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Housing and homelessness - services for women with complex needs

This theme explores the issues surrounding housing and homelessness services for women with complex needs and is being led by Expert Group member Jacqui McCluskey, Director of Policy and Communications at Homeless Link. Read the Theme Round Up here.

Although we have now moved on to other themes, you are welcome to read all the submissions below, and comment further during the campaign.

Jacqui started off by exploring what the issues are:

“Women make up around a third of the single homeless population, and in London, 11 per cent of rough sleepers. We also know that it is common for women to live in ‘hidden homeless’ situations, such as sofa surfing, staying in abusive relationships, or living in squats or crack houses.

Many issues faced by homeless people are the same regardless of gender. However, research suggests that there can be different reasons why women become homeless, and they may therefore require different support to help them rebuild their lives. A higher proportion of women than men will have had specific traumatic experiences that led to their homelessness such as domestic abuse and perhaps having their children taken into care. Consequently women who are homeless often have higher and more complex needs than men, including mental and physical health issues, substance use issues, offending histories and involvement in prostitution.

St Mungo’s peer research suggests that women want a choice of mixed or women only accommodation, with single sex provision particularly appropriate for those who have experienced abuse. There are currently only 32 emergency accommodation projects, and 27 specialist accommodation projects that are women only, and many refuges do not accommodate women with complex needs. As services close, or thresholds for accessing support are raised, vulnerable women can be left with nowhere to turn. We also hear that women struggle to find appropriate move on accommodation, young women in particular when their only option is shared mixed housing in the private rented sector.

This theme will explore how services can meet the demand for appropriate support for homeless and vulnerable women. We need your examples of good practice and innovative ideas on how we can prevent women becoming homeless and, once they become homeless, how they can be appropriately supported, including into independent housing.

We are especially keen to hear directly from women who have experienced homelessness about the gaps in provision and solutions from their experience.”

Read more from Jacqui about these issues on her blog.

Join us by showcasing your best practice and innovations

We particularly want to hear about:

  • Services that meet the complexity of needs of homeless and vulnerable women, particularly those that fill a gap in provision or cater for excluded groups.
  • Women’s homelessness prevention services
  • Move-on housing for women
  • Examples of good cross-boundary working or innovative funding for services

If you have already joined the campaign, please log in to submit evidence. If you are not already a member, please click here to register. Please submit your contributions by 31 August 2012.

See a video from Jacqui explaining a little more about the campaign.

Theme started on: 12 Jun 2012

33 Submissions

  1. Jude McKee

    St Mungo’s North London Women’s Hostel delivers a specific service for vulnerable homeless women. Staff at the 29-bed service work with local agencies to provide intensive, holistic support designed to help women make a sustainable recovery from homelessness and move towards independent living.

    The North London Women’s Hostel is designed for women with high needs, who often face a number of issues that both cause, and have been caused by, homelessness. Staff are trained to help clients address issues related to involvement in prostitution and domestic abuse; almost half of the women at the project have been involved in prostitution and 62 per cent have experienced violence or abuse from a partner or family member.

    The project has an on-site complex needs worker, who helps clients to access and sustain treatment for substance use and mental health problems.

  2. Stella Wells

    St Mungo’s South London Women’s Hostel is a 17-bed hostel for homeless women who have a substance use dependency and are involved in street prostitution. It provides a safe environment where women are supported to address any issues they may have before moving on in their recovery journey. The hostel is also a St Mungo’s Psychologically Informed Environments (PIEs) pilot project.

    South London Women’s Hostel forms the first phase of accommodation in the Chrysalis Project, which provides a structured route to independent living for women exiting homelessness and prostitution in South London.

  3. Stella Wells

    The Chrysalis Project is a joint enterprise between Commonweal Housing, St Mungo’s and Lambeth Council. It provides high-quality accommodation and support for homeless women involved in street prostitution in South London.

    1. chrysalis-project.pdf
  4. Margaret Williams

    East London Housing Partnership is establishing a project which will assist women with multiple needs such as substance misuse, physical ill health, mental health issues, surviors of abuse or involvement in prostitution who have a local connection to East London. ELHP will use a proportion of the funding made available by govenment to reduce and prevent homelessness for single people. This project will provide holistic support for rough sleeping women with multiple needs who need intensive interventions and a graduated pathway of tapering support to prepare them to live independently.

    ELHP operates a rent deposit scheme for single people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness and have a local connection to the East London sub region. This project provides a rent deposit to access accommodation in the private rented sector coupled with low level support based on the needs of the indiviual, which is deliverd by a range of experienced support providers.

