World Homeless Day

"How will YOU be recognising World Homeless Day 2023?
Personally, I will do this by continuing to educate myself and look at how we can address the stigma of homelessness by attending training courses and workshops, keeping up to date with relevant housing laws and changes to the way homeless women access their basic human needs such as acquiring food, water and shelter - working by the housing-first principle.
As a service we are committed to making an impact on every woman impacted by homelessness, whether through domestic violence, relationship breakdown or substance use etc, and recognising the complexities of their trauma. Those suffering from homelessness are often not faced with just being homeless, they are faced with an intersection of issues such social isolation, poor mental well-being and sexual and domestic abuse etc.
We want to use World Homeless Day to highlight that homelessness for these women isn’t just a day, these women deal with this every day.
As a service we witness it every day and have seen first hand the impact and struggle women face. They deal with the impact of the cold nights, not knowing when their next meal is and where they are going to stay tonight, whether it be finding shelter in an alleyway or being forced to stay in an exploitative home or with people that could take advantage of them.

Why should we recognise World Homeless Day?
I think today is important in highlighting what we see every day. The majority of people don’t work in this field and witness the struggles these women face. If we can dedicate a single day out of the year to educate and raise awareness of a small percentage of those struggles women on the street face, they may be able to emphasise and understand the needs and risks to these women to support them to get back on their feet and re-enter the community.
Today is also a day to recognise those that are hidden homeless or sofa surfing. These are the women that often slip through the system due to not being counted on street counts and in statistics, therefore cannot be verified as homeless and access the support out there. These are normally women or marginalised groups that have been forced into exploitative situations and do not get the support they deserve. They are often forced to engage in survival sex, substance use and criminal behaviour to obtain food for survival.
Positive social interactions can make such a difference in the lives of those experiencing homelessness, whether it be smiling at someone in the street or donating a few pounds. When they have no one fighting their corner, a smile can go a long way.

Why do you believe it is important to raise awareness about homelessness?
I believe it’s important it raise awareness of all the aspects of homelessness from those hidden homeless to those living on the street. They are all suffering and should be heard.
As an organisation we want people to recognise homelessness as a community issue, they could have once been your neighbour, high school friend or colleague. In 2022, Shelter England found that “40% of UK households are just one pay cheque from potential homelessness” highlighting how easy it is to be faced with homelessness.
At The Magdalene Group we continue to work in a holistic and trauma-informed approach to engage with the homeless community and those deemed ‘hard to reach’ or ‘difficult’. This can be achieved by understanding the whys, as no one chooses to be homeless. Women also experience an intersectionality of issues including those with children, pregnant or in domestically abusive relationships which only makes them further marginalised.
It is crucial we can spread the word about the systemic issues these women face which are embedded in our society. Without this recognition, services like ours will not receive the funding we require to support these vulnerable women, with the end goal to place them to successfully rehouse them back into the community.

Do you believe any stigmas about homelessness affect the impact you can have?
As much of the homeless community is hidden and not obvious to the general public, many people have a misconception about them. There any many stigmas that create barriers for these women, i.e. the assumption that all homeless women are drug users or are choosing to be homeless, is just false.
I think there is a misconception that those suffering with homelessness have a negative outlook, or no goals or ambition in life, this is also not true. Many of these women are intelligent individuals, some that have come from money or high-powered jobs, some that have come from a broken household but have ultimately received a lack of support or developed poor mental or physical health that have left them to fend for themselves. Many of these women have developed coping mechanisms that have kept them alive. I think people can be fearful of the unknown, but if they took the time to speak to them in the street they would be amazed by their stories, achievements and knowledge of life.
These common misconceptions and judgments can also prevent them from receiving benefits they are entitled to or from being suitably housed by the council. As frontline practitioners, we are able to advocate for our clients needs such as being housed near their children or supportive family members, or encouraging afternoon appointments if they are sex working to provide food for themselves or are prescribed medication which makes it hard for them to attend early appointments. How can you expect those suffering from homeless to attend appointments without knowing the time, or when they will next eat? Food would be my first thought of the day too!
Another common misconception is that these women are choosing not to engage i.e. with the police or services around them, without taking into consideration that they are dealing with trauma, declining mental health and trying their best to stay afloat.
Similarly, people often assume all homeless women use substances, this view point can have an negative affect on them being offered housing, with the belief they will bring drug associates back to the property and will cause them issues, however this is not necessarily true. It is an assumption that they have placed onto them. Therefore, we hope by highlighting these issues we can educate those services around us."