To my shame, I've never actually considered how a homeless woman's experience might differ from a man's. Mainly because I've never had the misfortune of getting anywhere close to identifying with rough sleepers, let alone considering the gendered issues that arise from being a woman on the streets...
Admitting that you've slept rough is a difficult thing to do. I've found that the stigma attached to the topic is intense. People sometimes look at you in a certain way. They judge you - whether they mean to or not. You can see it in their eyes. An assumption is made about the sort of person you are. To me, that's wrong.
When I speak to people who have been homeless about their experience of seeking help from their local council, they often describe feelings of utter frustration and despair. Too many people are not being served by the current legal framework which requires councils to offer accommodation to homeless households, but only in limited circumstances.
The weekend was dominated by the political fallout from Iain Duncan Smith's resignation and signs of growing political unease around the latest proposed cuts to welfare. For years we've warned that the government can't just cut away the housing benefit that five million households rely on before building the hundreds of thousands of genuinely affordable homes we need. But could there be signs that the billions taken out of housing benefit in repeated waves are beginning to cause politicians real discomfort?
We've got to get better at reaching all of these women and girls. At recognising the ways in which gender, trauma, poverty, race, and other forms of inequality combine together to trap them. We need systems and services to recognise when women are experiencing these multiple forms of disadvantage, and to provide safe, effective, trauma and gender informed support.
It's almost five years since David Cameron set out his ambition to "end the uncertainty, indignity and suffering of rough sleeping" in the government paper 'Vision to end rough sleeping'. This ambition has not been met and the latest statistics provide more evidence that the numbers are moving in the wrong direction entirely.
The support so far has meant that our donations can do more than provide a short term fix to the problem, but rather we are being able to present shelters with long term supplies of care packages, so that women who otherwise struggled can now plan ahead and equip themselves fully when it comes to this critical aspect of their health.
The shocking effects homelessness can have on a child's mental health can't be overstated. Shelter recently visited a number of primary schools in London where school pastoral workers spoke about the anguish that their homeless pupils go through, and the stories we heard were quite simply heart-breaking.