June 21, 2016
Homelessness for women in Manchester
MASH provides support to women who sex work (in prostitution) across Greater Manchester. MASH have provided support for 25 years and have an excellent reputation for supporting women with complex needs. We work closely with Greater Manchester Police and the Council and are partly funded by the Big Lottery.
The majority of street sex workers who access the MASH Drop-In Centre have complex needs including addictions, histories of abuse or domestic violence, family breakdown and debts, but over half are not accessing any support service other than MASH. (Although sex work is legal in the UK, it can be stigmatized which, when combined with the chaotic nature of women’s lifestyles, can make accessing mainstream services difficult).
One of the biggest problems encountered by street sex workers is housing. A survey of a selection of the 250 women who use the MASH Drop-In Centre showed that 80% had been of no fixed abode at some point and 30% are currently homeless. However, MASH Case Workers think that the current homeless figure may be nearer 50% as many women are ‘sofa surfing’, staying with ‘punters’, staying in difficult relationships or in squats and may not consider themselves to be homeless.
Homelessness is not just about the visible rough sleepers or those in temporary accommodation but the large population hidden in squats, with strangers, in police cells, with friends or sleeping rough in invisible situations. These hidden women are clearly just as vulnerable as their more visible rough sleeping counterparts.
MASH are pleased to be part of the Homelessness Charter in Manchester which sees charities and the council working together to ensure that people with experience of homelessness are involved in the development of services. Cate Allison, MASH’s CEO is delighted to be Co-Chairing the working group focusing on Women’s Direct Access.
MASH focus is to ensure there is provision for homeless women to access services specifically for women and that services join up enabling women to move on.