Gender-Based Violence Is a Primary Driver of Women’s Homelessness
The staggeringly high prevalence of gender-based violence is the most distinguishing difference between women and men experiencing homelessness.
Women’s Experiences of Violence in Skid Row:
- 40% are survivors of sexual assault
- 55% are survivors of domestic abuse
- 68% are survivors of child abuse
- 91% have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime
For many women, this violence is not just one instance, but rather an ongoing reality. Of the women surveyed for the 2016 Downtown Women’s Needs Assessment, nearly 50% experienced violence at some point during the last 12 months and 25% had experienced violence at least four times within the last year.
Domestic Violence and Women’s Homelessness
There are nearly 18,000 women experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles, and research shows that domestic violence is one of the main drivers into homelessness for women.
Due to a lack of safe, affordable housing options, these women are often forced to choose between remaining with their abuser and becoming homeless. In other cases, women who have survived violence become homeless later in life, even if it is not the initial cause of their entry into homelessness.
Violence in Homeless Shelters
It’s no secret that sleeping on the streets is dangerous for women, but over one-third of women also report feeling unsafe in shelters. Disturbingly, of women who reported sleeping in shelters, 35% had experienced physical or sexual violence within the last year.
Currently, the shelter system in Los Angeles County is not equipped to meet women’s needs. Of the emergency shelter beds available year-round for individuals experiencing homelessness, just 17% are available to women—a group that comprises 31% of the total homeless population in LA County. What’s more, many of the beds available to women are in mixed-gender settings, increasing the likelihood that women who have survived violence will feel unsafe or re-traumatized in those locations.
At DWC, we believe the best way to ensure transitional housing is safe is to provide women-only shelter beds and require all shelter staff to be trained in Trauma-Informed Care.
Aligning Domestic Violence and Homeless Services in Los Angeles
The Downtown Women’s Center along with co-lead Rainbow Services, with the support of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, is building and leading a cross-sector Domestic Violence and Homeless Services Coalition (DVHSC). The coalition’s aim is to create a client-centered system that increases access to safe housing and supportive services for survivors of domestic violence and their families. Leading partners in the coalition include the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), the City Attorney’s office, and County Supervisor Kuehl’s office.
Training in Trauma-Informed Care
Because the vast majority of women who’ve experienced homelessness have also experienced some form of violence, it is critical that all service providers, outreach workers, and key city departments that interface with individuals experiencing homelessness (such as the LAPD or public library staff) are trained to provide trauma-informed care.