Homeless people are not limited to those who rough sleep (sleeping in the open: on streets, in parks, on bus stops). Under this umbrella term are those who sleep in temporary accommodations, those who sleep over friends’ houses, those who couch surf, and those who live in unfit dwellings.
The government and some private sectors extend their help by providing various options for accommodations. There are short-term, long-term, and nightly low cost leases. There are also hostels, dorms, bed-and-breakfast types of accommodations. Most of these accommodations have shared bathrooms, laundry, kitchen, and dining facilities.
However, not everyone can access these provisions.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Statistics recorded 614 homeless women in 2019. However, this is not acknowledged as the actual number because many women are “hidden homeless”. These women find temporary accommodations, but have no fixed home.
Humans’ Basic Needs
The average age of homeless women recorded in the UK, is between 25 to 49 years. Excluding the pregnant and those who have hormonal imbalances, these homeless women experience their monthly period with limited provisions. Sanitary napkins or tampons are an added expense to what little budget they have for daily meals and temporary accommodations.
Caring for one’s personal hygiene is included in the first two levels of Maslow’s pyramid of human needs. Following this hierarchy, homeless women are already lacking one of the most basic need, which is shelter. Chipping off health and hygiene from the second level of the pyramid will certainly cause an imbalance in a person’s well-being. For these women, the goal is to ultimately find a safe home. But such a goal is not achieved overnight. For the meantime, survival is their priority.
Menstrual cycles are a monthly stress factor for every woman. Sanitary napkins or tampons need to be changed at least twice a day, because unsanitary practices may lead to infection. Various types of body pains also accompany menstrual cycles. The discomfort of wearing sanitary napkins or tampons is an added concern. The accessibility and cost wraps up the overall hassle of having these monthly visitors. Being homeless does not really promote the healthiest lifestyle, and adding an infection to the mix will most likely affect an individual’s daily functionality.
Infections are not the only threat homeless people are exposed to. All homeless individuals are exposed to sickness, discrimination, violence, and deteriorating mental health. However, women are exposed to a higher risk of exposure to sexual abuse and prostitution. Aside from the trauma such experiences evoke, the added pressure and fear of being pregnant can further their distress. This is why women is considered one of the most vulnerable group in the homeless sector.
According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics, the reasons for loss of previous home varies in different countries; but the most common are family disputes or changed relationships. This shows that some of these women may have had previous careers or were on their way to achieve their dreams. These women can be great assets to the community, if only they are given the right support. These women are continually hoping to pursue those dreams. But instead of chasing after them, they are burdened by the same worries everyday. Where will they spend the night? Where is the next safe place? How long will it stay safe?
As a community, what can people do to help these women pave a smoother path towards a more certain and hopeful future?