Great Britain

The Homeless Fund: Domestic abuse to blame for forcing women onto the streets

Domestic abuse is the third most common trigger of homelessness in London, the boss of Shelter warned on Monday as she called for more support to tackle the problem.

Polly Neate said it was vital to raise awareness of how serious domestic abuse is as a “trigger” for women losing their homes – and praised The Independent's “brilliant” appeal.

Shelter is a member of the London Homeless Collective, a group of 23 charities brought together by our two-year project to tackle the capital’s homelessness crisis. Using money raised by our Homeless Fund appeal, the collective will work to target the worst gaps – starting with services for women. 

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Research from the University of York and the Centre for Housing Policy says that almost all homeless women have experienced domestic violence, and a recent study by Homeless Link found 93 per cent of female service users had experienced domestic abuse “sometimes” or “often”.

Ms Neate says The Independent and Evening Standard's plans to use funds raised to create a 24-hour, seven day-a-week female-only drop-in centre in central London will improve “very hit and miss” support for women fleeing partner violence.

Ms Neate said: “Domestic abuse is the third most common trigger of homelessness in London. Women can become homeless when they leave a refuge, and they can become homeless when they flee abuse when they can’t get into a refuge. I met women many times who were risking their lives every day in a severely abusive relationship rather than make themselves and their children homeless.

“It’s really important that charities talk with one voice about what is important and what is needed to change. When people think homelessness they think rough sleepers, and the vast majority of rough sleepers are men, so I think women’s needs tend to get ignored.”

Ms Neate said she welcomed the domestic abuse bill Boris Johnson committed to in his Queen’s Speech, which will make it easier for the courts to prosecute for domestic abuse but said it “needs to guarantee that there will be refuge accommodation available for women, and it needs to bring in some provisions to prevent homelessness.”

This year’s Christmas campaign is for The Homeless Fund, which will finance desperately needed services. The campaign will highlight the worst instances of homelessness globally, with money raised going to help homeless projects in London. Click here to donate.