The silent struggles of the female homeless population
Did you know? About 40% of the nationwide homeless population is female. In Kansas City, that number is even higher. In 2021, our Point in Time Count showed that 50% of the KC/Wyandotte County homeless population were female. These statistics make it easy to believe that homelessness is equal among genders, though studies have shown women tend to disguise their homelessness when they choose to live with family and friends.
Many readers may ask the question: How did these women find themselves without shelter? The answer may be reflective of the struggles that affect the homeless population as a whole: poverty, mental health struggles, family disagreements and substance abuse – just to name a few.
However, the female homeless population faces unique struggles that you may not be aware of, with patterns of unsheltered living and poverty as the result.
Factors that affect homeless women
The leading cause of homelessness for the female population is domestic violence. 20-50% of homeless women and children are forced to run away from violent homes. Another differentiator for homeless women is their children. Many women assume the role of primary caretaker when escaping abusive homes. This makes the cut of poverty deeper and access to shelters more complicated. Divorce, job loss, lack of education and lack of affordable housing are other common reasons women experience homelessness.
For a list of other factors affecting homeless women, click here.
How to survive as a homeless woman
Homeless women face a harsh reality. Once homeless, they lose access to healthcare and hygiene products. Women who go without mammograms and Pap smear tests risk serious undiagnosed illnesses until it’s too late to do anything about them. The general public takes for granted necessities like inhalers, toothbrushes, and feminine hygiene products, but among the homeless population, these supplies can be few and far between. As a homeless woman, even everyday health can be very difficult.
Surviving as a homeless woman can seem like a hopeless task. Many people assume that the answer is creating more openings at shelters. When crafting solutions like these, advocates must put themselves in the woman’s shoes. If a woman experiencing homelessness is homeless as a result of domestic violence, she will likely avoid shelters with men present. If she has children, she will not leave them to seek shelter somewhere that does not have room for her whole family.
Only if we understand all the confounding factors homeless women face can we allocate the correct resources to helping homeless women survive and escape homelessness.
How YOU can help homeless women and children
Donate menstrual health products
Most local homeless shelters are in need of menstrual health products. Serving these shelters and the women living in them is a great way to support homeless women.
Donate to job training programs for women
Other factors that women face such as wage gaps and job disparity between genders create a cycle of homelessness for women that is difficult to get out of. Job training programs for women like Hope Faith University in Kansas City aim to break the cycle.