Women and homelessness – interview with BBC Oxfordshire

This year, we've increased our focus on supporting homeless women in Oxfordshire. We're one of only 11% of accommodation projects able to offer women-only provision within their service. This year alone, we've seen a 40% increase in women accessing our services.

Our Head of Fundraising & Communications, Jo Faulkner-Harvey went on BBC Radio Oxfordshire to raise awareness about homeless women who are accessing our services and to talk about why this is a growing problem:

Good morning to you Jo. So why this huge rise in the number of women sleeping rough? 

I think it's a number of things, things like women staying in a relationship where it's potentially abusive, exploitation, domestic violence. I think those things have always been going on, but the pandemic and the last two years have compounded it. A lot of organisations have either had to close or have been under a lot of pressure. 

So women have found themselves in situations where they've been in lockdown and been facing these behaviours from a partner, and it's a life and death situation. It's a life and death decision they have to make. 

I think women, on the whole, tend to be really resourceful. But I think even now, with the pandemic, the impact is that they've run out of options.

Are you surprised by the number of women who come to you for help at the moment? 

Yes and no. Being a frontline support service, we are very aware of the challenges that homeless people in general face, and the support that we give people. People are very complex in what we call 'normal' situations. But when you have all these other things and trauma - a lot of our clients have got childhood trauma. So no, not really. It’s just something that’s been bubbling under the surface. 

We’ve got 28 women across our service now. I’ve been with Homeless Oxfordshire for 6 or 7 years and I’ve never known that many women in our service.

It’s hugely worrying, isn’t it? The particular challenges that a woman faces when sleeping rough - it’s endless, isn’t it? 

Yes. It’s obviously a life-threatening situation for anybody sleeping rough, but for women obviously, because we tend not to be able to protect ourselves in situations potentially with men. There’s a network of people who sleep on the streets and women will become part of that network and rely on men to protect them. 

So then there’s this real risk of exploitation, all those kinds of things that we see. We don’t think that it’s going on under the dreaming spires of Oxford, but it is going on, all the time. So yes, it’s really challenging for women. 

Listen to the interview on BBC Sounds: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0b4992n (1:52:00)

Homeless woman looks out at street in the rain

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