Didn’t feel heard, didn’t think I had a voice, didn’t feel safe: Gender responsive strategies for assisting women experiencing long-term and recurrent homelessness

Research paper by WEL NSW Executive member, Dr Jane Bullen for the Mercy Foundation

This research project aims to identify and assess gender-responsive service strategies and plans for assisting women who have experienced long-term and recurrent homelessness, and monitoring these responses.

Some of the identified strategies for services to better meet women’s needs are:

  • A strong service philosophy that is human-centred, gender responsive, flexible, respectful, strengths based and that supports self determination.
  • Services are safe, trauma informed and home-like
  • Specialist or targeted services for women with specific needs.

The paper is available HERE.


Women’s homelessness occurs in the context of women’s inequality, women’s poverty and violence against women. Women experiencing long-term homelessness have often experienced disadvantage, violence and trauma over the course of their lives, frequently compounded by other factors. Women’s homelessness in Australia also occurs in the context of a severe lack of available low cost private and social rental housing. This impacts on both women whose needs other than housing are low, and women with complex needs. The longer women remain homeless, the more likely they are to develop new problems and have difficulty resolving their homelessness.

There is a need to reconsider the diversity of women’s homelessness, in particular homelessness that is not quickly resolved, because many women’s experiences of long-term and recurrent homelessness do not fit the stereotype in research and policy of ‘chronic homelessness’;

  • In contrast to the characterisation of ‘chronic homelessness’ as involving high service use, many women who become homeless actively avoid homelessness services, in some cases for many years;
  • Instead their homelessness is hidden or self-managed, and they stay temporarily with family, friends and acquaintances, stay in severely overcrowded dwellings or sleep rough, often in concealed locations, and delay approaching services until all informal options are exhausted; at this point they may be longer-term homeless and experiencing more chronic crisis. Their homelessness is often unrecorded and its extent is obscured;
  • In addition the current severe lack of low-cost housing in Australia has led to some people experiencing longer term homelessness who do not have the type of complex needs associated with the policy understanding of ‘chronic homelessness’.