The National Women’s Shelter Network began as an initiative of the Lotus House Women’s Shelter. Lotus House scoured the country to identify each and all of the homeless shelters exclusively serving women and/or mothers and children in communities large and small, reaching out to connect and build the database of contacts needed to bring this often overlooked and deeply resource-constrained community of shelter providers together for unified action. Many shelters, like Lotus House, have women with lived experiences at all levels of their organizations that are a passionate driving force for equity in our collective work.
Our work focuses on women’s homeless shelters because these special shelters and safe havens for women stand at the intersection of domestic violence and homelessness, doors wide open to the street, struggling to keep the lights on and put food on the table, deluged by a seemingly endless stream of women and children in need because this country’s leaders do not value their work or the lives of those they shelter. Women’s homeless shelters too often do not benefit from the stream of income and resources flowing to traditional domestic violence shelters under the Federal Violence Against Women’s Act or other Federal funds because they are scattered, scarcely resourced, and lack any meaningful political voice. They and those they serve are seen as the lowest of the lowly, burdened with stereotypes, misconceptions, misinformation and internalized shame that has led to a dearth of resources to address their needs, often relying solely on the donations and piecing together a patchwork quilt of disparate, threadbare funding. Breaking down barriers, changing the narrative and extending universal access to life-changing resources and services will not only positively impact the lives of women and children who are the most vulnerable in our communities, but can end generational cycles of trauma, abuse, poverty, and homelessness. NWSN aims to change this narrative, to bring together the voices of the “last, the lost, the least and forgotten” and those who serve them, to inform, lift up and demand the change so richly deserved by women and children in need in a country that proclaims itself first in the world.
Homelessness has become normative in the United States. But it was not always so. And it does not need to be our future. Breaking down barriers and extending universal access to life-changing resources and services will not only positively impact the lives of women and children who are the most vulnerable in our communities, but can end generational cycles of trauma, abuse, poverty, and homelessness. In the fruit of their potential realized, our local communities and our nation are enriched beyond measure.