Women, Housing, Homelessness and Domestic Violence
Many women's lives are still deeply affected by unequal power relationships between men and women and by conventional expectations about domesticity as well as by the actualities of their responsibilities for the care of children and the home in which they live. If women experience violence from a husband or male partner, the violence may be intimately connected with these expectations and realities. If they then have to leave home because of the violence, their problems are compounded by their domesticity and lack of access to financial resources and by the homelessness legislation, which has recently been changed to make its use as a point of entry to permanent accommodation much more restricted. In addition to the violence they have experienced, the loss of home is in itself an element in the complex nature of the trauma that women in a violent relationship suffer. This is compounded further for themselves and their children by the uncertain period they spend waiting for the possibility of rehousing if they leave.
The study described in this paper looked at homelessness law in the UK before the passage of the recent Housing Act (1996) in Britain. It does not bear out the supposition that homeless families, including women escaping from domestic violence and their children, were unfairly favoured under the previous legislation. The paper argues that the withdrawal in the new Act of the statutory link between homelessness and a lifeline to permanent housing is an example of the ambivalent and contradictory nature of government policy in relation to families and to the social position of women, and is a potentially disastrous development for many women experiencing domestic violence and for their children.(Authors)
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