Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Upfront: 'Shattered lives'

March 12 2014
Women who are homeless need better access to support, says report

A new report by a leading homeless charity will recommend that women who are homeless have better access to support to address complicated and intertwined needs.

The final report from St Mungo's 18-month long Rebuilding Shattered Lives campaign, which is to be released ahead of International Women's Day this month, will suggest that more support should be aimed at families and children to help reduce the number of women who become homeless in adulthood.

The campaign was launched in 2012 in response to the charity's concern that women who are homeless are amongst the most marginalised people in society.

Women often find themselves homeless after lengthy experiences of violence and abuse. Yet though their need for support is often different from men, St Mungo's claims that they are expected to fit into services designed by and for men.

Over the 18-month period, different themes – including substance use, childhood trauma, skills and employment and mental health – were examined by experts, with over 200 contributions made by those with experience of the issues.

The charity said the overwhelming finding was that women who are homeless have a number of intensive, related and exceptionally complex problems that contribute to their homelessness and make recovery difficult.

It also found that women often enter homeless services later than men. Women, they said, often felt ashamed and judged when seeking help.

Esther Sample, St Mungo’s Women’s Strategy Coordinator, said: “The damaging impact of women’s homelessness, on women themselves, their families and on society, is significant, yet the needs of women who are homeless are often overlooked.

“Homelessness is on the rise and that includes women’s homelessness. The Rebuilding Shattered Lives contributions show that women’s histories are full of missed opportunities for them to get the right help at the right time."

Just over a quarter – 26 per cent – of people who accessed homelessness services last year were women, while 786 women were recorded sleeping rough in London in 2012/13, 12 per cent of the total number.

However, charities such as St Mungo's believe the numbers are really much higher and say many women do not show up on the stats and live outside mainstream support.