How the words 'happy International Women's Day' changed former homeless woman's life

  • Watch Katie Rowlett's report

A woman who spent five years sleeping rough in Bristol says a stranger wishing her a happy International Women's Day changed her life.

Ruth O'Connor, 41, spent half a decade sleeping in tents in the city. She said she felt the need to "do it all on her own" for a long time and so did not accept help.

"I was staying in tents, trying to make that as cosy as possible," she said. "But I wouldn't speak to anybody, I just shut down.

"I would be given some food, maybe a bit of change, and somebody else just said 'happy International Women's Day' to me. The first person who said that to me, I'm really grateful for."

She said the message inspired her to reach out to homeless charity St Mungo's, who then told her they would never give up on her.

Now Ruth is on the road to recovery and celebrates International Women's Day every year.

Last year, St Mungo's supported over 32,800 people who were homeless, or at risk of homelessness.

Of that number 2,166 women accessed its residential service in 2020-2021.

Amie Andrew is a Project Support Worker at St Mungo's

Project Support Worker at St Mungo's Amie Andrew said: "Women experiencing homelessness face obstacles which potentially men don't face as much, such as gender based violence, domestic violence.

"It is so important they get that tailored, specialist support that St Mungo's offer.

"The life expectancy of women on the streets is 41 so from a physical health point of view it's really important they have access to the right support and mental health as well."

How the public can support St Mungo’s and women experiencing homelessness this International Women's Dday?

  • Nominate a woman who inspires you, donate £5 to St Mungo’s IWD campaign and#PassItOn asking your nominee to do the same. Post a selfie with on social mediatoo.

  • Sign up to volunteer with an organisation supporting women, like St Mungo’s