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Domestic violence is a key cause of women experiencing homelessness – and cuts mean services to protect them have been destroyed.
I first came across Sharron Maasz in January this year when I watched her being interviewed on a number of videos on YouTube. I discovered them after hearing that a woman had died in accommodation designated for women experiencing homelessness in my home city of Oxford. Sharron was 44 years old.
She was popular and, according to those who knew her, warm, kind, compassionate and loving. Sharron was a mother and a grandmother. She died after a long period of experiencing homelessness in Oxford, the city where we were both born and raised, and which we both called home. Later, through devastated mutual friends, I learned that we attended the same school; our paths never crossed as she was older than me, and we ended up living very different lives.
Over the past two years, however, I’ve had a lot of direct contact with people experiencing homelessness in my own city and across the country as co-founder of the Labour Homelessness Campaign. I discovered that domestic violence triggered the loss of Sharron’s job, home and child custody – just some of the factors that led to her spiralling into drink and addiction.
Sharron, talking directly to the camera in one of the videos, describes in detail the mental pain from a former abusive relationship. “Just because you are on the streets doesn’t mean you are a piece of rubbish,” she says. “Nobody knows the stories everyone I know has been through … It just breaks my heart.”