Women, homelessness and health

New research, conducted by Groundswell, shows that 74% of women who are homeless have a physical health issue and 64% were experiencing mental health issues.

The research, funded by the Greater London Authority (GLA), aimed to understand the health conditions women who are homeless were facing and how homelessness affected their health. The research was carried out by volunteers, all who themselves have experienced homelessness, enabling them to build trust and relate to the women they were talking to.

They key findings of the research exposed that:

  • Participants had long histories of homelessness in which physical and mental health were contributing factors to their situation.
  • Most participants were living with several health conditions that were aggravated by living conditions and the stresses of being homeless.
  • Homelessness was causing significant damage to the physical and mental well being of participants.
  • Participants had issues with sleeping, finding enough food, keeping clean and were affected by addiction and on-going sexual and/or domestic abuse.
  • Participants were reliant on the support provided by healthcare services and not-for-profits but highlighted a need for additional specialised support.
  • For the women involved, the research process is as important as the findings. Please take time to read the methodology in the report; the volunteer researchers feel they bought benefits to the research including: inspiring others that moving out of homelessness is possible, breaking down stigma’s associated with homelessness and using their experience for something positive.

Read the executive summary and full research report for more information.

What needs to be done?

The research was launched at an event on 31st January 2020 – which bought together women who are and have been homeless with those working within the homelessness, health and women’s sector. As a group we decided on a set of recommendations, which can be read in full in the report. They state that to better support the health of women experiencing homelessness there is a need for:

  • a deeper understanding of the health of women experiencing homelessness
  • more flexible, considered and participatory commissioning  
  • flexible, compassionate and consistent support centered around individual need  
  • a focused approach on the health of women who are homeless within NHS services
  • joined up working between services and sectors who support woman experiencing homelessness 

We’d love to hear how you already are or plan to implement some of the recommendations. Let us know what you’re up to via Twitter or email Research Manager Suzy: suzy.solley@groundswell.org.uk.

Please read the full report below:

A podcast was recorded by the researchers, giving insight into these issues the research explores directly from the voices of the women themselves. This podcast, along with Groundswell’s other podcasts can be found on sites including Anchor, Spotify and Google Podcasts – search ‘Groundswell’ and subscribe for free. Listen to the podcast now: