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Sunday, May 30, 1999 Published at 23:23 GMT 00:23 UK


Homeless women blame domestic violence

Research has concentrated on single homeless men

Domestic violence is the main cause of homelessness among women in England, according to research.

Julie Alexander of Crisis: 10% of people who sleep rough are female
A report by the charity Crisis found that 63% of homeless women aged between 30 and 49 said domestic abuse was the key reason they had lost their homes.

Over half of these women had slept rough, the majority on more than one occasion - despite the fact that this made them vulnerable to rape and abuse.

Several resorted to drugs and alcohol to blot out the dangers.

The report, Out of sight, out of mind?, interviewed 77 homeless women across the UK in an effort to find out why, when homelessness was decreasing in general, the number of women in hostels or on the streets was increasing.

'Unsafe' shelters

Other reasons why women said they had become homeless were family breakdown, severe mental health problems and childhood abuse.

Mona, 54, said: "My husband came home one night with another woman. He dragged me downstairs - I was five-and-a-half months pregnant. So I left.

"My son went to foster parents while I hit the road. I had a lot of trouble with social services."

Most of the women said they thought homelessness was something that happened to others before it happened to them.

Many avoided night shelters because they were deemed dirty, violent and unsafe.

And a large proportion ended up staying too long in hostels. One woman had spent over 20 years in hostels.

Some said hostel life was making them ill and several were on anti-depressants or were using drugs and alcohol.

Many said they wanted to work, but felt it was not worth their while giving up housing benefit when the cost of hostel accommodation was so high.

The majority of women said they would welcome greater provision of move-on accommodation so they could free up places in hostels.

And they wanted more support to make the transition away from homelessness.

Lack of research

Crisis says more needs to be done to increase provision for homeless women.

It also wants to see more specialist help for women with mental health, drink and drugs problems.

And it says support services should be better advertised.

The survey found older women were the least likely to know where to go for help when they were made homeless.

Women used to make up one in 10 of homeless people and this means little research has been conducted into their needs.

However, Crisis says the increase in women sleeping rough and the fall in general homelessness means this proportion is rising.

Shaks Gosh, chief executive of Crisis, said: "As a woman, I am appalled that this already vulnerable minority group is being further let down at times when they desperately need additional support and often remain invisible to those in a position to provide support."

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