    The ELHP web site is at http://www.elhp.org.uk

  5. Gill Brown

    We have been working with women with comlpex needs ince 1995. As a result we have developed a specialist schemes for

    - Women involved in street sex work, .
    - Young people who are sexually exploited
    - Women offenders or who are at risk of offending addressing their complex needs, providing community-based alternatives to impriosnment, supporting women out of prision and out of offending.

    I have attached two papers which explain our view of the relationship between street homelssness and street sex work, and our methodolgy around complex needs.

    You’ll also find them on our web site http://www.brighter-futures.org.uk

    • Kim Harper

      This was a really great event - thank you Homeless Link for organising it. Really looking forward to continuing to work with everybody as the campaign progresses. Particularly enjoyed listening to Davina, one of our Expert Group, and Kate Green MP

  6. Kim Harper

    A great article out today by Vicki Helyar-Cardwell of the Criminal Justice Alliance on issues surrounding remand - including highlighting that “more than a quarter of women rough sleepers took an “unwanted sexual partner” in order to find shelter. A safe and secure place to live is the responsibility of the department for housing not the Ministry of Justice. Too often the criminal justice system becomes the dumping ground, warehousing people for short spaces of time only to turf them back out again, after a matter of days or even hours, into an equally perilous situation.”

    Full article available here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/aug/02/vulnerable-people-remand-prison

    We’ll be exploring these issues in more detail in the Criminal Justice theme later in the campaign.

  7. James Marlow

    Launched by HRH Princess Margaret in 1996, The Marylebone Project is the largest centre in the UK dedicated to meeting the needs of homeless women. The Project is unique in so much that its core aims are to resettle women into independent housing, access education and to secure paid employment. This is reflected in our mission statement – ‘Empowering homeless women into independent living’.

    The Project has two main drivers; accommodation & education/training. This combined approach provides a very effective module of practice, and in the past ten years alone we have helped around 7,000 homeless women back into society using this innovative model.

    Every day women access the Project for a variety of reasons ranging from domestic violence, financial crisis, sexual exploitation and mental health issues. Our Homeless Women’s Centre also helps a high proportion of refugees and asylum seekers as well as women who have been evicted from their homes or escaping domestic violence.

    Our accommodation facilities are comprised of 112 fully furnished single rooms, with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. We also operate a number of specialised units providing emergency accommodation, mental health support and during 2012/13 we will be opening a domestic violence unit.
    In addition to our accommodation and the support services offered within it, we also operate the Homeless Women’s Day Centre. The Centre provides assistance and advice on housing, welfare benefits and immigration issues, and works to reduce homelessness through providing advice, education and practical support.

    • Kim Harper

      Really great to hear about the work of the Marylebone project, thank you. It sounds as though the Marylebone project is really relevant to some of the other themes that we’re going to be looking at throughout this campaign too. It would be great if you could post up a recent report about the project (perhaps an annual review?) so that we could find out a bit more about the project. Thank you, Kim

    • James Marlow

      We don’t really have a glossy annual review – more the traditional financial document – however I thought our latest newsletter might be of interest. There is lots of information about our accommodation services, Women’s Day Centre, resettlement work, social enterprise and some nice stories from some of the women who have been through the Project.

  8. Peter Middleton

    The New Horizon Youth Centre Women’s Open Space Programme works on the streets of Camden and Islington with rough sleepers under the age of 25, women, of all ages, in the sex industry and other vulnerable women affected by substance misuse along with people with multiple needs. The programme works to reduce risk taking behaviour, increase awareness of personal safety and empower female sex worker to break the cycle of sex, drugs and violence. They were presented with the Home Office-Tackling Drugs Changing Lives Award in 2009 for their work helping vulnerable women.

    They provide a resettlement drop-in at Holloway prison and escorts young people and women to appropriate services, run a Youth and Street Sex Workers Project based in Chalton Street, assist young people with housing needs and run a series of life skills programmes. They give sexual health, mental health and general health advice. They offer a twice weekly drop-in service where they run, for example, a peer education programme aimed at educating and informing the women on drugs and dangers of sex work. They witness the immediate and long term impact of their work with these vulnerable women.

    The New Horizon Youth Centre also runs a Women’s Group.


  9. Michelle Howard

    Lincolnshire is the 4th largest county in England and the 4th most sparsely populated. A county of contrasts with diverse landscapes covering coastal, rural and urban areas, Lincolnshire has concentrations of population around the city of Lincoln and market towns. Rural and coastal areas present particular challenges with the coastal areas characterised by high concentrations of deprivation and high levels of low paid seasonal work, while rural areas have low population density areas, poor road networks and transport infrastructure coupled with social isolation.

