It is believed that one in every 208 people in the UK are homeless. Whilst we are learning more about the extent of the crisis in the UK, there is still very little coverage and information on the women who are calling the streets their home. It can be extremely dangerous being a homeless woman and there are so many reasons this could be someone’s reality. NHG created Mawney Road and its ‘safe homes’ for those that need some extra support, creating a community and a sense of belonging.
Mawney Road has two neighbouring properties which offer privacy and security for people who have either been homeless or at risk of homelessness. Each unit is private and fitted with a kitchenette and ensuite, whilst providing access to communal living spaces and gardens. Mawney Road also benefits from an in-house support team, provided by a local housing association, which helps residents with their finances and mental health; NHG works closely with the team to ensure residents are safe and learning how to live independently.
The homes on Mawney Road were previously derelict, but have been completely renovated and re-decorated, creating homes for 12 people. Each property has been fitted with solar panels and electric radiators to reduce the cost of living for the residents, and each new resident is provided with a welcome hamper, complete with pantry staples, sweet treats and cleaning products, helping them to get back on their feet.
Two thirds of the people living in temporary accommodation across England are women. Olu, a mother of three in her fifties, has been living at Mawney Road for four months now, having found herself homeless following ill health.
She said: “I had a few housing issues because I was in the hospital for a while. I was travelling back and forth to the hospital to undergo treatment and my immune system was very low at the time.
“I was staying in a hotel for a while but it wasn’t conducive to me getting better so I got in touch with a housing officer who told me about Mawney Road.”
If it wasn’t for Mawney Road, Olu fears she would have ended up homeless. She is using her time there to build up her strength and regain her health. Her long-term goal is to be reunited with her children.
Something Olu values the most is the sense of community at Mawney Road. Whilst residents have their own space, they are also encouraged to socialise with other residents, which reduces loneliness and isolation.
She said: “I haven’t had any issues and I don’t think I will because I just mind my own business. I like to go into the living room, have a cup of tea and watch the news. Sometimes it’s nice to have a little chat.”
When asked about the number of women who are currently homeless and what she considers to be some of the contributing factors, Olu believes it could happen to anyone and people’s circumstances change quickly.
“This time last year, I never thought I would be in this situation. I’ve never been homeless before. I see lots of people in my situation; younger people, older people, people of all different races. Everybody has their own story.”
The cost of living crisis is only compounding the financial issues faced by many and one of the measures put in place for the people at Mawney Road are eco-friendly additions such as solar panels to keep costs down. This allows residents to save money for their future plans.
Olu doesn’t let her health issues beat her; she works three hours a week to stay active and feel a sense of accomplishment. She plans to move on in the next six months and recognises the stigma that comes with homelessness and social housing.
Her message to anyone in such a situation is to ‘be kind to people because you never know where they are coming from’. Olu has even advised her sister to look into temporary accommodation, as she is in a similar position currently with no one to turn to.
Olu said: “Don’t look down on anybody who has been homeless or is in social housing. You don’t know their story, be kind to them knowing that this could happen to anyone”.