An increasing number of women in Los Angeles are experiencing homelessness, and often, it is a result of the barriers they face in getting help for serious mental illness, domestic violence, human trafficking and drug addiction, a newly released report found.
Created by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority last fall, the Ad Hoc Committee on Women and Homelessness released its final report and recommendations on Friday, Aug. 25, outlining how community leaders can best help women who are homeless.
“This report offers providers, local government and elected officials with the guidance they need to reverse the rise in the number of women experiencing homelessness.”
– Wendy Greuel
Local leaders started directing attention specifically toward women who were homeless after the annual point-in-time count in 2016 revealed a significant increase in homelessness among women. Among other findings, the data showed a 70 percent increase since 2009 in the number of unsheltered women in Los Angeles County, excluding Pasadena, Glendale and Long Beach.
Over the past several months, committee members compiled perspectives from a range of people including service providers, advocates and people who experienced homelessness, along with other data.
“Combining vivid personal stories and expert analysis, this report offers providers, local government and elected officials with the guidance they need to reverse the rise in the number of women experiencing homelessness,” Wendy Greuel, chairwoman of the ad hoc committee and vice chair of the LAHSA Commission, said in a statement. “I’m tremendously proud of the committee members for their contributions to this landmark document.”
The committee’s overall conclusions were that Los Angeles must improve how services are delivered to women experiencing homelessness, collect better data, continuously train service providers and develop trauma-informed policies to help women.
The report outlines the level of danger many women who are homeless face. Nearly half (46 percent) of women report having been attacked or physically assaulted since becoming homeless. Among transgender women, the prevalence was even higher, at 63 percent.
“According to a 2001 study conducted in Los Angeles County, the average homeless woman experienced as much major violence in a single year as the average American woman experiences in her lifetime,” the report notes.
Additionally, many women who are homeless face serious health challenges, especially those who don’t spend nights in shelters. Almost 20 percent of sheltered women reported having a serious mental illness. Twice that number of women with serious mental illness, 40 percent, live unsheltered, spending nights in places “not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.”
Meanwhile, the percentage of unsheltered women with a substance use disorder, 22 percent, is more than three times that of sheltered women – 7 percent.
One of the most significant impacts that women experiencing homelessness face is finding affordable housing. The Los Angeles area has been identified as the most cost-burdened in the United States, the report notes.
Additionally, there aren’t enough housing interventions to help women when they’re ready to access it, according to the report.
“Whether it is a victim of domestic violence who chooses to remain with her abuser rather than lose her apartment, an elderly woman with dementia who is evicted from her home, or an unsheltered woman on Skid Row who is subject to the daily violence of living on the streets,” the report notes, “the absence of safe and stable housing is a primary barrier for all women experiencing homelessness.”
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