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'Failed time and time again': 46% of homeless women were sexually abused as kids

Research launched today by Simon found 92% of these women experienced high levels of violences at some stage in their lives.

NEW RESEARCH FROM the Simon Communities in Ireland has pointed to gaps in services for homeless women as shocking data reveals 92% have experienced high levels of violence at some stage in their lives.

The homeless charity said that women’s homelessness is unexplored in Ireland and it can differ significantly from men’s in terms of causes, experiences and pathways out of homelessness.

More than half of the women involved in the research experiences violence both as children ad during adulthood and 46% had experienced sexual abuse during childhood. 67% had experienced intimate partner violence and in one fifth of cases, more than one partner had been violent towards them.

“I think what this research points to is a group of women who are very marginalised and very vulnerable who are falling through the cracks of homeless services,” commented Niamh Randall, national spokesperson for the Simon Communities of Ireland.

“Women make up around one third of the adult homeless population in Ireland yet female homelessness is poorly understood and women who are homeless remain largely ‘hidden’.”

Personal issues

She said in a lot of cases, tenancies by women who have moved out of homelessness are not sustained, putting them back on the streets and this is because they are “not getting the support they need”.

Many of these women have experienced mental health issues, domestic violence, drug or alcohol problems or interaction with the criminal justice system.

Homeless people are seen as homogeneous, or the same but no two homeless people are the same, no two have the same background and what we’re seeing here is safety nets failing. There’s an assumption that solutions are across the board but sometimes other issues can be masked by a woman’s homelessness. She can be seen as just homeless, rather than as someone who became homeless because of domestic violence or mental health issues. So, this highlights the importance of having tailored supports.

Almost three quarters of the women in this research are mothers and they spoke about motherhood as difficult and distressing due to their homelessness. “It can be very traumatic for them, because of their homelessness,” Randall explained.

“People feel pressure around that stigma – being mothers and having failed. Carrying that weight is a huge burden. So it’s about helping people deal with that and reconnect with their children whether it’s to regain visitation rights, or custody in some cases.”

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What’s the solution?

Randall said, ultimately, the solution for these women ties in with the best solution for homelessness overall – access to housing.

“Anyone with the correct amount of support can manage independently,” she said. “The key barrier is accessing housing and what I would say is, of course this is possible. We have to remove the barriers in terms of housing, both public and private.”

She said homelessness must now be prioritised as part of the upcoming Budget this month.

“If the right choices are made, it is absolutely achievable,” she added. “These are women who have been failed time and time again and it’s not okay. It’s not okay to let this happen.”

Pic: Andrew Bennett via Flickr/Creative Commons

Catch up with our Homeless Ireland series here>

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