The Leiho team was so thrilled to be contacted by Sara Christou, a PhD researcher at Loughborough University, based in London. She has been conducting research to understand the complexities that shape women’s experiences when transitioning out of homelessness through their narratives, to improve service design.
This matters because there is an absence of research on women’s experiences of homelessness. Subsequently, women's homelessness occurs at a greater rate than is considered and it remains hidden. This contributes to assumptions made on the demographics of homeless populations as lone-men, and impacts the responses to women’s homelessness as not being gender-informed.
To address this, Sara has built partnerships with service providers (women's refuges, supported housing, and respite centres) to reach women with lived experience of the loss of home, to participate in this research.
The first part of the research involves interviews with individual women, asking them what home means to them, how they would improve services, and what their future goals are. The study centres the women as experts by experience, asking the advice they would give to other women.
The second part of the research is a Photovoice project - which involves providing participants with a camera to capture photos about their experiences. Women can choose to participate in just the interview if they prefer.
Photovoice is a research method that uses the power of pictures to identify, represent, and discuss the strengths and needs of a community. The participants (photographers) use the images to explain their stories, highlight issues and to create awareness. Photovoice can be particularly helpful when the issue of concern is one that is traditionally difficult to discuss. Images can encourage viewers to see an experience from the standpoint of another person.
Leiho have provided tote bags to Sara, as part of the Photovoice project, and Sara gave out the bags to the women participating in the project alongside some cosy smiley socks to make their day!
In addition, Sara is also the host of The Meaning of Home Podcast, where she discusses the complexities and connections between home and homelessness. Every month she releases a new episode with a range of guests to provide commentary on different themes: https://meaningofhome.podbean.com/ - You can find The Meaning of Home Podcast on Spotify, Amazon Music, and Samsung Podcasts!
Written by Sara Christou