Accommodating homeless women who work on the streets as prostitutes is an essential first step to addressing their social problems.
Street-based sex workers currently form one of the most excluded and marginalized groups of homeless people. There is little specialist accommodation available to meet their needs, and service providers and funding bodies often fail to recognize the nature and scale of the problem in their area.
While many cities in the UK have recently targeted resources at homeless men who are sleeping rough, in the same cities homeless women are on the streets as sex workers, less visible, and less catered for. While society may see prostitution as these women's biggest problem, the women themselves relate it to their homelessness, drug use, and lifestyles characterized by poverty, chaos, and desperate choices.
This review, by Shelter's Street Homeless Project, looks at four innovative projects in Lambeth, Bristol, and Birmingham. It is supported by a wider consultation with sex-work projects in England.
The review highlights the need for a range of supported accommodation options for homeless female street-based sex workers. It shows how partnerships between specialist agencies and mainstream service providers can meet their complex needs. The featured projects directly target homeless female sex workers, providing stable environments where women can access intensive and comprehensive support to gain a home, address their drug use, and move towards leaving prostitution.