    Historically, cross authority partnership working across 2 tier authorities has proved difficult to achieve in most areas. However the seven local housing authorities in Lincolnshire have a strong track record of working collectively, together with other agencies and service users, through the well established Lincolnshire Homelessness Strategy Group (LHSG) to prevent and tackle homelessness in a coordinated way. The strong partnership in Lincolnshire has been recognised as an example of best practice by Homeless Link and dCLG. The group continues to strive for development and improvement.

    Lincolnshire has developed its homelessness strategy 2012 – 2016. Aligning local, regional and national priorities, and following with officers, partner agencies, service users, private sector landlords and members; 5 key themes were developed and later agreed at a homelessness conference:

    1. Homelessness Prevention
    2. Partnership Working
    3. Welfare and Policy Reform
    4. Young People
    5. Rough Sleeping

    The rough sleeping priority includes a project in which the 7 Lincolnshire DC’s plus Rutland CC (included in our sub regional dCLG funding arrangements), collectively commissioned a partner agency (Framework HA) to deliver a rough sleeper project, to support us to end rough sleeping in line with the Government’s vision. Since its inception in Lincolnshire, the projects ‘Street Outreach’ team has worked with 39 Females across Lincolnshire & Rutland, plus another 2 referred this week. (As a comparison, they have also worked with 180 Males). To give an idea of the work they have done with rough sleeping females, some detail of their case work is included below:

    • 32 year old female. Rough sleeping with partner in tent on golf course. Had previously been evicted from council tenancy for ASB, children taken into care. Substance misuses issues and ADHD. Referred to substance misuse services and accommodated at Framework supported housing project.
    • 28 year old female. Rough sleeping in city centre. Learning difficulties and previous domestic violence issues. Liaised with local authority, refuge accommodation found and lady transported to new accommodation.
    • 25 year old female. Rough sleeping in tent in market town. Insulin dependent diabetic. Had supported accommodation in another county but refused to return so found intentionally homeless. Referred to supported housing project. Interim accommodation provided by street outreach team due to concerns for health
    • 25 year old female. Rough sleeping on beach with partner following release from prison. On alcohol treatment requirement. Contact lost but later found to be rough sleeping again in market town. Referred and accepted into couple’s room in Framework supported accommodation project.
    • 34 year old female. Rough sleeping in tent in train station with husband and pet cat. Self referral using 0800 number set up by Framework for the project. Registered disabled, claimed to be pregnant. Outreach team took to local housing authority – accommodated under homelessness duty.
    • 51 year old Polish female. Rough sleeping in market town. Suffering domestic abuse from rough sleeping Polish male. Supported into refuge accommodation.
    • 25 year old female. Rough sleeping between towns. Offending history. Medical issues included PTSD and depression. Outreach team liaised with GO to obtain medical notes to support accommodation via local authority under homelessness duty
    • 33 year old female. Rough sleeping and sofa surfing in city centre. Housing services had previously refused due to rent arrears and not addressing alcohol issues. Outreach team supported access to substance misuse services and repayment plan established to address arrears. With that in place, accommodated by YMCA supported accommodation
    • 19 year old female. Sofa surfing / rough sleeping in city centre. Previously refused by supported housing providers as support needs deemed to be too high. With support of outreach team was accommodated by YMCA supported housing project

  10. NLWP

    Residents view:

    I became homeless because of domestic violence, walked the streets for a week and then accessed the church run Hackney Night Shelter. That was a brilliant service, really nice people. The street rescue service then managed to get me a placement at the North London Women’s Project.

    There needs to be more information available to women so they don’t have to sleep rough and they can know where to go. I think Councils are not as helpful as they should be to women who do not have dependent children. There was no way for me to find out about all the accommodation or housing schemes that I was eligible for. I think there are less single homelessness services out there for women because society perceives women as mothers and homemakers.

    I have four adult children and the youngest are twins. In the past Social Services got involved and took the twins away because of the domestic violence situation with their father. They should have moved me and the children away from their father. Social Services need a better understanding of domestic violence and a more supportive approach.

    Women at risk of homelessness just need somewhere safe quickly- experiencing violence and other issues such as alcohol use, then being on the streets makes you very vulnerable.

    Difficulties accessing benefits can make the situation much harder, for instance if you change address or move borough you can lose out on payments. The changes to the benefits system are likely to make this harder.

    I am looking at move on options at the moment and would like my own flat so that I can help with childcare for my granddaughter. It is frustrating that it is so difficult to access housing when I see homes empty and boarded up everywhere I go.

    I am going to Skills for Employment Training on Tuesdays including an IT class. I think this is a great way to help women move on from homelessness, and gets them away from the feelings of isolation, and the routine of being in a project.

