70% of women rough sleepers have suffered domestic violence, research finds

Around 70 per cent of women who sleep rough in the UK say they have suffered domestic violence, according to new research at the University of Wolverhampton. 

Researchers interviewed women who sleep rough in four European countries and found drug and alcohol abuse or dependence was also a more significant problem in the UK.

The two-year Women Rough Sleepers Who Suffer Violence project was carried out by Professor of Criminal Justice Kate Moss and Director for Research Paramjit Singh at the University of Wolverhampton, and funded by the European Union’s DAPHNE programme.

The team has now been awarded a further €766,000 to research ways to empower women to protect themselves against violence while living on the streets.

Conducted with experts in Spain, Sweden and Hungary, the research found that partner abuse and mental health issues were significant factors in all the countries.

Key findings include:

  • 100% of Spanish, almost 93% of Swedish, 70% in the UK and 50% of Hungarian women rough sleepers reported they had been abused by the partners.
  • Drug/alcohol dependence are more significant in the UK whilst mental health issues are more significant in Spain

The experts have made recommendations for how services can be developed in the future to recognise the specific needs of women rough sleepers.

These include:

  • Funding for personalised services for women with complex needs.
  • Female-only services including refuges, hostels, health services and support groups which are tailored to address women’s needs in relation to domestic violence, access to children, access to housing and other family issues.
  • Education and training for professionals that is specific to the needs of women rough sleepers
  • More emphasis on multi-agency working, including sharing best practice, through a women rough sleepers network.

Professor Kate Moss said: “There is a widespread view that women’s homelessness is not a particularly serious problem. This view continues to prevail and to affect services throughout the EU countries that we have studied in this research, However, our research demonstrates that the magnitude and seriousness of this problem is compelling. This research has raised the profile of this hard to reach and little understood group of women and in so doing can help to change the lives of vulnerable women who suffer disadvantage and exploitation.”

Two strands of qualitative research were carried out in each partner country. Each partner aimed to undertake 20 interviews with service providers such as Local Authorities, charities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other organisations and 20 interviews with women rough sleepers.

Visit http://womenroughsleepers.eu/ for more information or Kate’s blog: www.human-rights.co

New project

The University of Wolverhampton experts will now lead a further project focused on empowering women rough sleepers to protect themselves from violence such as rape and sexual exploitation while living on the streets.

They will also create an innovative supportive environment to meet the needs of the women and support them back into mainstream society and away from violence.

The €766,146 (approx. £614,000) project, again funded by the DAPHNE programme, focuses on areas highlighted by the initial research, such as different forms of violence suffered, mental health issues and drugs.

The new two-year project will be undertaken in the UK, Slovenia and Hungary.

The objectives are to implement and evaluate a pilot study based on the development of a best practice environment to engage with and support women rough sleepers through the provision of specialist support. They will also develop manuals and training for key professionals and workers on the front-line about new initiatives, policy and practice.

It is envisioned the project will benefit social workers, health and education staff, police, victim support and the women rough sleepers themselves.