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Housing

Mr Men-inspired book shines a light on women’s homelessness

Little Miss Homeless tackles the tough truths of women sleeping rough or forced to stay on friends’ sofas

An Exeter PhD student has created a hard-hitting book parodying the Mr Men and Little Miss series to highlight the unique challenges faced by homeless women.

Little Miss Homeless, written and illustrated by 24-year-old Harriet Earle-Brown, explores issues of domestic violence, sexual abuse, hygiene and the dangers of being a woman living on the streets.

The book – which is not affiliated with the Roger Hargreaves classics – was originally produced as part of her studies at the University of Exeter but soon drew the attention of switched-on readers and activists.

Earle-Brown has now made the book available for free online and will soon publish hard copies for no profit.

The author drew on Office for National Statistics research to create the Little Miss Homeless story, studying real-life accounts of women’s homelessness and death rates for those forced to sleep rough.

Focusing on homeless women’s experiences as part of her PhD, Earle-Brown said she is particularly concerned by the issues more specific to them like periods when sleeping rough, sex work and the high rate at which homeless women get into relationships for safety on the streets.

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“The response to the book has been overwhelming,” she told The Big Issue. “I have had so many kind comments from so many people.

“I am so excited to see this book reaching wider audiences and raising awareness of the issues homeless women face, as this is exactly what I wanted the book to do.”

The author added that the role of gender in homelessness often goes unacknowledged, meaning the needs of homeless women are not being met.

According to charity Homeless Link, homeless women are typically less visible on the streets than men, more likely to be hidden homeless or forced to ‘sofa-surf’, and more likely to have experienced trauma and abuse both before and during homelessness including separation from children.

And the number of women sleeping rough has been rising over the last decade. Last year Crisis reported that one in three women said they had experienced sexual violence while homeless.

Lucy Patrick, communications manager at homeless charity St Petrock’s, told Devon Live that Little Miss Homeless portrays the struggles of homeless women “in a shocking but truthful way”.

She added that the book presents the complexities around homelessness in a “deceptively simple” form, forcing the reader to learn about the harsh realities of sleeping rough as a woman.

Read Little Miss Homeless online or contact harriet.earle-brown@outlook.com for hard copies costing roughly £5.

Image: Harriet Earle-Brown

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