The link between homelessness and domestic violence


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One in four women and one in six to seven men will experience domestic violence at some point in their lifetime. 

On average, as many as two women a week will be killed as a result of domestic abuse by a current partner or ex-partner. 

It’s a bleak reality, and the relationship between domestic violence and homelessness is a complex one. For some people, domestic violence is the reason they become homeless in the first place. For others, homelessness leads them into abusive relationships. It’s easy to see how a person might fall into a cycle that’s difficult to break, particularly as services to support victims of domestic violence and those who are facing homelessness are stretched to the limit. 

The full scale of the problem is largely unknown 

In 2017, over 6,000 people were accepted as homeless by their local authority as a result of a violent relationship. This made up over 10% of all homeless applications that year. 

However, those fleeing from domestic violence often fall into the category of ‘hidden homelessness’, with nowhere and no one to turn to. This makes it incredibly difficult to understand the full extent of the issue, with many victims hidden from view and not accessing support as a result. Relying heavily on friends and family for temporary accommodation and afraid to alert the local authorities, survivors will often be left out of mainstream statistics. 

Demand for services outweighs supply

Housing is one of the biggest barriers to someone leaving an abusive relationship. Fear of becoming homeless is a real and justified fear. According to a report from Women’s Aid, the number of refuge bed spaces in 2019/20 was 30% lower than that recommended by the Council of Europe. Furthermore, a staggering 64% of refuge referrals were denied. 

When separation is the point at which someone is most vulnerable to fatal violence by their former partner, this is a frightening statistic to read. 

The demand for refuge services only increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, as searches for Refuge’s website increased by an massive 950% a few months into the lockdown. It remains to be seen how the cost of living crisis will impact these figures in the coming months and years. Just how many people remain trapped in abusive relationships for fear of not being able to cope financially if they leave?

When the strain on services was already starting to show in 2019, it’s frightening to think how many people have since become homeless due to a lack of emergency accommodation when they leave a violent relationship. 

Despite requirements by the 2021 Domestic Abuse Act for local authorities to provide refuge and safe accommodation, many don’t have the resources to meet these statutory obligations. The result is that many victims feel as though they’re left with no choice but to return to a violent partner while waiting for local authority intervention. 

At Simon on the Streets, we support those who are experiencing homelessness no matter the circumstances. As well as providing resources to those sleeping rough, we support people with various links to other services too, ensuring they get the full support they need to be able to take control of their lives and move forward. 

If you’d like to support our outreach work, please consider making a donation. As an independent charity, it’s only with your support that we can continue to make a difference throughout West Yorkshire.

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