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image: A volunteer and Anna share a moment at Glass Door's women's group

25 October 2021

Glass Door’s Women’s Group returns on Tuesday, 26 October after taking a mandatory break during the pandemic. With a growing number of women turning to Glass Door, safe spaces for women are needed now more than ever. 

On a typical Wednesday afternoon before the pandemic, a group of Glass Door caseworkers and volunteers would be busy preparing a welcoming space for homeless and vulnerably housed women. Music would be turned on, arts and crafts materials set out, hot food made ready, and pre-loved clothing would be hung on rails ready for browsing. For many who came to the women-only group, this was their only opportunity to access showers and washing facilities in a safe space.  

The Women’s Group ethos is hung in a prominent position during each session and is a regular reminder of the shared values of respect, kindness and consideration. It was written by the women guests who attended the group, and it starts with an acknowledgement: “We do not know how a person’s day has been, or what they have been through.” 

Women affected by homelessness have different needs

The women who attend do not need to register attendance or be there at a specific time. “The priority is to provide a welcoming and safe refuge,” says Glass Door’s migrant project manager Anna Yassin. 

How the space is set out has also been given special consideration:  

“We create communal areas as well as areas where women can find privacy,” explains Anna. “Some weeks a guest may choose to engage in activities and be sociable, and other weeks they may not."

By allowing women to engage in their own time and focusing on respectful relationship-building, we aim to facilitate routes out of homelessness. We acknowledge the complexities of each woman’s situation and path to recovery. 

The group was born out of this recognition that women experiencing homelessness 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, to which guests of Women’s Group contributed.  

The pandemic exacerbated the challenges. Says Anna:

Restrictions imposed by lockdown, including reduced access to specialist services, have been devastating for women already in precarious situations.

Glass Door’s statistics are telling

Women represented 19% of all Glass Door guests in 2018-2019. In 2020-2021 the percentage rose to 26%. 

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.  

In addition, women are significantly more likely to be made homeless by domestic abuse than men, and the lockdowns accelerated the imbalance of power and put additional strain on emergency accommodations and refuges. The number of calls to the national domestic abuse helpline run by Refuge rose 49% in the week prior to 15 April 2020 than the average prior to the pandemic.

“One of the hidden tragedies of lockdown has been the increase of domestic abuse,” Chancellor Rishi Sunak stated when he unveiled new measures to combat domestic violence at the Spring Budget. Yet despite recent increases in government funding to address the rise in domestic abuse, the support sector is chronically under-funded, and refuge spaces are in short supply, says Anna. 

The situation is even worse for migrant women, Anna says, referring to a recent report by Migrant Women UK

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 sees little hope for change on the horizon:  

“Even with intensive lobbying to redress this injustice via the Domestic Abuse Bill, ministers voted against a clause to allow recourse to public funds to be granted to domestic abuse survivors. The Domestic Abuse Bill, which became law on 30 April 2021, excludes migrant women from any protections.”  

We know services like Glass Door’s, which welcome all regardless of nationality or local connection, are needed now more than ever. Glass Door is here to ensure a covid-safe, warm welcome for all women guests.  

  • If you or someone you know would be interested in attending the Women's Group, confirm dates and time by calling the Glass Door support hotline: 02080166838

Download the flyer

  • Find out more about the need for open-access services: One of the women featured in Glass Door's new short film stayed in our hostel last winter because she could not find support anywhere else due to the conditions associated with her visa. 

Watch the film