  11. London Borough of Tower Hamlets’ Family Intervention Project

    Being a FIP worker can be difficult when you hear how women have suffered, but its ultimately rewarding when you are able to help them recognise their own potential and reflect on how far they have come.
    - A FIP Worker

    The London Borough of Tower Hamlets’ Family Intervention Project (FIP) is an award winning service that works with families in danger of being evicted from their homes, having their children taken into care or falling into crisis. The project offers families a ‘keyworker’ who acts as the link between them and a range of other services, helping them to regain control of their lives and develop the tools they need to solve their own problems. The model works best when families can stay together, support each other and FIP are able to intervene before their circumstances escalate into chaos.

    Since its inception in 2007 the FIP has developed partnerships with local housing providers who can identify families at risk and refer them on to the FIP to prevent homelessness. While an average intervention costs £14,000 per family, according to the DfE, this is less than the cost to a housing provider to evict a family (and saves other services money too). The financial benefits of the service make it a sustainable model.

    Although the FIP model was designed to support and strengthen families, the mother is usually the main point of contact as the lease is often in her name and she has primary care of the children. Nevertheless, all families are different and the LBTH service is flexible around who it can help and will support anyone who is in contact with the service. For example, FIP will continue to support women whose children are taken into care who usually face a withdrawal from all services and lose their housing priority.

    The Crisis website highlights how the issues homeless women face are very distinct and usually include “mental ill-health, drug and alcohol dependencies, childhoods spent in care, experiences of sexual abuse and other traumatic life experiences are all commonplace.” FIP has extensive experience with working with women facing these problems; understanding what people have been through and respecting their feelings is at the heart of the work. Every person and every family is unique and needs different support.

    Last year the service worked with a woman who had been living outside of London with her partner and their children, unfortunately the situation in the home was very difficult and her partner had become abusive and aggressive. Eventually she fled to London be near her own family but she was placed in temporary housing outside of borough away from her family. When she moved in to the accommodation she found that was in such a terrible condition, covered in bed bugs, that she was forced to leave and was then put into privately rented accommodation.

    In her new accommodation her housing benefits were paid to her directly, having never been responsible for managing the family’s finances before, and with no one to help guide her she quickly lost control of the situation and was unable to pay her rent on time. Like many other women she found herself very isolated, suffering with depression, low self-esteem and alcohol problems brought on by the stress of repeated abuse and persistent emotional and psychological trauma.

    The situation spiralled quickly and the housing provider that put her in the accommodation discovered she had not been paying her rent and alerted FIP to the arrears that were piling up. As the woman was with a private landlord she risked losing her home very quickly and she was also finding it difficult to manage the children’s behavioural problems, they themselves having witnessed domestic abuse and child protection issues had been raised. FIP had to intervene as quickly as possible, helping the woman to find legal representation, get a grip on her finances and stop evection proceedings from going ahead. Eventually the woman managed to regain some control of her life, keep her children in her care and started volunteering locally to help prepare her for work.

    The range of problems that vulnerable women face are usually so numerous and complex that they are unable to find a way out. It is with this understanding, relentless commitment and unconditional care and respect that FIP workers are able to support women, regardless of their situation, and help them to find and create safe and secure homes for themselves.

  12. SLWP

    A resident’s view on trying to access housing and move on from homelessness attached.

    1. SLWP.doc
  13. OIWG

    Comments on housing and homelessness from St Mungo’s resident’s at the Outside In Women’s Group 21/08/12

    1. OIWG210812.doc
  14. Erin McElderry

    Calvary Women’s Services is a non-profit, non-sectarian organization that provides safe housing and life-changing support services to homeless women in Washington, DC. Through our programs and services, Calvary carries out its mission to achieve “excellence in what we offer –a safe, caring place for tonight; support, hope and change for tomorrow.”

    Calvary was founded in 1983 at a time when homelessness was increasing in Washington, DC and throughout the country. Opened as a temporary overnight shelter for women in the basement of Calvary Baptist Church, Calvary has continued to grow and strengthen its programs – transforming from a single emergency shelter into an organization that offers two transitional housing programs and one permanent housing program along with comprehensive program of support services.

    “Calvary Women’s Shelter” and “Pathways” are transitional housing programs that primarily serve women who have been chronically homeless. “Sister Circle” provides permanent housing for women in recovery from addictions. In addition to meeting women’s basic needs by providing safe housing and nutritious meals, all women in our programs have access to a comprehensive array of services that empower them to move out of homelessness. The services we offer include:

    -A Life Skills Educational Program to offer women new skills and build self-esteem.
    -Personalized Case Management to provide each woman individual support.
    -Mental Health Services provided on-site by a psychiatrist and a licensed therapist to help women address histories of mental illness and/or violence and trauma.
    -Addiction Recovery Services to support women struggling with addictions to drugs and alcohol.
    -A Supported Employment Program to help formerly homeless women re-enter the job market.
    -Financial Literacy and Savings Program to assist women with income in learning to budget and other financial skills.
    -Referrals to Partner Agencies for legal services, medical services, job training, GED programs and any other services women may need.

