Homeless Link - UK



Report - Statistics on Homeless Women in UK - September 2010





This website page is about women and homelessness. Women who are pregnant or have children are likely to be found to be in priority need for housing, however women with no dependants have limited options unless they are considered vulnerable by the local authority. Women can be more at risk from certain causes of homelessness, such as domestic violence and abuse, and may also require different services due to the specific needs they have.

Homeless Link has published a short briefing with key statistics on women and homelessness. Recent figures indicate that around 1 in 10 people sleeping rough are women and about a third of single homeless people in contact with services are women. Information on the experiences and needs of homeless women can be found in a 2006 report published by Crisis who followed up with a series of recommendations in 2008. 

Findings from our 2010 Survey of Needs and Provision (SNAP) also include a picture of the number of women accessing services:

  • Women represent the majority of clients in just 8% of all services
  • But comparatively, the number of projects reporting a large majority of clients being men has decreased from 50% in 2008 to 38% in 2010
  • On average, 13% of clients in homeless services are victims of domestic violence
  • 97% of projects that are not solely for men see some women, compared to 83% of projects in 2008. 

Women can also experience specific needs relating to their experience in the criminal justice system. The Corston Review of women with particular vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system deals with resettlement issues faced by female prisoners and difficulties in implementing the ‘Seven Pathways to resettlement’ outlined in the Reducing Re-offending National Action Plan.

Women can also be part of the ‘hidden homeless’ group, resulting in their needs being overlooked. Many homeless women spend time living with friends or relatives, often with periods of sleeping rough in between, and do not appear to access homeless services. This may either be due to unawareness of the services available to them, or due to a lack of suitable provision. This is discussed in the Crisis report  Hidden Homelessness: The Invisible City.


The majority of homeless families are headed by women, due to the links between domestic violence, relationship breakdown and homelessness. In recognition of this, the Government Equalities Office announced measures in 2008 to help improve the security of homes of women and families experiencing domestic violence. It is hoped this will increase security without them having to move house or use temporary accommodation.

In July 2009 the House of Lords ruled that women who are staying in temporary shelters as a result of fleeing domestic violence should be treated as homeless, and have proper rights to find a permanent home. Previously, women who left the family home due to an abusive relationship could be deemed ‘intentionally homeless’, and encouraged to return to the family home. Visit Shelter's website for more information.


There are some female only projects – for example refuges or female only hostels. However, the majority of female clients will be accessing mixed services where they frequently make up a minority. Therefore in some cases it may be appropriate to provide specific services for women, to ensure they can access support they need. This can include:

  • Providing or supporting access to female health services
  • Support groups or linking clients to external female only groups
  • Implementing policies on how to respond if clients experience domestic violence and how to help clients address issues around their families – for example access to children. (Both these issues can also affect male clients but any specific needs for female clients should be considered.)

Some women may find it hard to engage in activities where the majority of clients are male. Agencies should explore where female only activities are appropriate – for example training or engagement activities – to ensure all clients can participate. Our handbooks website has resources for agencies to support them address diversity and access issues.