The Homeless Fund: Scar tells only half the story of one woman's life sleeping on streets

There is no pan-London strategy for women’s homelessness

Tuesday 17 December 2019 11:15 GMT
The Homeless Fund: Cat's story

Cat Thorne knows the dangers faced by women living rough in London. She has been attacked and harassed for sex in the time she has been homeless.

A scar on her face just above her eye might be the only visible sign of the damage done by the 38-year-old’s time sleeping rough, but every day she is at risk.

Charities say this is why The Independent and Evening Standard’s appeal to help homeless women is so urgent.

Nestled into an alcove in Piccadilly, Ms Thorne tells how she has been homeless for more than five years, after a breakdown in her personal life left her with nothing.

“I had a pint chucked at me while I was asleep. Literally millimetres more and that would’ve been my temple and I’d be dead,” she said of how she got the scar.

“A bloke knocked me out. I’ve had people come and ask me for sex. It’s horrible.”

There is no pan-London women’s homelessness strategy, leaving those like Ms Thorne at risk of not receiving the support they need.

That is why this Christmas The Independent is working with 23 of the capital’s homelessness charities, who have united to form the London Homeless Collective to tackle this problem.

With the money donated, we aim to create a cross-sector hub providing women with immediate help, establish a 24-hour female-only drop-in centre in central London, and fund projects tackling domestic violence — a primary cause of women losing their homes.

The hub is scheduled to be run by homelessness charity The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields, which works with women such as Ms Thorne to help turn their lives around.

“I was having trouble with my benefits,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do about it all. Then one of The Connection workers, Liam, told me, ‘Come into the office and I’ll sort it all out.’ Within half an hour of seeing him, our money was in the bank.”

The Connection’s street engagement manager Dave Yianni, 39, said the new hub has the power to dramatically further his team’s work.

“I’d say all the women we meet have been victims of physical or sexual violence,” he said.

“And this is a hugely sensitive area. Our team would like to be equipped with expertise on how to support women who have suffered those levels of abuse and the trauma that comes with it.”

His colleague Tilly Scott, 24, agrees. She said: “We see lots of women on the streets who have very complex needs, and there aren’t enough services to support them.

"Homeless women can be particularly vulnerable, which is why it’s so vital that more help is available.”

It is intended that the new hub, the Women’s Development Unit, will connect homelessness experts to charities, creating London’s first women-focused support network.

This will run alongside a new drop-in centre at The Marylebone Project, offering support and shelter to women 24-hours a day.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in