Simon on the Streets, a West-Yorkshire homelessness charity has joined forces with students from the University of Leeds RAG society and Leeds Street Outreach to raise awareness of female rough sleepers ahead of International Women’s Day.
Wednesday 4th March saw charity workers and volunteers joined by the students in Leeds’s city square and alongside Hughie’s Street Kitchen where participants held placards highlighting the hardships faced by women who are homeless. A sofa was also placed in the square, with a woman sleeping on it, to draw attention to the places women will sleep to avoid sleeping on the streets, including sofas, waiting rooms, public transport and toilets.
International Women’s Day is held on 8th March each year and the theme for 2020’s campaign is #EachforEqual. Simon on the Streets advises that there is a misconception that homelessness is a male-orientated problem and the day provides an opportunity to share how women are affected and supported.
According to government statistics, 14 per cent of rough sleepers in the UK are women. Studies suggest three in 10 women experience sexual violence while homeless, and nearly one in four female rough sleepers have been sexually assaulted in the past year.
Simon on the Streets advise that 35% of female rough sleeper’s attribute violent disputes in personal relationships as the reason for them leaving accommodation.
Fiona Hobson, admin, communications and volunteer coordinator at Simon on the Streets commented:
“Many women who experience homelessness are often hidden from the public, from services and from official statistics. They are more likely to be among the ‘hidden homeless’ as they will make efforts to hide away or stay in exploitative situations to avoid sleeping on the streets.”
In November 2019, Simon on the Streets received funding from Homeless Link’s Ending Women’s Homelessness grants programme, funded by the Government’s Tampon Tax Fund. The grant has been used to fund two women’s outreach workers to work for the charity, with the aim to reduce the numbers of women living on the streets, support those in temporary accommodation and engage with women who are ‘hidden homeless’ by delivering gender and trauma informed assertive outreach.
Simon on the Streets works with local people who are affected by homelessness and rough sleeping in Leeds, Bradford and Kirklees.
Established in 1999 Simon on the Streets is an independent charity which relies solely on sponsorship, fundraising and donations. It offers street-support to individuals who have complex needs and cannot access mainstream services, due to behavioural issues or mental illness.