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Women’s Accommodation Support Service

Women's Accommodation Support Service (WASS) supports women who are homeless and insecurely housed.

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The case work approach

Women who are vulnerable in so many ways can find life very challenging. The Women’s Accommodation Support Service (WASS) aim to transform women’s lives, supporting them to move into positive futures where they can each lead a full and rewarding life.

We have been doing so using an intensive case work approach since 2009. We are highly effective in supporting women to bring about lasting change. Our approach is underpinned the following principles:

We are women-centred

Homeless services are in the main set up by and for men, but we know that women with complex needs often become homeless. We have extensive experience of getting to the root causes of homeless women’s needs so we can help them to access the right support at the right time.

We establish safe women-only spaces

We know that feeling safe, physically and psychologically, is essential for women who are vulnerable, and many women struggle to engage with the standard provision for the homeless. Being able to access support in a safe women-only environment is a crucial first step for women to bring about change. WASS are committed to working in partnership to develop women-only hubs across Sussex. This ensures women can access many different services and helps other providers to be more flexible in their responses to women with complex needs.

We are adaptive, responsive and flexible

The relationship between the worker and woman is at the heart of our approach. Women engage in one-to-one support with a skilled and experienced women’s support worker. Developing a safe, trusting relationship empowers each woman to re-connect with her strengths, recognise her choices, engage with practical and emotional support and ultimately move away from damaging lifestyles.

We are trauma-informed

We recognise that most of the women we support have experienced abuse and trauma as children and or as adults. By taking women’s experiences of trauma into account we prioritise listening to our clients, believing them and supporting them to regain control of their life.

We produce support together

We see each woman as the expert in her own life. Experience shows us that for change to be sustainable it must be a collaboration between the woman and her case worker.

We are strengths-based

We recognise that each woman has assets and resources. We support her to enhance her resilience and self-worth and identify her key strengths that will support her to build a positive future.

Outcomes and Impact

87.5% of women were securely accommodated as a result of their engagement with WASS in West Sussex.

“I have started college, found a home and got to keep my dog with me …. I am expanding my hobby into a self-employed small business.”

WASS is being delivered in Worthing, Hastings and Brighton with developments in Eastbourne under way.

Further information and contact details

In addition to one-to-one support, our WASS Hubs in Hastings, Eastbourne and Worthing are continuing to offer casework support remotely by phone or email during Covid-19 restrictions.

All enquires for the WASS should be directed to:

wasshousingline@womenscentre.org.uk

Tel: 07541 641 367

Email inbox and voicemail are checked twice weekly, so please leave a name and contact details and one of the team will make contact with you!

East Sussex

BWC Women’s Hub : Wednesdays 2.30pm – 4.00pm. Seaview Project, Hatherley Road, St. Leonards on Sea. TN37 6LB

BWC Women’s Hub: Fridays 10am – 12pm. Eastbourne Blind Society, 124 – 142 Longstone Road, Eastbourne, BN22 8DA

West Sussex:

BWC Women’s Hub: Mondays 1pm - 3pm. Turning Tides, St Clare’s Day Centre, 6-8 Marine Place, Worthing, BN11 3DN

Coupling up: The danger of being a woman on the streets

At BWC (Brighton Women’s Centre), we have been supporting women facing all kinds of social injustice and trauma for over 40 years. Many of the women we work with are or have been homeless, so we are pleased to be hosting a workshop at Homeless Link’s national conference ‘Supporting Women Experiencing Homelessness’.

Whilst we are not exclusively a homeless service, it would be near impossible for us to have ignored the growing issue of homelessness in Sussex and across the country and how this is having an impact on women in our communities. Our work has made us more aware of women who are sleeping rough, their specific support needs and their known connections with men also living on the street.

Homeless couples living on our streets, although not a new phenomenon, has increased as the numbers of women sleeping rough has grown in number. However, with very little guidance available on how to help homeless couples, we were certain this was something that would benefit from greater research and attention.

With funding and support from Commonweal Housing, we commissioned Homeless Link to research the topic in greater depth, to shed light on the nature and origins of those relationships. The result is our report ‘Couples First? Understanding the Needs of Rough Sleeping Couples’.

Input from homeless services across the county stated that most of these relationships contain elements of abuse, violence, crime, drugs, sex work and/or exploitation. As a result, most couples on the street are seen as too volatile to be supported by traditional homelessness services, leading to them being rejected entry for a night’s stay at a shelter for example.

However, many of these relationships are not consenting in the traditional sense. Many of the women in these relationships will have entered into the relationship for protection.

Denying women access to shelter can be detrimental to their overall safety, not least because it means they must spend another night on the streets – frighteningly, life expectancy for a women living on the streets (43 years) is even lower than that of a man (47 years). In the case of females in rough sleeping couples, the situation is more complicated. By offering no support, women are forced to remain in unsafe and abusive relationships and given no safe pathway out of the situation.

Instead, our research suggests that rather than immediately denying couples access to support, taking a ‘Couples First’ approach can return better outcomes for both people in the relationship. By this, we mean treating the couple as a couple, supporting them together and individually, to ensure positive and safe outcomes.

We know that most women who are homeless suffer from trauma and abuse, poor mental and physical health, substance misuse, poverty, isolation and unemployment.

For further information please contact Lisa Dando, Director at lisadando@womenscentre.org.uk