Lessons from the Women’s Homelessness Roundtable

Today’s blog comes from Penny Walster, hub manager at Shelter Bristol.

We at Shelter are only too keenly aware of how women are particularly vulnerable to abuse when battling homelessness. The deep and lasting trauma of being homeless is yet another hurdle to add to an already long list of barriers that many women need to overcome, in order to move on with their lives after a period of having no permanent home to call their own.

These barriers were the focus of a partnership event organised by Shelter together with St Mungos, Next Link, Missing Link, Safe Link, One25, DHI and many other specialist women’s support organisations.

Mayor Rees joined us to hear from women about the issues they are facing.

By bringing together women using those services, together with local politicians and professionals, we are looking to address those barriers for homeless women in Bristol. This roundtable event was the first step to realise our joint ambition to properly amplify the voices of homeless women in our city; working together to overcome the barriers that prevent women from moving on to stable homes.

“I moved from the street to living in a hostel with people I didn’t know, I wanted to feel safer than when I was on the street, but I didn’t.”

It was clear from the personal testimonies that we heard, that moving into accommodation does not by itself address the effects of poor mental health, substance misuse, past abuse and trauma that many women have experienced as part of being homeless. Many of the women we heard from talked about adjusting to changes at the same time as coping with ongoing mental and physical health conditions. It was clear that bringing together supportive groups of women can work wonders to help with the transition from living on the streets to living in settled and permanent accommodation. Our task now is to increase these networks and support groups, by working together to create safe spaces for them to grow.

“I was really nervous about coming along today but I’m glad I did, I just wish there was a way my friend could have come too.”

Many of the women at the event wanted to make sure that they and others they knew could contribute to the planning and actions sparked by our conversation. Lack of childcare options, problems getting to work, and keeping multiple appointments with housing offices, advice services and others were just some of the barriers that often prevent women’s voices and experiences from being heard. Through this roundtable and its follow up actions, we are looking forward over the next year to amplifying the voices of homeless women across Bristol.

“I’m waiting to move into my forever home, I feel nervous and excited… it feels like a second chance, but I know I couldn’t have made it without support.”

This need for joint support and better partnerships came across from all the groups at the event. We know that the housing crisis has dramatically increased the numbers of homeless people since 2010. As a result of all these groups coming together, we’re motivated to keep the momentum going, and to keep highlighting and overcoming the barriers that homeless women face.

To learn more about Shelter Bristol and their services, visit their webpage here.

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