Being a woman on the streets is dangerous.
Being a homeless woman, you are more likely to be exposed to things such as sexual abuse.
As the homeless man on Canterbury High Street explained in the following video, women are more likely to stay in a more secluded area in a hope to feel safer.
Because of this, female rough sleepers aren’t recognised as much as they should be.
“Women rough sleepers are the least visible of all people who are homeless, but one in five of the people Porchlight worked with on the streets last year was female,”
National figures have shown that Kent has the highest number of female rough sleepers in the UK.
Graeme Solly is the Project Leader for the homeless charity in Canterbury, Catching Lives. He works with the homeless people who are in need of help and accommodation. From his experience with working with these people, he was able to give a professional insight to what being a woman on the streets is like and the risks it comes with.
‘20% of our clients have been female. Women are more at risk in many ways,” he said.
He went on to explain to me the ways in which homeless women are having to cope and look after themselves.
‘Females have had to become more resourceful. Females will likely find a male homeless person for protection,” he continued.
Kirsty Vaughn, a previous resident of Porchlight, says, ‘I was a female rough sleeper for a long time and I know how much things need to change,’
‘Women suffer an additional set of difficulties and vulnerabilities that men don’t. I know women rough sleepers who have been raped, beaten, turned out, kidnapped and used as drug mules.’
A ‘Seeing the Unseen’ report was carried out by another homeless charity in Canterbury, Porchlight.
The report was conducted using 40 women who are currently sleeping rough or have had experience with sleeping rough. It showed that many women who are on the streets have experienced trauma and abuse both before and during homelessness.
This report showed that 91% of women who have experienced violent or sexual abuse whilst being on the streets, won’t report it to the police in fear that they will not be believed. This is a major problem, if women aren’t approaching the police when things like this keep happening, then it is only going to get worse.
Porchlight workers have said that the results of the report, allowed them to become more aware of the trauma these rough sleeping women experience and that more needs to be done to stop this from happening.
‘Women rough sleepers are the least visible of all people who are homeless, but one in five of the people Porchlight worked with on the streets last year was female,’ Dr Sue Hornibrook who works for Porchlight says.
One of the key findings within this report is that there is no one single cause for a women to become homeless.
‘A lot of the time it’s relationship breakdowns, abuse in relationships and family relationships, mental health issues and drug abuse. Tenancy coming to an end can also be a factor. It’s a range of different reasons really why not just women, but anyone can become homeless.’ Graeme Solly, spoke again about what some of the reasons to a women becoming homeless can be.
From this report alone, many things have been put in place to help the homeless women of Canterbury. For example, Porchlight staff will be given further training in order to ensure that the complex needs of women rough sleepers can be met, they are also wanting to hire specialist outreach workers in order to help those women who are unfortunate enough to have to try and survive on the streets.
It isn’t a change that is going to happen overnight, but with more awareness being made on the matter, it should slowly and hopefully become evident that everything being done is helping homeless women.