In the days following World Homeless Day 2017, we hear about what Standing Together is doing to help address rising homelessness in the UK.
Louisa Steele is Housing First and Homelessness Coordinator at Standing Together Against Domestic Violence
13 October 2017
Women are more likely than men to be part of the ‘hidden’ homeless population – sofa surfing, or doing whatever else it takes to stay off the streets. So although they are fewer in number, they come to the attention of services later and their needs tend to be higher. Experiences of childhood trauma, violence and abuse, poor mental and physical health, substance use, separation from children, and encounters with the criminal justice system add up to make life really tough.
When it comes to access to housing, it’s these women who are at the bottom of the pile. Not considered a priority for social housing and with needs that are too high to secure or maintain a place in a refuge, these women are often forced to choose between hostel accommodation or the street.
Supported housing has come a long way but it’s still part of a system primarily designed around the needs of homeless men. Often, it can’t provide the stable environment and specialist support that women need to build their confidence, stay safe, and begin their recovery.
At Standing Together Against Domestic Violence we support organisations to tackle domestic violence and abuse together. Housing plays a key part and now more than ever we must work together to keep survivors of abuse safe. Our new homelessness and housing first project – which focuses on women with multiple and complex needs who are experiencing domestic abuse – is a great example of this.
Working with Westminster Council, specialist domestic violence organisation, Advance and funded by DCLG, we’re running a one-year project to improve access to housing for homeless women experiencing multiple disadvantages and domestic abuse. The project has three strands – the first is a new night shelter for women who have experienced violence or abuse and who are sleeping rough. This service is being delivered by St Mungo's.
Advance will deliver the second strand of the project, trialling the Housing First approach with this group of women, including a specialist, domestic abuse risk management element. Finally, as the Housing First and Homelessness Coordinator at Standing Together, I’ll use the learnings from these projects to deliver training to other homelessness providers and gain support for the work from social landlords.
We’re really excited about piloting this approach for women in the tri-borough region of London. The project is the first of its kind in the country and we’re delighted to have some large housing associations on board, including Peabody and L&Q. Stable, secure and independent tenancies, backed up by wraparound, intensive support from specialist Advance workers will help provide the stability these women need to rebuild their lives.
Housing and safety are basic human rights and we hope this project makes the difference for women experiencing homelessness, domestic abuse and multiple disadvantage.
Over the coming months the National Housing Federation will be working with our members to develop our sector’s offer on homelessness in the context of the current crisis. More info to follow.