    As an organization, Calvary Women’s Services’ notable accomplishments over the past year include:

    -Calvary provided women with over 15,000 nights of safe housing and over 20,000 nutritious meals
    -Every five days a woman moved from Calvary into her own home
    -Last year 48% of the women at Calvary were employed, compared to 20% of all people who are homeless in DC

    This year, we will relocate our transitional housing programs to a new state-of-the-art facility in Ward 8 in Southeast DC which will allow us to serve more women and expand our support services where the need is greatest in our community.


  15. Kate Akalonu

    N Street Village is a community of empowerment and recovery for homeless and low-income women in Washington, D.C. With comprehensive services addressing both emergency and long-term needs, we help women achieve personal stability and make gains in their housing, income, employment, mental health, physical health, and addiction recovery.

    N Street Village offers six shelter and housing programs for homeless and low-income women. Our shelter and housing programs require an intake process with our Case Management team, a recent TB test, staff approval, and a signed residential agreement. Below are descriptions to our six shelter and housing programs. For more information about our comprehensive services beyond housing visit http://www.nstreetvillage.org.

    Luther Place Night Shelter
    Luther Place Night Shelter provides temporary night shelter for up to 31 women. During their stay, residents focus on gaining stability and access to income and housing resources. Dormitory-style transitional shelter open from 4 p.m. - 7:30 a.m. weekdays; 4 p.m. - 9 a.m. weekends. During daytime hours, residents may choose to spend time in Bethany Women\’s Center or can use our Wellness Center and Education and Employment Center services. Each resident provided with a bed and small storage space. Dinner served nightly. Required participation in Case Management, weekly community meeting, activities, and chores.

    Recovery Housing
    In Recovery Housing, up to 21 women with co-occurring mental illness and addiction live in a therapeutic community setting and work on stabilizing their mental health and recovery with the support of our staff and each other. Long-term supportive housing for women who have mental illness and are early in their recovery from substance abuse. Priority entry is given to women who are exiting jail and/or linked to the criminal justice system. Required participation in Case Management, daily community meeting, activities, and chores. Residents must also work with one of D.C.\’s Core Service Agencies (CSA). Average stay ranges from 6 to 18 months.

    Transitional Housing
    In Transitional Housing, up to 21 women in addiction recovery work on maintaining healthy functioning and sobriety while pursuing their self-sufficiency goals. Residents live in studio or shared apartments, and pay a modest rent. Staff members help residents locate and move to independent housing. Each resident has a private bedroom.
    Monthly rent ranges between $369 and $650. Residents must be in recovery from drug or alcohol use, with minimum 6 months clean time at entry. Required participation in Case Management, monthly floor meeting, periodic apartment meetings, support group and occasional activities. Residents also provide peer leadership for women in the Recovery Housing program.

    Permanent Supportive Housing (Group Homes)
    Group Homes provides permanent supportive housing for up to 21 women with mental health-related disabilities and histories of homelessness. Residents live in studio or shared apartments, and pay a modest rent. Residents enjoy social activities and work to maintain their stability and highest quality of life. Each resident has a private bedroom.
    Monthly rent ranges between $369 and $650. Required participation in Case Management, weekly community meeting, activities, and chores. Must maintain relationship with external mental health care as prescribed.

    Miriam’s House
    Miriam’s House became a part of N Street Village in October 2011. It is located in Northwest D.C. and serves homeless women who are living with HIV and AIDS. At Miriam’s House, up to 17 women live together and work on managing and improving their physical health while addressing other self-sufficiency goals, which can include addiction recovery, mental wellness, education, employment, income, and long-term housing. Residents have access to all of the programs offered at N Street Village’s main site at 14th and N Streets NW. Each resident has a private bedroom. Monthly rent is 30% of each resident\’s income. Residents must have an HIV+ diagnosis and be connected to a primary care physician. Required participation in Case Management, periodic meetings, and activities.

    Erna’s House
    Erna’s House is N Street Village\’s newest residential program, opened in March 2012. It is located in Northwest D.C. and provides permanent supportive housing for up to 31 women with histories of chronic homelessness. Residents enjoy social activities and work to maintain their stability and highest quality of life. Each resident has a small individual apartment. Residents are required to save one-third of their monthly income in an escrow savings account. Required adherence to program rules. Access to all of N Street Village’s supportive services.

