Last week people from across our services met at London South Bank University for a very special occasion: our annual Women’s Opportunity Network event, called ‘Rejuvenate’.
It was the second time we had run a day like this. Our aim was to create a women-only space where guests could try interesting things, learn new skills and connect with others. There was a particular emphasis on self-care, and the activities we organised promoted this in all sorts of ways, from creative writing to self-defence.
Above: Pratima, one of our wellbeing therapists, at Rejuvenate.
As a supported housing organisation, events like Rejuvenate are vital to how we support our female customers and address the impacts of homelessness on this group. Whilst there are more men than women in our services, we know the effects of homelessness on women can be particularly acute; their experience differs in important ways, and they have specific needs.
For example, women who are homeless face challenges around feminine hygiene, prenatal care, birth and menopause. Furthermore, many have experienced violent or sexual trauma, abuse and exploitation. The support we provide has to respond to these realities.
In that context, events like Rejuvenate are a way to establish a sense of safety and trust. They are safe spaces where women can feel more open to share their experiences. They are also environments where they can start to build new networks of social support.
In addition, women-only events can encourage a sense of solidarity, similarity and connection between those who attend. This is hugely important for women who have been through the trauma of homelessness because it can foster a sense of empowerment. It can make women more likely to engage in subsequent social activities or work and learning opportunities. Over time it can encourage them to use their voices more, to represent both themselves and others.
Then, there is also the concept of ‘self-care’. Many women we support do not normally have time or chance to focus on themselves and what they want; they don’t prioritise self-care because they have to deal with more immediate issues like their finances or living situation. Events like Rejuvenate offer a chance to challenge those, and remind women that they can focus on themselves, and they should. Not only is this enjoyable in the moment, but it also sends an unconscious message to ourselves that we are important, and that we have value. This boosts self-esteem and can motivate further action. Over time, this can help people to change both their habits, and then, their lives.
Neetu is a Psychological Wellbeing Therapist at Evolve.