Women experiencing homelessness are the hidden homeless. With the average age of death for women who are rough sleepers being 43 years of age (Quality Care Commission, Guidance for Providers December 2022) The numbers of females who are rough sleeping is reported to be lower than that of men. Women are also documented to experience higher rates of mental health issues; they are more likely to have experienced traumas including domestic abuse and self-harm than men and more research must be conducted to identify women experiencing homelessness and their experience.
For the first time ever a report evaluating female rough sleepers has been released, developing a new way of counting female rough sleepers and understanding why they are missed from traditional rough sleeping reports. The report named, Making women count: Designing and conducting a rough sleeping census for women in London by the Single Homelessness Project (SHP).
The report revealed that 85% of the respondents (out of the 154 women who took part in the census) reported having slept rough in the last 3 months, whilst 9.7% of respondents provided a response of 'other', which typically included reports of sofa surfing, staying in hostels, or with friends or relatives.
Women's experiences of homelessness can differ from men's because the places they sleep rough may not always be visible directly on the streets.
This research was able to discover that, 53.9% of women reported having spent the previous night either on the street, rough sleeping elsewhere, or in a bus or train station. And 46% of the respondents reported that the night before the census they stayed in places such as hostels, emergency accommodation, or with friends or relatives. This suggests that some women are oscillating between periods of rough sleeping interspersed with staying in a variety of other places. Sadly, the most common reason for this is because Women often don’t feel safe in mixed hostels or are known to experience high levels of domestic and sexual violence and will sometimes flee certain types of accommodation, only to continue to be at risk of harm on the street or in public places.
This could impact the likelihood of women being seen, counted, and verified by outreach teams and their ability to be eligible for support.
Further key findings revealed that only 7% of the respondents reported accessing domestic or sexual violence services, 20% accessed the job centre and a further 14% of respondents reported not accessing any services at all. These statistics indicate that there is more work to do to engage and support women who sleep rough more frequently who might require these types of services.
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So, the next time you're looking for a cup of coffee, choose Change Please Coffee and fuel the change!