Helping Leeds’ hidden homeless women
HOMELESSNESS amongst women in Leeds is on the increase as more and more fall prey to domestic abuse, low incomes and alcohol or substance misuse.
The overall age of those finding themselves without a roof over their heads is also falling with many getting into dangerous situations not knowing where to turn for help.
Female homelessness is often hidden as women tend to favour sofa surfing or exchange sex for a bed for the night in a bid to avoid street sleeping. As a result, the true extent of homelessness amongst women is probably unknown.
Often working with other specialist organisations in its work to prevent homeless, Turning Lives Around is playing a particular leading role in pioneering unique support services for women.
· Carr Beck, the UK’s only long term 24-hour accommodation for women with alcohol and other complex needs where women, supported by their keyworkers, are able to develop their own alcohol management plan to try and reduce their intake while also improving such areas as their health, work or training opportunities and relationships to aid their recovery.
· Francis House providing accommodation plus intensive support for eight single homeless women who are either already, or are at risk of, street sleeping and have additional complex needs such as substance dependency or issues relating to mental health, brain injury or mild learning disabilities. Part of the Beacon Pathway, Francis House supports residents’ housing, healthcare and other needs to enable them to develop their ability to live independently and move on to suitable longer term accommodation.
· Two Housing First initiatives solely for women: One, introduced in conjunction with Basis Yorkshire in 2018, provides long term tenancies in the Leeds community of their choice plus the opportunity for support in overcoming additional complex needs for six sex workers. The second, recently launched in partnership with LATCH, offers 10 homeless women with complex needs the chance of their own homes plus access to therapeutic support and counselling and support towards living independently.
“We have noticed a growing need for our services from increasingly younger women in recent years. Many see leaving home as their only option and there simply isn’t enough appropriate provision or information about available services,” said Kay Stewart, Carr Beck Scheme Manager.
Women are being forced into homelessness for a multitude of reasons. Many are trapped in low paid work or financially dependent on a male partner; forced to leave home due to domestic abuse or other safeguarding issues they can find themselves isolated, with no where safe to go and no means to support themselves.
Others have multiple complex needs related to past trauma, alcohol or drug misuse or other vulnerabilities which can lead to them turning to crime or sex working as a means of getting by.
“Women who are homeless have different needs to men. Men internalise while women externalise emotions. A quarter of women and girls who are homeless have suffered abuse; they tend to have suffered more traumatic experiences, both emotionally and physically. They are scared of speaking out and feel they have fewer choices and options open to them,” explained Mia Cameron, Beacon Pathway Manager.
With its dedicated services for women, Turning Lives Around is aiming to provide safe, secure clean housing and specialist support that enable previously homeless women to thrive in terms of their health, self esteem and life choices.
“It is important to have services dedicated to supporting women which reflect their needs. Many will only open-up to women, only feel comfortable in a female only environment and benefit from sharing their experiences with others in a similar position. Having this support led by specialised trained and experienced staff enables trust to be built up and therapeutic relationships to be formed so women can start turning their lives around,” said Mia.