    Affordable Housing
    In addition to our program housing, we operate Eden House, a 51-unit apartment complex that provides affordable housing for low- and moderate-income individuals and families. Residents are certified annually through procedures established by HUD and the IRS. Rents are maintained at 50-75% of the prevailing market rent for the area. Please contact the Resident Manager at 202-319-9100 to discuss unit availability.

  16. Paula McGovern

    Sonas Housing Association Ltd provides housing, refuge and support support to women and children who are homeless because of domestic violence. We provide women-centred programmes to suit the needs of women in our service.

    Our programmes include:

    - A crisis refuge service (Viva House)

    - A supported housing service

    - Visiting support

    - Policy and advocacy work on the issue of domestic violence

    - Other specialist domestic violence housing support services

    - Children’s support service for children who have witnessed the effects of domestic violence

    The ultimate aim of Sonas is to ensure that women using our service are enabled to regain control of their lives and their independence. We have a children’s support service that helps children come to terms with the effects of witnessing domestic violence. We have dedicated women support workers and children support workers who work closely with the women and children during their time at Sonas. They work on issues as diverse as safety planning to supplying information on local adult education classes and sports and social clubs.


  17. Chloe Alexander

    Wish has run the Community Link project for 10 years, providing long-term holistic support to women with mental health needs when they leave prison and also with women leaving secure hospitals. More information on the project is available on our website http://womenatwish.org.uk/services/servicesforwomen/communitylink 

    The Community Link project works with women to prevent them becoming homeless, especially when they leave prison. We have found that local authorities are increasingly reluctant or unable to house very vulnerable women. As a result, women have gone on to commit offences in order to return to prison and have a roof over their head. Another aspect of our work to prevent homelessness is supporting women when their housing does not come with adequate support or does not meet their needs. For women in the community with housing problems, we support them if their tenancies are at risk, addressing such problems as relationships with neighbours, rent arrears, mental health and drug issues where we can.

    Lack of appropriate housing and homelessness is a significant problem for the women we work with. It is a common factor in the development of higher mental health needs and/or it can lead to (re)offending. We consider there to be large gaps in the provision of housing for women with mental health needs, complex needs and women leaving prison.

  18. Lauren Coldwell

    St Mungo’s Move On Training (MOT) Women’s Group, held at the South London Women’s Hostel, is a training group specifically designed to support women who are looking to move on from their hostel to independent accommodation. It is a 6 session weekly course designed and facilitated, for a maximum of 10 women, by a woman who has successfully moved on from living in St Mungo’s accommodation.

    Much of the content of the 3 hour sessions is the same as the standard St Mungo’s Move On Training, however the structure and atmosphere of the sessions is completely different, focusing on the specific needs of women. It is a safe space for discussion about personal goals and difficulties specifically relevant to its female participants, such as domestic violence, prostitution, sexual abuse and children. All the facilitators were women that had been residents at St Mungo’s which proved to create an understanding and supportive environment from those who were further along in the move on process towards those just starting out. This supportive environment has proved essential to the group’s success, as most women had identified that negative influences from peers had been holding them back. The group has a main focus on goal setting supported by a volunteer life coach. Sessions included:

    -Growing with change/getting involved in your community
    -Basic DIY and decorating
    -Money matters
    -Health and wellbeing

    One member of the group was a 24 year old woman who was soon to leave the hostel as her pregnancy meant that she needed alternative accommodation. In the course she set goals relating to childcare, accommodation and enrolling in a college course. The course, supported by talking with her key worker, helped her to take more control and a more active role in succeeding to achieve these goals. The group is looking to continue to run on a 3 month basis and to be held in an external venue in the future to further encourage women to access support outside of their projects.

  19. Jen Gordon

    The Coventry Cyrenians women’s residential service offers accommodation for 16 women in 5 shared houses across Coventry. The service is for vulnerable women who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless aged 18 and over. There are workers available during ordinary office hours but there is also an On Call service for clients for support in an emergency at any other time.

    We work with women from many different backgrounds and different circumstances to try and rebuild their lives after a period of homelessness. We can help those who have low to medium levels of support needs such as issues with drugs, mental health, or domestic violence. All the women who live with us have a dedicated support worker who works with them to complete a Support Plan. This looks at all the aspects of their lives that they may need support with. For example health, education and most importantly, housing. The ultimate aim is to help the woman to move on to somewhere more appropriate and more permanent, and to help them to develop the skills they will need to sustain the new accommodation.

