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To mark International Women’s Day 2024, Anna Yassin, our Migrant Services & Advocacy Manager, reflects on the development of women’s services at Glass Door.

8th March 2024

Glass Door Women’s Group 

We acknowledge the fact we do not know how a person's day has been or what they have been through. We aim to: 

  • Give each other space 
  • Be encouraging in future plans 
  • Treat each other as we would like to be treated – with peace, respect, consideration and understanding 
  • Be a good listener. 

The above quote is an extract from the ‘Women’s Group Ethos’. It was drafted collaboratively by the women who attended Glass Door Women’s Group and proudly displayed at the weekly sessions.  

Glass Door’s Women’s Group closed in December 2023 having operated for seven years as a sanctuary for self-identifying women who were homeless or vulnerably housed.

The provision of a trauma and gender informed space, where women felt safe and could engage in their own time and on their own terms, proved transformative.

The relationships and community that were forged supported women to disclose historical traumas, access and engage with specialist services and make courageous and life-changing choices and decisions.  

Despite the closure, the learning from Women’s Group and the principles of good practice reflected in the ‘Women’s Group Ethos’ have informed the development of gender and trauma informed practice across Glass Door. The systemic unmet needs of women experiencing homelessness, observed by Caseworkers each week at Women’s Group, was a precursor to Glass Door’s women’s night shelter, open for the first time this winter. 

Women’s Winter Night Shelter 

The women’s shelter is based on the same model as our men’s and mixed gender night shelter circuits – 35 guests are hosted by a different church each night of the week; they are welcomed by Glass Door staff and church volunteers who serve a hot meal before guests’ bed down. The shelter is open to self-identifying women and is trans inclusive. Last winter we had only 12 spaces available for women in our shelters each night.

So far this winter, 192 women have stayed in our shelters, including 177 in our women’s shelter. 

The increase in demand for women’s spaces has been a consistent trend year on year. During the pandemic there was a sharp rise in the numbers of women experiencing domestic abuse and subsequent homelessness. This winter, changes to asylum cessation policy, which we talked about in the Big Issue in January, posed an unprecedented challenge across all our services, with demand for night shelter spaces at an all-time high.  

As of March, 38 women have moved on from the night shelters into accommodation. This is despite the significant challenges posed by restrictions on Local Housing Allowance for under 35 year olds, and the diminished options of the contracted rental sector.  


Women’s Drop-In Casework Service 

Alongside the night shelter we are operating a weekly women’s drop-in, specifically for guests to meet with Caseworkers. On our trained and experienced team, we have our Multiple Disadvantage Caseworker and Immigration Project Caseworker to provide specialist advice and support.  

Effectively responding to women experiencing multiple disadvantage continues to be a challenge. Many women we support have complex needs and, in these cases, a coordinated response is often required.

Unfortunately, relevant statutory services tend to be over-stretched, underfunded, and slow to respond to requests for intervention. 

The continuous assault of hostile environment policies in parallel with a chronically eroded legal aid advice sector has further entrenched destitution and alienation amongst migrant populations. Victims and survivors of domestic abuse who have no recourse to public funds are particularly vulnerable since their ability to access safety and justice is compromised by their insecure status. 

London Women’s Rough Sleeping Census  

The first London Women’s Rough Sleeping Census occurred in 2022.  Glass Door contributed to its design and delivery through membership of London Councils’ Life Off the Streets women’s rough sleeping workstream that was tasked with organising the census The census aimed to bring visibility to women who are under-represented in homelessness statistics and who’s needs are subsequently excluded from policy and commissioned services 

The 2022 census report Making Women Count’ found that women’s rough sleeping is “often transient, intermittent and hidden”, and that women experience homelessness differently to men. The second Census occurred in October 2023 and Glass Door continues to be a committed and enthusiastic coalition partner. 

At Glass Door we acknowledge that women experience homelessness differently to men.

‘Ending rough sleeping for good,’ as set out in government strategy, will not happen unless the specific and diverse needs of women experiencing homelessness are met. Guided by the principles of equity, our multiple specialisms - open-access shelter provision, migrant homelessness, housing, and casework - are tailored to support each individual guest on their route out of homelessness.