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Project LIGHT: Women in the Homeless Community

Team 1

Last week's theme for the resource team was women in the homeless community. The resource team split into 2 groups, each making a poster on different issues that homeless women face.

Team 1 was led by Arran and they decided to specifically make a resource on sexual violence against homeless women. Arran went about finding general information and statistics on the abuse homeless women receive and their difficulties in reporting it and finding help. Lauren found contact details and phone numbers for charities that dealt with sexual violence to the homeless, Shayna researched campaigns that aim to support homeless women and prevent them from being attacked, and Christina designed the poster.

The poster turned out great with a number of different statistics, helplines for rape and abuse and court guidelines for how to approach reporting any abuse. We kept it short and concise with not too much information on the poster to ensure that it wasn’t overcrowded, and only the essential information was included to make it more likely to be noticed and read.

What we learnt

This week we learnt a lot about the challenges faced by homeless women specifically. We learned several concerning statistics, including:

  • A survey by Crisis found that 3 in 10 women had experienced sexual violence.

  • Another survey showed that 28% of the women they interviewed had formed an unwanted sexual relationship to gain a roof over their head, and another 20% had turned to prostitution to raise money for accommodation.

  • Homeless women are also more likely to be physically attacked than men, with nearly six in 10 reporting having been intimidated or threatened with violence while on the streets compared to four out of 10 men.

Despite these concerning figures, we were able to identify numerous ways the issue can be helped. A main source of support for women facing these issues is women only shelters. This ensures rough sleepers have a safe space to enjoy, free from some of the challenges they face on the streets. Moreover, there are numerous support groups running throughout the country aimed at helping these women. It can be hard to help these women because they don’t often access surfaces, which highlights the importance of street outreach.

What we enjoyed

While this topic was particularly heavy and seeing the statistics around women being sexually assaulted was difficult, one element I enjoyed was seeing everything that is being done to try and tackle this, and the amount of help and resources out there to help those who have been the victims of an assault. It was also nice to be able to bring awareness to these charities and resources knowing that they could help someone that is struggling with the aftermath of an assault.

As a team it is nice to see an improvement in our communication with one and other, with it becoming more efficient and the resources we create becoming more efficient and targeted than previous weeks.

Challenges we faced

Like with the mental health project, we faced the challenge of limiting our scope of research. We were forced to cut out some information we gathered as there was such a large breadth on the topic of sexual abuse. Though it was all relevant and important, we chose to include some statistics and limit our contact information to specific helplines and the website link for victims and witnesses interested in bringing a claim.

Another challenge faced was how to attract the attention of vulnerable women who may need the help. Being in this state, the victims may feel embarrassed, threatened or too scared to seek help on their own. So, creating something that would capture their attention easily and quickly was essential. With hopes of doing this, we placed a women’s symbol clearly on the poster to clarify that the information is aimed towards women. We also chose to use the colour teal as it is the sexual assault awareness colour. While it would have been more convenient to make a pamphlet with the ability to display more information, we believe that for someone in this vulnerable position, a poster would be something safer and easier for them to access.

Team 2

This week’s theme was ‘Women in the Homeless Community’ and the impact that violence and abuse has on women’s homelessness. The resource team was led by Stephanie, with the help of Michael, Diego and Megan. The team created a total of three posters surrounding homeless women. The first one was addressed to the general public which provided information on the impact of violence on homeless women and women’s refuge. The remaining two posters were sent to local charities aimed at helping women fleeing violence. The first poster was created on Women’s Aid Leicestershire charity and their refugee accommodation service. The third poster was created on Action Homeless which discussed the Bridge House Project.

How does violence/abuse affect women’s homelessness?

Women who are fleeing violence or abuse are at a significantly higher risk of becoming homeless. These vulnerable women who escape abusive environments are in need of a safe and secure shelter. It has been reported that 54% of St Mungo’s female clients that slept rough have experienced domestic abuse, and 33% stated that the abuse contributed to their homelessness. This goes to show that violence and abuse are the primary causes of homelessness for women. In addition, homeless women are more likely to experience violence on the streets, including physical and sexual abuse. This is because many of them engage in prostitution or form unwanted sexual relationships in order to avoid being homeless or to raise sufficient money for shelter.

Women’s Refuge Housing Services

A refuge is a safe house for women to escape domestic abuse. Refuges can provide spaces for women on their own, or with children. You don't need to have experienced physical abuse to stay in a refuge. Contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline to discuss your options at 0808 2000 247; a free 24 hour helpline. You can also find a refuge using the Women's Aid directory.

Most refuges are ordinary houses although some are larger purpose built buildings. In most you get a room of your own or to share with your children. You may have to share a living room, kitchen, and bathroom. You need to cook for yourself and can come and go as you please. Trained female staff can give you emotional and practical support.

You usually sign a licence agreement which contains the refuge rules. Most refuges don't allow male children over a certain age and pets - you can look into pet fostering schemes. Refuges usually keep their address secret to protect people living there. You can usually stay as long as you need to – though some refuges have a time limit. Staff will help you to move you back to a safe settled home when you leave the refuge.

Rent varies but if you can get housing benefit this covers all or some of the cost. Staff at the refuge can help you to apply. If you have to pay rent on the home you've left, you can usually get benefits for both homes for up to 52 weeks as long as you intend to return to your old home.

Who are ‘Women’s Aid Leicestershire’?

  • Women’s Aid Leicestershire is a service provider that supports victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence. This organisation has been providing services aimed at empowering women to move on with their lives since 1974. The charity offers a range of support services to help women facing stalking and harassment, as well as provide specialist confidential advice and advocacy for victims of abuse. Another service that they provide is secure, temporary refugee accommodation for women fleeing abuse along with practical and emotional support to ease the transition.

Who are ‘Action Homeless’?

Action Homeless is a local charity that supports people who have been affected by homelessness. The charity has been helping individuals in Leicester for over 40 years by providing emergency housing and specialist support. The Bridge House Project is one of their crisis accommodation projects that offers safe accommodation for up to 7 women, including their children, who are fleeing abuse. There are also counselling services available to help these vulnerable women rebuild their lives and maintain their independence.

What we learnt

  • We learnt how women are acutely impacted by homelessness and the resources available to help support their specific needs. Refuges for example offer emotional and practical support, while providing safe accommodation to women and their children.

  • While researching women in the homeless community, we discovered many organisations that aim to improve the lives of vulnerable women who are affected by violence and abuse. Not only do these organisations raise awareness on violence against women, but they also offer safe and secure services for women feeling violence. The refuge accommodation that they provide is crucial to ensure that vulnerable women who are at risk of homelessness have a safe place to live.

What we enjoyed

  • “I enjoyed researching and learning about the support systems in place that provide women suffering from domestic abuse with safe accommodation. Raising awareness and creating content that provides useful information to those who need it is incredibly rewarding.” - Michael

  • “I enjoyed creating resources on the leading cause of women’s homelessness, as well as informing the general public on what homeless women go through. The most enjoyable part was learning about the wide range of support available that help women who are at risk of becoming homeless.” - Stephanie

  • “It was interesting and enlightening to learn about the different struggles that homeless women face and the alarming statistics linked to domestic abuse and homelessness. It is therefore very important to create content like this which may help raise awareness.” - Diego

Challenges we faced

  • For this week’s topic, the main challenge that we faced was condensing the information related to women’s homelessness and violence in order to create informative and eye-catching resources. In doing so, we had to reduce te amount of information that was available to prevent excess clutter on the posters. For this reason, we have created three separate posters in order to ensure that both important and relevant information was included.

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