Groundswell, a homeless health charity, and The Pavement magazine celebrated International Women’s Day by hosting their ‘Women and Homelessness Action Day’. This showcased the work of Groundswell’s peer journalists and launched their upcoming women’s peer research project.
There was artwork, music, poetry and rapping. Speakers and performers included women who have experienced homelessness, staff working with women in the homelessness sector and MP and Shadow Minister for Housing Melanie Onn. A key message of the afternoon was the need to involve women who experienced in the design and delivery of services to ensure as a society the best solutions are implemented.
The event stems from work of Groundswell’s and the Pavement’s peer journalists who were part of the Comic Relief funded ‘From the Ground Up’ project. Anne, one of the peer journalists, introduced the project explaining how they worked on a special women’s edition of the magazine after finding it difficult and shocking not uncover many statistics or information relating to the experiences of homeless women.
Peer journalists recorded a podcast, this powerful piece of audio was shared during the afternoon. One woman talked about her experience in a hostel where she was one of just three women alongside around 50 men:
‘the front door won’t have a lock on it, there’s blokes banging on your door in the middle of the night – it’s just horrible…the very services that are meant to be supporting these people are failing them’.
Listen to the full podcast and read the women’s edition of the Pavement magazine at the bottom of this page.
Speakers explored how many women feel that they have nowhere to turn to and see no way out. Jane from the Magpie Project spoke about how homelessness is often associated with its most visible form – rough sleeping, which is predominately male. This often means women are forgotten, despite thousands experiencing homelessness but being ‘hidden’ in hostels, refuges and other forms of temporary accommodation.
After a break of tea and scones and some inspiring poetry, rap and song all performed by women bravely sharing their own experiences the afternoon turned to solutions. Homeless Link, Solace Women’s Aid and Latin American Women’s Aid shared some of the interventions and projects they’re working on to improve the lives of the women they support.
Nevertheless, many views echoed the same message that after emergency interventions such as refuges, the housing solutions are not good enough. Society is letting down such vulnerable women who have experienced crisis – rough sleeping, violence and trafficking. The system needs to change and the women who have experienced this trauma must be front and centre in creating the change.
Nearly one in four female rough sleepers has been sexually assaulted in the past year, average death for street homeless women is 43, about half their life expectancy. For men it is 47 (Crisis. 2011).
In response to this Groundswell have launched a research project exploring homeless women’s health and gender specific services. Peer researchers (women who themselves have been homeless) will be interviewing 300 women who have experienced homeless to produce a report and should be completed late October. If you have any questions regarding the event or would like to be involved in the research please contact Groundswell’s Research Manager Suzy via the Groundswell office.
Groundswell would like to thank the hosts, speakers and performers who shared both personal stories and experiences and the great work their organisations are doing to support women.
- Suzy Solley, Research Manager, Groundswell
- Sharon Clint, Project Manager, Groundswell
- Anne, From the Ground Up Peer Journalist
- Jane Williams and Diana Rosenthal, Magpie Project
- Connie Cullen and Amelia Grant, Shelter London
- Katie Smith, Women’s Aid
- Sarah Hough, Research project officer, Groundswell – with Bene Charles and Hugo Danino
- Shirley Smith, former Crisis member
- Gill Herd, Solace Women’s Aid
- Rosa Heimer, Latin American Women’s Aid
- Caroline Bernard, Homeless Link
- Melanie Onn, MP for Great Grimsby and Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government) (Housing)