We Know What Works. Now, We Need to Take Action.
In its 2016 Homeless Count report released today, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) reported that since 2013, there has been a 55 percent increase in the number of women experiencing homelessness in the Los Angeles Continuum of Care, the geographic area within LA County served by LAHSA. Moreover, the report shows that women comprise 61 percent of the overall homeless population increase since 2013.
We will only see a decrease in women's homelessness when there are more services available that directly address women's specific needs. Current services largely fail to address the multiple unique vulnerabilities facing a woman experiencing homelessness, such as her increased likelihood of having survived some form of trauma, her specific health care and job-training needs, and the ways in which her goals for the future may differ from those of a homeless man. To cut down on the rates of women experiencing homelessness, we must meet these needs with services that empower women through choice, safety, agency, and rebuilding trust.
To cut down on the rates of women experiencing homelessness, we must meet these needs with services that empower women through choice, safety, agency, and rebuilding trust.
Additionally, a lack of affordable and low-income housing in LA County remains a consistent factor in keeping women homeless. LA County currently has an affordable housing gap of 527,000 units, with a rental vacancy rate of just 2.7 percent in the Metro LA region. Making more affordable housing available in every neighborhood across LA County will eliminate one of the major causes of women's homelessness.
Though the increase in women experiencing homelessness is disheartening, the Homeless Count also demonstrates an encouraging success story: veteran homelessness decreased by more than 30 percent. Among women who are veterans, homelessness fell by 54 percent, and we were thrilled to be a part of that success through our work with the Department of Veteran Affairs.
This overall drop in veteran homelessness is a clear result of strategically investing resources in reducing homelessness for a specific population. Now, the next step is to direct local, state and federal resources toward ending homelessness for women, a population that comprises more than 30 percent of the overall homeless population.
We applaud LAHSA as well as Los Angeles City and County for providing a breakdown of Homeless Count results by gender. We take heart in knowing we have strong partners in LAHSA, LA County, and LA City, and all our supporters who are committed to addressing women’s homelessness.
We know what needs to be done. Now, we need to take action. We invite all Angelenos to join with us in working to end homelessness for women. Whether you are new to this issue, or a long-time advocate, you can:
- Contact your City and County representatives to tell them how much you appreciate the gender analysis that LAHSA has included in the Homeless Count results reporting. Encourage them to continue paying particular attention to the unique needs of women who are homeless as they consider strategies and funding moving forward.
- Get involved in a women’s organization. We’ve seen in our work with Veterans what it means when resources are strategically targeted to programs that address particular populations’ unique needs. Donate to or volunteer at an organization (like DWC!) where you know that women’s concerns will never be secondary.
- Ask the question: What about women? As you read the news about the Homeless Count or have conversations in your community in the coming days, continue to consider how a person’s gender might affect their experience. For example, how can we ensure women access new affordable housing units at the same rates as men? How are reported aging- and health-related concerns going to affect women in particular? Making women part of the conversation is the first step.
We look forward to a Homeless Count year where we see a decrease in the numbers of all people experiencing homelessness — including women — and can celebrate our successes.