6 Problems Homeless Women Face and How You Can Help

by Yazi

Being homeless is difficult. It is multiple times more difficult for women. Below we will talk about six harrowing challenges specific to homeless women and ways you can help.

First, let's share some general information about homelessness. It is shockingly more common than you think. Endhomelessness.org reveals some grim statistics: Due to increasing economic instability in the U.S., rising costs of living all around with no changes to incomes, and many other factors, homelessness increased nationally by 0.7% between 2016 and 2017.

In 2015, there were 565,000 homeless people in America. About 40% of those were women. Many of them are single mothers simultaneously caring for children.

Homelessness can happen to anyone. Challenges homeless people face do not discriminate. Some of the most successful people have been driven to homelessness at their lowest points before their hopes and dreams were realized. Dani Johnson, for example, tells a harrowing account of experiencing homelessness and her excruciating journey before she eventually become a millionaire.

1. 1 in 4 homeless are women running from domestic violence.

Greendoors further provides that about 63% of sheltered homeless women report that they have endured some form of domestic abuse.

Homelessness does not simply happen to people who are lazy or incompetent at their jobs. Many women who end up homeless come from “picture perfect lives” on the outside, complete with 2 kids, and a white picket fence.

They may have given up their own lucrative careers to care for their children while their abusive spouse served as breadwinner. What began as a sacrifice of financial independence to care for their children can spiral into homelessness when the abusive situation with a partner gets so desperate that a woman has no choice but to flee.

Choosing homelessness over staying in a dangerous, violent situation is often an act of protection for self and children.

Homelessness and domestic violence are intimately intertwined. Homelessness may actually be less dangerous than staying at home, if a woman can access the resources she desperately needs. Women who are trying to get out of abusive relationships and care for children undergoing severe stress and trauma resulting from home and family instability are in need of basic necessities like food, shelter, clothing, a place to bathe and wash themselves and their children, and childcare. In addition, they need emotional support during their time of crisis.

How You Can Help: To help, consider volunteering at a domestic violenceshelter in your home city. Two other national organizations to stay up to date with and get directly involved with in any way you can are the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

2. Risk of sexual assault in unprotected areas.

Homeless women are one of the most vulnerable populations in the world. In many areas, it is unsafe for them to be seen alone at night. Restroom facilities are so sparse and particularly dangerous at night.

Many women restrict their water intake at night so that they do not have to use the restroom at the most dangerous times. This leads to dehydration, fatigue, urinary tract and bladder infections and other related symptoms. Single mothers with children have also reported restricting their children’s water intake at night for the same reasons.

Aljazeera America’s research found dangers even using shelter-provided showers. In some facilities, there’s nobody stopping both genders from entering the same shower facilities and sexual assault and theft are common throughout.

These issues compound themselves: imagine escaping from a violent spouse to meet further physical and sexual violence both on the street and in what ought to be “safe zones” like supervised shelters. Imagine having children to care for that are witness to all of this.

How You Can Help: One of the most important sources of help for homeless women in this case are women-specific shelters. These facilities can save a woman and her children a world of fear, stress and suffering at the hands of predators looking for an opportunity.

There are several regional organizations dedicated to providing accommodation and support for homeless women. For instance, in Australia, Anglicare Southern Queensland run a range of services including nursing, first aid, wound care, physical health monitoring, health education and more. To make a local impact, consider donating to or volunteering at your nearest women’s shelter.

3. Homeless families are headed by single mothers.

The challenge of pulling oneself out of homelessness by getting and keeping gainful employment while also caring for young children is a terrifying challenge that homeless women face every day on top of the stress of shattered trust and the daily stress of keeping the family clean, fed and safe in shelters that may or may not be safe.

Childcare is almost always a necessity for homeless mothers with young children seeking employment. A means to pay for that while acquiring safe housing and escaping hopelessness is a feat that cries out for our support.

The catch-22 here is that many homeless women are hesitant to openly seek help from authorities and other organizations in what ways they can because they are terrified that their children will be taken away by the state.

An additional tragic irony here is that there are several government-supported programs specific to helping homeless women and children get what they need and get back on their feet, but mainstream society has stigmatized them significantly in the past decade, saying things like only lazy, inadequate people would stoop so low as to use them. It’s time for these myths to die so that those in need can be free to partake without shame.

How You Can Help: The truth is that government programs like Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Office of Child Care (OCC) were started to provide exactly what these mothers in dire straits desperately need.

Support these organizations in any way you can by donating, volunteering, sharing articles about their work on social media, and generally spreading positive awareness. When there is social support free of stigma for these, they will get the financial momentum to really make exponentially increasing differences in affected families’ lives.

4. Finding a place to bathe and keep clean can be difficult or next to impossible.

Cleanliness is connected to dignity and self-esteem, which is connected to the ability to make the right connections to end homelessness. To succeed at a job interview means arriving presentably.

The restroom and shower facilities available to homeless women are severely limited, plagued by dangers like sexual predators and other assault risks. Showering and staying clean is time-consuming, especially during menstruation, which can last up to 10 days!

One mother who stayed at a shelter with her disabled son said that the showers were so dirty that she spent what little money she had on disinfectants and would clean the facility before using it for her son.

How You Can Help: One thought for how to help homeless women in this situation is specifically for business owners in areas where there are homeless women and people: Consider structuring your business model around directly serving the homeless.

Some restaurants have set up programs where for each paying customer, a homeless person is served a free meal. You could consider opening your restrooms to the public. It may mean some extra clean up for you, but as discussed earlier in this article, homeless women are in desperate need for a safe place to freshen up and take care of day to day grooming.

5. Feminine hygiene products for homeless women are in dire short supply.

Pads and tampons run upwards of $5 per box, a high expense for homeless women. Using wads of toilet paper every single time is unsustainable because bits of the paper break off and can end up staying in the body leading to infection. Using bits of cloth or paper towels can be unsanitary and also lead to infection. Reusables are a possibility but very, very, hard to clean with limited restroom facilities.

How You Can Help: You can help by directly donating pads and tampons to your nearest women’s homeless shelter. Please also consider donating menstrual cups where you can. These are incredible products that every homeless woman would be lucky to have. They are easy to clean and disinfect instantly. They do not carry risks like toxic shock syndrome. They can be left in longer than a tampon. They can last about 10 years! They are also very expensive, and a donated menstrual cup can mean a world of difference, dignity and self-esteem for a homeless woman.

6. Obtaining and keeping a job while homeless an uphill battle.

From sexism in the workplace to the gender pay gap to finding trustworthy, reliable childcare during work hours, problems faced by homeless women here are intense and challenging.

The truth is, over 50% of homeless women do not have a high school diploma and limited job skills due to home problems like domestic violence or early pregnancy created by attempts to escape abuse at home. Such hardships make finishing high school difficult for teens under tremendous pressure.

How You Can Help: You can help by supporting an organization like Coalition for the Homeless, which specifically offers job training programs for underprivileged citizens to give them the new economic start that they need.

Last Thought

Women and homelessness are some of the most pressing social issues of today. We hope that the above resources for homeless women inspire you to lend a hand where you can to uplift a population that desperately needs a leg up and a chance to begin a new and healthy life again after tremendous hardships and challenges.

Reaching out to your friends and family, sharing the article about homeless women on your social media to spread the word about the need to support are also counted as ways you can make a difference.

About the Author: Yazi is an inspired writer who enjoys writing about personal growth, self-help tips, and women's lifestyle.

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