The reasons for and the experience of homelessness are not a universal trajectory. For women, homelessness is a gender specific experience where they are physically vulnerable and at a heightened risk of sexual and physical assault, human trafficking and violence. As such, service providers must be prepared to provide gender-specific services and treatment to address the needs of women experiencing homelessness. Evidence-based and trauma-informed care have been proven to be the most effective methods in addressing severe trauma as a result of lived experiences. These non-institutional approaches, employed by homeless shelters, such as the Lotus House Homeless Shelter, have proven to be life-changing. To learn more about the evidence based design of the programs at Lotus House and the gender-specific needs of women, please visit https://lotushouse.org/understanding-the-need/
Women experiencing homelessness require service responses specific to their gender-based needs. This study identifies and assesses gender-responsive service strategies for assisting women experiencing chronic homelessness. Some of the greatest challenges experienced by these women are a lack of safety, access to long-term housing, and specialized services. In order to best serve women and to prevent homelessness, service providers must turn away from the institutionalized service philosophy to a more human-centered, gender-responsive, trauma-informed, specialized and holistic service policy. Offering specialized and trauma-informed care creates an all around safe environment, minimizing traumatic stressors while encouraging empowerment, choice, respect, and collaboration. To learn more about why women experience chronic homelessness and gender-specific solutions, visit https://www.mercyfoundation.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Gender-responsive-strategies-for-assisting-women-experiencing-long-term-and-recurrent-homelessness.pdf
CITATION: Bullen, Jane. “Didn’t Feel Heard, Didn’t Think I Had a Voice, Didn’t Feel Safe: Gender Responsive Strategies for Assisting Women Experiencing Long-Term and Recurrent Homelessness.” Mercy Foundation. The Mercy Foundation, April 2019. https://www.mercyfoundation.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Gender-responsive-strategies-for-assisting-women-experiencing-long-term-and-recurrent-homelessness.pdf.
Women who experience homelessness are more vulnerable to victimization, exploitation and marginalization, compared to their male counterparts. Yet, policy responses, research, and strategies continuously use a gender neutral approach to address homelessness. The use of a gender neutral lens only advances inadequate policies and services that fail to address the unique vulnerabilities of women. As a consequence of substandard responses to this epidemic, women are exposed to multiple episodes of homelessness. The provision of gender sensitive and trauma informed care can mean the difference between life and death for some women. “Women centered programming is necessary to bridge the gap between public systems and ensure that interventions … are enhanced to protect women’s safety and provide therapeutic support that deal with trauma.” To learn more about a study that highlights women’s unique experiences with homelessness and recommendations for women centered services, please visit https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-020-8353-1.
CITATION: Milaney, K., Willliams, N., Lockerbie, S. L., Dutton, D. J., & Hyshka, E. (2020, March 26). Recognizing and responding to women experiencing homelessness with gendered and trauma-informed care. BMC Public Health. https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/s12889-020-8353-1.pdf.
Gender specific vulnerabilities and the presence of children further complicate women’s experience with homelessness. To effectively address and create permanent solutions for women and their families, there must first be a deep understanding of the pathways that lead to homelessness. For women, pathways leading to homeless include a combination of individual and structural components. Violence, mental health concerns, low income or underemployment, lack of affordable child care and lack of social support are all individual themes that lead to homelessness for women. Structural barriers that give rise to homelessness include: lack of affordable housing options and gender neutral policies that fail to consider the vulnerable needs of women. To truly end the cycle of homelessness for women and their families, status quo approaches must be replaced with evidence based solutions that reflect the gender specific experiences of women. To learn more about the complexities that further complicate women’s experience with homelessness, barriers to stability and gender based solutions, please read this research paper: https://www.homelesshub.ca/sites/default/files/attachments/Family_Homelessness_Report.pdf
CITATION: Milaney, K., Ramage, K., Yang Fang, X., Louis, M. (2017). Understanding Mothers Experiencing Homelessness: A Gendered Approach to Finding Solutions to Family Homelessness. Toronto: Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Press.
In the City of Los Angeles, there has been a 41% increase in women experiencing homelessness. To better understand the root causes and factors that contribute to the rising number of homelessness, a community based research project was conducted to identify the gaps and gender specific needs of unsheltered Los Angeles women experiencing homelessness. Common factors and causes include: lack of access to medical/healthcare services; lack of access to affordable housing; and the inability to access community resources responsive to their unique needs and histories. Meeting the women’s gender specific needs, comprehensive social security nets, equitable access to affordable housing, universal access to resources and income, combatting intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and trafficking, and trauma-informed communitites are all part of the web of solutions. To learn more about root causes, policy solutions and community recommendations, please visit https://www.downtownwomenscenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/DWC-2019-Los-Angeles-Womens-Needs-Assessment.pdf
CITATION: Downtown Women’s Center. (n.d.). 2019 Los Angeles City Women’s Needs Assessment. Downtown Women’s Center . https://www.downtownwomenscenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/DWC-2019-Los-Angeles-Womens-Needs-Assessment.pdf.
Many women experiencing homelessness have lived through severe traumatic experiences, such as sexual assault, and as a result exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. This is particularly the case for women veterans. To ensure that the specific needs of women veterans experiencing homelessness are met, service providers must implement gender-specific safety standards and guidelines that will minimize stressors and provide appropriate mental health care. This article features the following recommendations that help address the heightened vulnerability of women experiencing homelessness, with a history of sexual assault and PTSD: trauma-informed care; separate housing from men; rooms near easily accessible exits; constantly functioning safety mechanisms; security activation independent of staff; prevention & reporting of harassment; adoption of safety plans; clear & open communication; staff training about vulnerabilities; and stable & gender-sensitive staffing. For further information on the proposed minimum standards and guidelines, please visit http://jaapl.org/content/early/2019/06/11/JAAPL.003854-19
CITATION: Kim, J. Cacilia, Mikel Matto, and Elizabeth Kristen. “Safer Housing for Homeless Women Veterans.” Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online, June 11, 2019. http://jaapl.org/content/early/2019/06/11/JAAPL.003854-19.