    We can help with:

    -Accessing more permanent accommodation
    -Claiming benefits
    -Help with form filling
    -Budgeting and money management
    -Signposting to other agencies
    -Development of list & social skills
    -Addressing health needs
    -Accessing education, training, employment
    -Meeting of religious and cultural needs
    -Accessing leisure activities
    -Community involvement
    -Allocated trained key worker
    -Support plan to meet needs which is regularly reviewed
    -Consultation about the services they receive

    We have many other services within Coventry Cyrenians that support women who are homeless or who are at risk of homelessness such as the Rough Sleepers Team, Multiple Needs Team, Private Rented Scheme, Generic Floating Support and Mental Health Floating Support. Details for all these services and the stories of successful clients can be found on our website: http://www.coventrycyrenians.co.uk/

  20. Sarah M

    Services for women at Crisis

    Research carried out on behalf of Crisis has shown that women who are homeless are often extremely vulnerable and can take desperate measures to get a roof over their head. ‘The Hidden Truth About Homelessness’ shows that 28% of homeless women have entered an unwanted sexual partnership to gain a bed for the night, and 19% have engaged in sex work. Over half (54%) have experienced violence or abuse from a partner and rates of mental health problems were higher for women than for men.


    Crisis provides services that are specifically tailored to meet the needs of homeless women. We have a dedicated Women’s Progression Co-ordinator, specialising in helping vulnerably housed or homeless women rebuild their confidence and create opportunities for moving forward.

    At Crisis Skylight London, our Women’s Zone project uses a whole floor of the building once a week to provide a women-only space providing a range of activities for homeless and vulnerably housed women. This service was created about 6 years ago as some women felt intimidated by the male dominated environments that are often round in homelessness services. The aim of the Women’s Zone is to create a safe, friendly and inspirational space for women to engage in classes and develop their skills. The services and classes change each term depending on what the women have expressed in interest in. Coming up in September classes include self defence, fashion, storytelling, a textile project and a creative arts class.

    As well as the classes, the Women’s Progression Co-ordinator works one to one with female clients on their long and short term goals. This can be around building confidence, finding secure accommodation, getting support with benefits or immigration or engaging in further learning, such as college. Our Skylight Centres also offer mental health support and counselling for women, with female counsellors, alongside wellbeing activities such as yoga.

    We have a Crisis at Christmas Centre exclusively for vulnerable homeless women. As well as providing accommodation, hot meals, company and entertainment over the festive period, it gives women the opportunity to access health and other services and to get advice from trained professionals on a wide range of issues. We also aim to connect women to year round services to help them rebuild their lives in the New Year.

  21. NLWP

    A Resident’s View:

    ‘I put up with domestic violence for a very long time but then I made a stand and left- that is how I first ended up in London. Women can become homeless because they are strong, decide not to stand for it any more and run away. I know a woman who went back to the same man forty times and then he ended up killing her. Women need more support in their homes so the perpetrator can be arrested and they don’t have to run away.’

    ‘I have been in a refuge before and various homelessness projects. In the refuge I felt safe but another woman’s partner found her and that had a bad impact on all the women there. It turned out he lived just around the corner and knew what school her child went to so found her easily. Women need the option to move far away and change schools for their children.’

    ‘Because I have been harmed by men before, I didn’t feel that safe in mixed homelessness projects. In one it was dormitories with curtains between the beds rather than rooms. There was a separate section for women, but still there was lots of heavy drinking and fighting. It is important to have a lock on your door.’

    ‘Colchester Mind was a good service I used to go to in the day and receive food and support’. ‘I feel safe in this project (North London Women’s Project) and am a lot better now. I used to be drinking heavily, including on the street. It is quite quiet around this area which is good.’

  22. SJ 2012

    When you think about how much help there is out there which can be accessed, still you feel there is Just not enough……
    I feel there an area which can definately use more help from organisations which is that once women have moved on from the refuge and shelter homes and into their own council or private rental scheme housing, there should be more support and help provided for them so they don’t get stuck in difficult situations( horrible landlords) and end becoming homeless again.

    Sometimes we get so busy with trying to settle them in a accommodation and forget to look at the fact that what happens after it…
    So many women get taken advantage of from landlords by overcharging them or not being able to find suitable accommodations because not many landlords consider dss rentals. This is also another major reason that women end up going back to their perpetrator because trying to deal with all these issues sometimes just get a bit too much, specially for a person who is already like a half broken wall that anyone can come and tear it down, completely .


    Glasgow Simon Community works across a range of homelessness need, we have three services focused specifically on providing emergency responses and long term resettlement support for women. This post reflects the story of one woman who found herself in need.

