Amy is service manager for Redbridge and Newham Housing First services and Project Kali, a female focused service offering intense support for women with complex needs and experience with the justice system. She reflects on how women experience homelessness and the importance of addressing female-specific needs when providing support. 

“Taking on Project Kali has been a learning experience for me, even though I have worked in homelessness and Housing First services for a while. Homelessness for women can look very different and they can face traumas that need to be specially addressed. 

Firstly women experiencing homelessness seem more likely to be hidden homeless than their male counterparts. Sometimes it can be difficult to find new referrals as they can be linked to a number of addresses. This means it’s easier for them to slip through the cracks when they need help the most.    

Many of the clients we work with have faced huge traumas in childhood. Often they have come from the care system and are in an environment where they can be exploited. They face domestic violence and are sometimes forced into sex work too. 

Aside from the traumas in early life that many of our clients have faced, they can also experience the pain of having children taken away from them when they do not have the tools and support to look after them. 

With the complex needs that many homeless women face, special consideration needs to be given to these issues to make sure that they’re getting the best support possible. Project Kali follows the Housing First model so our clients are supported into accommodation from which we can provide intense support for their other needs. 

“Aside from the traumas in early life that many of our clients have faced, they can also experience the pain of having children taken away from them when they do not have the tools and support to look after them."

For clients who sex work, we can help ensure that they take regular STI tests and have access to contraception. Women at risk of being abused are supported in practicing harm reduction and using tools to stay as safe as possible. We work with a number of other agencies to support our clients. This multi-agency approach is really effective in ensuring that they have the intensive wrap-around support needed to give the best chance of recovery. 

The issues faced by homeless women have often been overlooked. Services like Project Kali are giving us the chance to address this and I’m really glad to be a part of it.”