Nicola runs Single Homeless Projects’ Psychotherapy services. She speaks about how women experience homelessness and the things that can be done to ensure they are offered the right support.

“We live in a patriarchal society and this male-focused lens through which the world is viewed has an impact on female homelessness. It means that historically not enough was done to identify and support women’s specific experiences of homelessness. Fortunately, homeless services are seeking to redress the balance in order to support women.  

“Many women who become homeless have often left violent relationships only to find themselves managing the risk living on the street.  Women tend to keep moving at night rather than bed down, or ride buses to keep themselves safe. This means that women are underrepresented in the homeless counts which take place as they focus on areas where men bed down.  Women who drink or use alcohol are judged differently to men. Women are still the main carers for children and other family members which puts them in contact with professionals like us and we all can be quick to judge.”

Nicola explains that times are changing and there are a number of things that can be done to help support women who have been forced out of a stable home.

“Trauma-informed working is vital. It means that you approach female clients with empathy and curiosity about what has happened to her rather than what is wrong with her. The experience of being homeless is traumatising on top of the relational trauma's she has experienced. Trauma-informed working works well with psychologically informed working and doesn’t have to take place in psychotherapy sessions”

"Psychotherapy is a specific intervention. We emphasise the boundary of psychotherapy sessions being at the same time, same day, same place and same session length. This gives women an experience of a contained boundary where difficult things can be spoken about. This experience can be very powerful for women whose boundaries of mind and body have been repeatedly transgressed in trauma.  Understanding the importance for themselves of their own boundaries can be an integral part of our work.

“Sometimes female client’s responses to situations where they feel vulnerable and frightened is anger, which gets misunderstood or judged critically. Unfortunately, it is still a reality that angry women are viewed more negatively than angry men.  Especially angry Black women.  

“When you think about the experiences that our female clients have been through, it’s not surprising they may experience ‘righteous anger’, a rage that comes from the injustices that they have experienced in the past and may well be continuing to experience. They have every right to this anger, and as people in supporting roles, we can learn to understand it is justified and work with it”.

"In psychotherapy sessions we will work to support women to understand their anger, why they feel it and how it can be misunderstood in the world. We will also support women not to take their anger out on themselves, which is what women do when they self-harm.  We can help bring about real positive change in our female clients – I'm sure of that. But the complexities of female trauma need to be addressed for this to happen.”