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This International Women's Day, don't forget about women facing homelessness.

Content warning: this article contains mention of rape, sexual abuse and gender-based violence

We've seen firsthand that the numbers of women who need our support are on the rise; women represented 19% of all Glass Door guests in 2018-2019, and in 2020-2021, the percentage rose to 26%. Last year, we supported 390 women.

Women are significantly more likely to be made homeless because of domestic abuse than men, and lockdowns heightened the imbalance of power and put additional strain on emergency accommodations and refuges. The number of calls to Refuge's national domestic abuse helpline rose by 49% in the week prior to 15 April 2020.

Women experiencing homelessness also have unique needs and often more complications surrounding their situation. 74% of women experiencing homelessness have physical health problems and 64% experience mental health issues, according to research published by Groundswell in 2020.

Being homeless makes you more vulnerable, especially as a woman. You are living without knowing what your next step can be. You can be mugged, you can be raped, you can be forced to do things you don't want to do. You close your eyes because you are doing things you don't want to do.

- Female former guest

More than a quarter of all our guests cited loss of their job as a reason for their homelessness this past year. Women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic due to their prevalence in industries harder hit by the closing of hospitality jobs and people who are cleaners and carers.  

Women and girls who are refugees are also impacted disproportionately and differently by the trauma of war. Women and girls face gendered issues at every point of their migrant experience, and are at risk of sexual violence, discrimination and human trafficking. 

For migrant women with no recourse to public funds, their situation is particularly dire. They are excluded from access to statutory domestic abuse services and have no protections against detention and deportation if they report their abuser to the police.

- Anna, Migrant Project Manager

Shining a light on hidden homelessness

Women who experience homelessness are also harder to reach and therefore access support, and consequently represent a proportion of the hidden homeless population. To protect themselves, they will more likely put themselves in situations where they are vulnerable to exploitation rather than bed down on the streets, or sleep in well-hidden or isolated locations such as private gardens in bushes, or ride night buses all night. Other women will sofa-surf or put themselves in unsafe situations, such as exchanging sex for somewhere to stay. 

Many of us in this room right now would risk death without this shelter.

- Female former guest

Glass Door's Women's Group

The lack of dedicated spaces for women among the services available for people facing homelessness brings even more isolation. This is why we launched the Women's Group.

Our Guest Services Assistant, Ophelia, explains:

“Glass Door runs weekly sessions for homeless and vulnerably housed guests who self-identify as women. We aim to provide a safe space for women to access casework, hot food, clothes, toiletries, and showers.

Most homelessness services tend to support many more homeless men than women, due to the demand.  As a result, women can often feel overwhelmed and triggered in such spaces, especially if they have past experiences of domestic and gender-based violence that involved men.

This women-only group provides a safe space for guests to access the support and resources they want and need while socialising with other women in a trauma-informed environment. I hope that this space will develop to the point where women gain confidence in themselves, and feel they are being prioritised, heard, and seen.”

In the room I found everything like pyjamas, all the things a woman needed, they show me where I can wash my clothes and take a shower. For two weeks [before arriving] I didn’t take a shower. I slept for two days non-stop.

- Female former guest

If you're able to, please donate to Glass Door so we can continue to provide essential support to women facing homelessness.