In 2017 just 14% of rough sleepers in the UK were women. However, Homeless Link has stated that women often constitute a higher number of the hidden homeless, who are less visible sleeping in hostels, bed and breakfasts or with friends. Whilst homelessness has increased across the UK in the past five years, the numbers of homeless women has risen disproportionately.
Women who are pregnant or have disabilities and mental health issues are particularly vulnerable. Crisis has identified that 58% of females sleeping rough nationally have been intimated or threatened and that, over the course of a year, one in four were sexually assaulted. Women are more likely to have experienced trauma and abuse both before and during homelessness, including separation from children. Indeed, many of the women who visit our Lifeline drop-in centre are fleeing a violent relationship and/or have had children taken into care.
Gender therefore acts as both a symptom and a cause of homelessness – and it also affects men. Men are more likely to be made redundant and less likely to be re-employed than women, thus increasing their risk of falling into debt and losing their home. They are more likely to suffer with mental health issues and those who experience domestic violence are less likely to seek help or receive support, as many services are limited to women.
Sexuality can even act as a determining factor. Stonewall Housing states that two thirds of LGBTI individuals who have struggled to find a roof over their head believe it’s directly related to their sexuality. The Big Issue claims that LGBTI people comprise up to 24% of youth homelessness in the UK, with parental rejection, abuse and stigmatisation as leading causes. They also state that LGBTI individuals are far more likely to experience violence and exploitation once living on the streets.
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