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Homeless women need concerted action says charity

Over 18 months this new campaign seeks to raise awareness of the issues faced by homeless women, and those at risk of becoming homeless, and find policy and practice solutions.

By 2014 St Mungo’s aims to have created a national showcase of best practice for what works for women and produced a comprehensive policy report that will drive lasting change for women in need.

More than one in ten people contacted sleeping rough in London are women and, in England, over half of those living in temporary accommodation are women. In St Mungo’s experience, homeless women face greater hurdles than homeless men: 

• Over a third (34%) of St Mungo’s female clients who have slept rough said that domestic violence directly led to their homelessness
• Almost half of St Mungo’s residents are mothers (45%) – many of whom have been traumatised by the loss of their children and struggle to cope with limited contact
• 55% are tackling alcohol or drug use
• More than one in ten (11%) were brought up in care

Charles Fraser, St Mungo’s Chief Executive, said: “Women who end up on the streets often have a complex mix of problems, but the services available to them have been mainly designed for men. These services in themselves are also facing cuts so we urgently need to look deeper and try different approaches.  

“At St Mungo’s we want to galvanise action. The first step is make sure people recognise there is a need, the second is to share and showcase good ideas and practice from across the UK on what can work, and finally, we need to find ways of implementing that practice.  

“Our Rebuilding Shattered Lives campaign will raise the profile of this neglected issue and become a crucible for new ideas which energise policy and practice. I hope we can encourage everyone interested in women and homelessness to get involved with this concerted campaign so we can make vital and lasting changes.”

Experts from across different charity and voluntary organisations will lead on gathering evidence from practitioners and individuals across the UK on nine themes including; domestic abuse, families and children, childhood trauma, employment and education. St Mungo’s female clients will also be contributing their ideas and experiences of what works.

One client is Lucy. She said: "I became homeless after health problems and a marriage breakdown caused by financial pressures during the recession. It’s hard for anyone without a home but I now know from experience that being a homeless woman can leave you feeling very vulnerable, afraid and not knowing where to turn.

“The hardest thing to deal with is the mental health problems which caused you to be homeless in the first place. You have to focus not just on whether you have a roof over your head but who you are under that roof, who you want to be.”

Lucy, who has now moved on from St Mungo’s supported accommodation into her own flat, has completed a degree course and is developing her own acupuncture business. She is taking part in a sponsored walk for St Mungo’s Action Week in support of the Rebuilding Shattered Lives campaign.

Jacqui McCluskey, Director of Policy and Communications at Homeless Link, is lead contributing expert on the first theme of Housing and Homelessness. She said: “I think this campaign, by focusing on solutions, will lead to real and lasting change and improvements. A key strength of the campaign will be the involvement of women who’ve experienced homelessness themselves, such as St Mungo’s clients. By rooting the campaign in real experiences I do believe that real change will be achieved.”

St Mungo’s Action Week (18-24 June 2012) and the Rebuilding Shattered Lives campaign, see www.rebuildingshatteredlives.org and email to register your interest to rebuildingshatteredlives@mungos.org

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