It’s Women’s History Month, a chance to honor the strong females in our lives and on our minds!
For us, it is a chance to acknowledge the women, daughters and sisters who brave the streets each night. In L.A. County there are unfortunately over 2,000 women to recognize. These women make up 30% of the homeless population and the majority of adults in homeless families locally.
Different types of struggles lead women into homelessness and keep them there. Women face significant barriers to finding their way off the streets and require specialized services for the challenges they have been, and are, experiencing. They are often survivors of domestic violence and abuse, and have different health and mental illness concerns than men. Women are extremely vulnerable living on the streets. With safety being central to survival, they may end up in predatory relationships for the seeming protection it may offer, only to be used or abused.
Just as with civilian women, female veterans struggle to survive and may also be working to move past overwhelming personal traumas, which due to their military service may present differently. Many of the services specific to female veterans are not as accessible or available as is needed. This is compounded by the fact that a significant number of women that have served in the armed forces do not, for various reasons, self-identify as a veteran.
Though women have histories, characteristics and special circumstances that lead them into homelessness and may also keep them on the streets, we have made strides towards being able to support this very special population. Several of our partners specialize in working with homeless women to help them move off the streets and into housing that fits the unique needs of women and offers a much needed community of support. Regional teams outreach to women to assess their needs and match them to housing opportunities. The Veterans Administration is working with community organizations to ensure that the needs of our female veterans, whether they identify that way or not, are met. As a result of our community’s collaborative efforts and increased understanding of the needs of women, the number of both homeless female veterans and women experiencing homelessness overall have decreased in the last few years.
But, there are still 2,000 too many women living on our streets. We look forward to a time when we consider homelessness just one more struggle that women have overcome in history.