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New strategy launched to end women’s homelessness

The Strategy for Ending Women’s Homelessness in London, which launched on 11 March, calls for women’s needs and experiences to be considered right from the start when planning, commissioning and delivering services. 

The strategy is based on evidence gathered by the Women’s Development Unit (WDU), a partnership between The Connection at St Martin’s, a charity supporting people who sleep rough and experiencing homelessness in Central London, and Solace Women’s Aid, a London service for women experiencing violence. 

Recent statistics suggest that 16% of people sleeping rough in London are women and this latest evidence found that women experiencing homelessness are going unrecognised and unsupported. The scale of the problem has also been underestimated. In particular it demonstrated that homelessness is dangerous for everyone, but especially for women. 

Almost all women experiencing homelessness will have experienced violence or abuse, both as a cause and consequence of homelessness.  As a result of this, if women do end up on the street, they will stay on the move at night and are often not included in street counts or identified by outreach teams which offer help.

In addition, women experiencing homelessness are among the most marginalised and stigmatised in society. They are more likely to have mental health problems and more complex levels of need than men and less consideration is given to women’s specific needs, such as pregnancy.

The Strategy for Ending Women’s Homelessness aims to address these issues and to improve services for women by making women’s homelessness a priority with a gender-informed approach to strategies and policies which specifically address women’s experiences. It also aims to improve data collection to capture the experiences of women who are more ‘hidden homeless’ and increase and improve services for women. 

Pam Orchard, The Connection’s CEO, said: 

“Official statistics tell us that women now make up more than one in five of rough sleepers in Westminster, which is where our services are based. On top of that, we know there are women who are overlooked, hidden or labelled hard to reach. This new strategy created through The Women’s Development Unit will ensure that women get better help through specialist and mainstream services. By doing this, we will meet the needs of women and in turn, end homelessness and rough sleeping for everyone.”

Judith Banjoko, CEO of Solace Women’s Aid, said: 

“Women’s homelessness is gaining attention and, as we saw with the new Domestic Abuse Act in 2021, we can make real change. We strongly believe that the answers exist and are in many cases being demonstrated by expert small-scale projects pushing for innovation. With commitment to and an understanding of women’s homelessness, we believe that together we can make an immediate difference to women in London, and reach the goal of ending homelessness for everyone, whilst ensuring that the crucial specialist wrap-around support is there for those women with multiple disadvantages.”

For more information about the Strategy for Ending Women’s Homelessness, visit connection-at-stmartins.org.uk.