Esther Sample

Women and homelessness

July 18, 2011 :: 8.54am
Encouraging learning for clients and staff for Adult Learners' Week

Esther Sample is St Mungo’s Women’s Strategy Coordinator. Here she explains more about this new role.

About a quarter of our 1,700 plus St Mungo’s residents are women. That’s also a general reflection of the figures at national level – when it comes to homelessness, it’s not 50:50.

But are there particular reasons why women become homeless? And do women need different kinds of support to help them rebuild their lives?

Over the last year or so, we’ve been talking to our women clients, asking them questions about their situations and seeing what support they tell us works for them.

The main findings were:

  • A high percentage of women at St Mungo’s have experienced domestic violence and/or childhood or adolescent abuse and need support for these issues.
  • Many St Mungo’s female clients are mothers. Some would like more support around the loss of children or contact with children.
  • Women want a choice of accommodation, some prefer women’s only provision, and some prefer mixed. In mixed accommodation, situations where women form a very small minority were seen as less preferable.
  • Women value clean, private, safe and homely accommodation.
  • A wide variety of activities and training, and opportunities for women’s client involvement were also seen as important.

We already have some innovative projects to support women but we’ve learnt a lot, and we’ll be telling you more about our research, and strategy in the months ahead. St Mungo’s has succeeded in gaining funding for my post as Women’s Strategy Coordinator and I am now setting out a clear plan for how we can support our women clients even more effectively in the future.

We’re also pleased to be working with international photographer Georgina Cranston on the Wherefrom?Wherenow? multimedia project that focuses on women’s experiences of homelessness.

To contact me, please email

Posted in Hostels, shelters & projects, Key people


  1. Anonymous says:

    I am very interested to see you have created the post of ‘Women’s Strategy Coordinator’, I look forward to an update from the ‘Men’s Strategy Coordinator’, as you state 75% of St Mungos Clients are men I presume they will be treated equally to female clients.

    I would like to know if men specifically have been asked the same questions as female clients as a group and what the findings were?

    Is it also possible that many male clients have ‘experienced.. . childhood or adolescent abuse and need support for these issues’, are fathers and ‘would like more support around the loss of children’ and have a preference around the level of mixed sexes in the accommodation.

    I would be very surprised to find any person, let alone a client who does not ‘value clean, private, safe and homely accommodation’.

    If there is no ‘Men’s Strategy Coordinator’ I look forward to hearing St Mungos response to what would be an inherently sexist policy.

  2. Team Esther Sample says:

    Thanks for reading our blog, we appreciate your interest. This was an introductory blog and we intend to keep people up to date with more findings over the coming years and, as with all projects, we’ll be monitoring impact.

    You are, of course, right that many men have experienced similar problems and have similar aspirations. However, from talking specifically to our women clients, there are incidences around domestic violence, sex working and sexual abuse, vulnerabilities and relationships with children and families that clients and key workers tell us can be very complex among women and that can, concerningly, hold back their progression. These issues are what we’re looking to explore more deeply as the women’s strategy goes forward.

    Our aim is to offer the best support we can to each individual. Equality does not necessarily mean offering the same to everyone. We want to ensure that different needs are recognised and supported. Through the women’s strategy we want to ensure that our services for our women clients are the best they can be. And we will, of course, be alert to any cross learning that can improve our support for all of our clients.

    Esther Sample, women’s strategy coordinator

  3. Eleanor Levy Eleanor Levy says:

    Our women’s strategy was based on evidence and research by clients about clients’ needs. Although some progress has been made to address the imbalance within wider society regarding how women are treated, it is unsurprising that some unfairness and injustice towards women still exists, at all levels. Not surprisingly, for people struggling with homelessness and the underlying causes, this unfairness is compounded.

    St Mungo’s has set out to challenge the imbalance of services provided by putting in resources specifically to improve women’s outcomes against a background of cuts over the past decade that have seen many women’s crisis centres close.

    More recently, a national strategy has been created to curb unacceptable levels of violence towards women, and local government has also developed its strategies including creating new hubs for women’s crisis centres. None of this can remotely be described as sexist. It is a realistic approach to a set of problems that affects women in particular.

    We do not say that some of these problems do not affect men too. Among our clients, the same compounding of a muliplicity of problems has intensified their experiences of injustice and exclusion. However, there are specific men’s services available and we do not accuse them of being sexist.

    I am pleased to support our strategy, especially so at a time of cuts, as this is a beacon for progressive changes that will benefit all our clients, not just women.

  4. Gavin Sheppard says:

    Given that men traditionally make up a higher proportion of the homeless population, you could say that services have been developed around men for years. To argue that its sexist to try and redress this imbalance is missing the fact that in the past, homeless strategies have been “men’s strategies”.

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