Better support needed for women made homeless because of violence

4 August 2021
CHI Women, Violence and Homelessness

One in five women who suffer violence will also experience homelessness compared to just one in a hundred who have no experience of violence, according to national data, and yet homelessness services do not currently reflect these women’s needs. 

Based on research published last week, the Centre for Homelessness Impact (CHI) and the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) call for responses to women experiencing homelessness and violence, to be “gender informed.”  This means that services provided by local councils and other bodies should be better tailored to meet the distinct experiences faced by women, such as trauma and anxiety. 

In some cases, women who suffer violence are still being sent to mixed-sex accommodation, where they can feel unsafe and become retraumatised.  Women say that they sometimes sleep rough or in other unsafe situations if they cannot access single-sex housing.   

Viki Fox, Coordinator of Private Rental Services at Cyrenians, spoke on Friday on Good Morning Scotland on her own experience at the intersection of homelessness and gendered violence, and the need for trauma-aware and gender specific support services in the sector. Listen to Viki's interview here.

Dr Kesia Reeve, principal research fellow at CRESR, said: “It’s wrong that the woman experiencing violence rather than the perpetrator of the violence, is usually the one who has to leave the home, and is therefore at increased risk of becoming homeless. It’s also important to support women who have suffered historic experiences of violence, as well as those escaping it immediately.  There’s currently not enough understanding of the needs associated with the trauma suffered by women in these situations.” 

In other cases, the full significance of the impact of violence as a factor will often be missed as a reason for a woman becoming homeless as services focus instead on trauma responses such as drug or alcohol use. 

Dr Lígia Teixeira, chief executive of the CHI said: “If we are to end homelessness for good we must pay attention to what the evidence is telling us. In this case, the report includes testimonies from 14 women who experienced homelessness and violence and who describe how difficult they found it to get support suited to their needs. There is a strong link between violence and homelessness amongst women, yet this is often not talked about. 

It is important that both policy and practice improve where these fall short in meeting the needs of women, including the needs of those with historic experiences of violence who are still living with its consequences.” 

“There is a strong link between violence and homelessness amongst women, yet this is often not talked about. " 

Core recommendations the report makes

  • A more inclusive, housing-led response to women who have experienced homelessness and violence or at risk of doing so, that provides access to secure accommodation, through rapid rehousing or help to remain in their current home.  This would be accompanied by appropriate support. 
  • The increased provision of women-only temporary accommodation 
  • New solutions to be developed and tested that support women experiencing violence to remain in their homes, while the perpetrator is moved away. 
  • Further development and testing of current innovative interventions, such as flexible financial support (currently a component of a small number of Housing First programmes), Sanctuary Schemes that provide additional security, and Making Safe, a multi-agency initiative in England that keeps women in their home and rehouses perpetrators for up to two years, providing tailored support to all parties.
  • The development of a clear set of industry guidelines, akin to the NICE principles of care, for gender informed care, that are readily translatable into practice, and to which commissioned homelessness services are required to adhere.
  • A shift of policy focus to preventative, rather than crisis-response approaches, including training and screening programmes, such as the Ask and Act programme that is active in Wales.