    NR IS a 26 year old woman who has been in homelessness since leaving care at 16 years.
    She had been abandoned by her mother as a young child and had been fostered and moved approximately 13 times.
    She has had chronic alcohol problems since she was around 12 years old and had been in and out of prison throughout her adult life.
    She had been involved in several abusive and violent relationships resulting in her being hospitalised numerous times .She had been sexually assaulted three times within the last two years alone.
    NR had not stayed longer than 3 months before being asked to leave homeless services within the last 5 years due to her level of drinking and threatening behaviour.
    NR came to the service under protest as she wished to stay in the service she had been in as she could consume alcohol there but had been asked to leave due to threatening behaviour against another service user. She had at some point that week been assaulted by her partner and had extensive injuries to her face and hands.
    The initial priority was to have her injuries attended to then staff worked on accessing information on services that she may wish to receive support from if and when she was ready to. Staff then concentrated on emotionally supporting her with her trauma and devising a person centred care package that was led by NR that had a harm reduction approach to her alcohol usage. Staff worked alongside NR external support networks and advocated on her behalf at service reviews, court appearances and appointments. NR reported that in previous services staff had not been allowed to support her to appointments due to her level of drinking and aggressive behaviour.
    NR has now been supported by the service for 6 months, has reduced her alcohol use dramatically due to harm reduction approach taken to support her with her alcohol use. This has resulted in fewer aggressive tendencies and threats, improved eating and sleep pattern and fewer arrests and pending court appearances. She is also attending health appointments and has accessed Victim Support and receiving a service from Community Safety Police. She has just recently shown an interest in a college course or voluntary work. NR recognises that she may require support when she moves on from the service but is now happy to engage with this.

  24. Laura Hopper

    Open Cinema (www.opencinema.net) is a social enterprise that facilitates film clubs and filmmaking programmes for homeless, vulnerable and excluded communities. Our work is designed to engage and inspire participants, to improve hard and soft skills, and to help our members progress in their lives. In 2011, we worked with Advance Advocacy (www.advanceadvocacyproject.org.uk) at their Minerva Project in Hammersmith. Advance Minerva provides practical and emotional support to women offenders and to those who are at risk of offending due to issues including homelessness and domestic or sexual violence.

    Open Cinema programmed two twelve week seasons of films on the themes “It’s a Woman’s World” and “Believe it or Not.” The films explored issues such as women’s rights (“Made in Dagenham”), abusive relationships (“Crazy Love”), women fighting for justice (“Erin Brockovich”) and the feminine spirit (“A League of Their Own”). Post-film discussions were led by Open Cinema film club coordinator and professional filmmaker Jennifer Fearnley. Jennifer said, “All the women seemed to be really appreciative of the film club, and having a safe and welcoming space to watch films and discuss issues raised by the films.” Open Cinema also arranged for inspiring guests to visit the film club. Film editor Lisa Gunning came to the screening of “Nowhere Boy” to discuss her career and her work on the film. Filmmaker Anna Edwards also visited the film club and presented some short films. One film club member said, “Great discussions and it is nice to watch films with women where you are in a cosy environment.” Another reported, “It’s really nice to be around other women and do something that takes your mind off other things.” Still another said, “these are the kinds of people I want to spend my time with now”. Maura Jackson, then Chief Executive of Advance, reported that through the project, participants had changed their view of Minerva from being a resource for information to a community centre where they develop relationships.

    In between the two film seasons, 8 women completed a six-week filmmaking programme under the tutelage of Jennifer. In the workshops, the women discussed and developed their story ideas, improving their self-awareness and communication skills and stimulating their creativity. Participants also received an introduction to filmmaking equipment and learned basic filmmaking skills such as framing and focusing. They actively participated in the shooting and editing of the film. The resulting short film, “Journeys,” explores the stories of four of the women, told in their own voices, and their paths through issues ranging from agoraphobia to domestic violence. The film was screened in June 2012 in the collaborative filmmaking section at the Open City Docs Fest at University College London (UCL). Festival participants had the opportunity to meet one of the women featured in the film during the post film Q&A.

    Open Cinema believes that films and filmmaking offer therapeutic benefits to women who are experiencing multiple and complex needs. Canadian psychologist L. Lauren Johnson has said that filmmaking “allows people to make sense of events that may have been experienced without words, or that were felt too deeply in the body to fully work through with talk therapy alone.” We look forward to expanding on our work at Minerva Project with other women-focused support providers.

  25. Tracey Chandler

    I hope some of the contents of a report I co-authored are of use. We worked with 20 participants who represented the ‘revolving door’ homeless client group in Brighton, 10 of which were women. We included women’s experiences equally and focused in certain aspects that differed from men’s. I have more research material in their voices as well as what is in the report as we had such a lot that we could not include it all. Sadly nothing has changed for women since the report was published 2008, and perhaps has worsened.

    1. revolving_door.pdf

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