Authorities are failing to provide homeless women with the help they need, a report by charity Crisis suggests.
Some 60% of homeless women said they had slept rough
A survey of 160 single homeless women in England found less than a third of those who applied for housing met the criteria for priority need status.
This was despite having traumatic backgrounds and an urgent need for accommodation, the charity said.
It is calling for major improvements to council homelessness assessments and general services for women.
The report found that more than 20% of the homeless women surveyed were escaping domestic violence.
It added many homeless women had entered into unwanted sexual relationships in an effort to secure accommodation and basic necessities.
Crisis said the "male-dominated environment" of some services, such as mixed accommodation, was perceived as threatening and unsafe among those who had experienced sexual abuse or violence.
It found that around 60% of homeless women had slept rough and of these, many had been physically attacked or sexually assaulted.
The majority of women Crisis spoke to said they had been turned away or deterred from making a housing application by local authorities, who had said they were not vulnerable enough.
It also found those who had children, but did not live with them were being classified as childless by local authorities.
Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis said: "These experiences show that the system is failing homeless women".
"Women's individual situations and vulnerabilities are not being adequately assessed by local authorities," she said .
"They are left with no choice but to sleep rough, squat, rely on the goodwill of friends or family or form unwanted sexual partnerships to get a bed for the night."
The charity is calling for more and better services, such as women-only accommodation and daytime services.
It also recommends an integrated approach to service delivery, incorporating services for those who have experienced sexual and domestic violence, substance misuse or need mental health services.