WOMEN who have been raped are staying in inappropriate accommodation because they don't know the support available to them, lawyers have said.

Govan Law Centre has ambitions to set up a Women's Rights Homelessness Project to tackle gender inequality in the homelessness system.

Existing outreach projects in day centres for rough sleepers have been successful at offering support to men but have failed to reach women.

And solicitor Lorna Walker is determined to change this pattern.

She said: "We held outreach groups across Glasgow with charities that are already working with these communities and that was brilliant in being able to reach people who wouldn't ordinarily contact a solicitors' office.

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"But the majority of people we were seeing were men so I have been keen to start a women's project for quite some time now.

"We see women at crisis point, such as their case is calling at court or it comes out their partner is controlling their finances and they are too scared to leave.

"Maybe they have accommodation that is near their child's school so they put up with it but the property is damp or the landlord isn't carrying out necessary repairs and they don't know that they have options.

"Sometimes women will stay with abusive partners because of financial issues or they will end up in sex work because of not getting benefits sorted.

"We want to help these women before it gets to that crisis point."

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Lorna, who joined Govan Law Centre in 2013, previously worked with a women's group in Govan where she would go along for a cup of tea and women would open up gradually about their issues.

She said: "I would find that a lot of women when I was speaking to them would say they didn't think they needed a solicitor and then they would start to talk and say that they are in inadequate accommodation.

"That they had been raped or abused so they couldn't go into the bedroom because of the memories.

"They think they have no choice but they do and I would speak to them and let know what their legal rights are.

"Women do need homelessness support, it's just that for women the issue is hidden.

"They are sofa surfing, staying in abusive relationships, they put up with situations for the sake of children."

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Govan Law Centre wants to raise £5000 to launch outreach sessions, so solicitors and advisers can run cases, represent women in courts, start Judicial Reviews, negotiate with landlords, defend repossessions and evictions, and use strategic litigation to campaign for better services and stronger laws to protect vulnerable women.

Lorna added: "We know we can't do this by ourselves so we need support from partner agencies to put us in touch with these hard to reach women."

"It is empowering to give women their rights.

"If a person has a safe, decent place to live then they can start living the life they want."

To donate to the project see www.crowdfunder.co.uk/women-rights-homelessness-project

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