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22 June 2024

Anna Yassin 

Migrant Services and Advocacy Manager 

Women’s experiences of rough sleeping are often ‘hidden, transient and intermittent’; women are underrepresented in homelessness statistics since they are less inclined to visibly sleep rough for reasons of safety, out of sight of outreach teams and offers of assistance. 

These findings from the pilot of the first women’s rough sleeping census in 2022 are echoed in a new report, ‘London Women’s Rough Sleeping Census 2023’.

The 2023 census occurred over 1 week between 25th September and 1st October, and along with London boroughs, homelessness outreach teams, practitioners and volunteers, Glass Door conducted surveys with women about their experiences of rough sleeping. The next census will occur later this year, and we encourage further cross sector participation.

The aim of the pilot in 2022 was to generate more insightful data on women’s homelessness that is not being captured by existing methodologies. The new report highlights the continuing disparity between official statistics of women’s homelessness and the reality of their experiences.

At Glass Door we work with women who face multiple barriers on their route out of homelessness including exclusion from services on the basis that they have not been ‘verified’ as a rough sleeper; of the 226 women who stayed at Glass Door winter night shelters between November 2023 and April 2024, only 11.5% were recorded on CHAIN (Combined Homelessness and Information Network), a multi-agency database recording information about people sleeping rough in London.

On 29th May we co-signed a letter to Felicity Buchan MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Housing and Homelessness, calling for government action and leadership on ending women’s homelessness, and to support the following recommendations based on the report’ findings:

  • Make homelessness policies gender-informed,  
  • Resource and lead the women’s rough sleeping census,
  • Conduct an equalities impact assessment. 

The inequity in current rough sleeping definitions, strategies, and homelessness data collection disadvantage women. ‘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.

The report concludes: ‘Women’s rough sleeping is a complex societal problem which goes beyond rough sleeping and homelessness – it is a safeguarding and domestic abuse issue, a critical health issue, and as the census has demonstrated in relation to existing practices, an equalities issue.’