increased domestic abuse has had a knock-on effect and West Yorkshire homelessness charity, Simon on the Streets which provides outreach support to rough sleepers and vulnerable people has seen an increase in people taking to the streets when fleeing domestic abuse. The charity has supported 65 individuals who have experienced domestic abuse last year, across Leeds, Bradford and Kirklees.
Abi (real name not used) left her hometown, friends and family with nothing but the clothes on her back when she made the decision to escape domestic abuse in August. Her ex-partner had control of her finances, so arriving in a new city completely alone with no money, she undertook survival sex in order to secure a bed for the night.
After making acquaintances, she was sometimes able to stay on other people’s floors or sofas, but the places she stayed were often small and overcrowded and lacked any privacy. When Simon on the Streets found her, she described her experience as ‘soul destroying’.
Sadly, after providing two nights in a B&B, the charity lost contact with Abi whilst trying to secure emergency accommodation for her.
Sarah, an Outreach Worker at Simon on the Streets described her encounter with Abi:
Abi had no local connection to the area, which unfortunately made her ineligible for housing support. For those with no local connection to an area, the main goal is to reconnect them to their hometown.
In this case that would have been detrimental to Abi’s safety. Abi was terrified she would be made to return and unfortunately was pushed underground and is now part of a hidden homeless population. We remain hopeful we will find her again. The no local connection rule both excludes and discriminates against very vulnerable people.
Tracey, Outreach Worker at Simon on the Streets commented:
The pandemic has shown that homelessness is not just about rough sleepers we see on the streets. We have encountered people who are working, have lost their jobs or homes and cannot stay with family, as well as people who have been sofa surfing.
Many have not known who to turn to in a crisis as many services have shut or switched to phone-only support. Simon on the Streets has been on the frontline throughout the pandemic offering help and support to anyone and everyone as we have been one of the few services still out there.
If anyone in Leeds, Bradford or Kirklees is facing homelessness support is available at https://simononthestreets.co.uk/get-support. Nationally there is support available at https://england.shelter.org.uk/get_help
Image credit: Simon on the Streets