Studying Women’s Homelessness Internationally

domestic violence, Homeless Women, homelessness, Homlessness, Women and Poverty

Among developed (or industrialized) nations, the United States of America has the highest number of women experiencing homelessness (FYSB 2016; Green Doors report). While the specific determinants and the details of the experiences of homelessness are unique for each individual woman, there are some themes that emerge when examining the issue of women’s homelessness at a “macro” level.

For example, for women in the United States, domestic violence is often eerily linked to homelessness. A report from the Family and Youth Services Bureau notes: “According to multiple studies examining the causes of homelessness, among mothers with children experiencing homelessness, more than 80% had previously experienced domestic violence. Between 22 and 57% of all homeless women report that domestic violence was the immediate cause of their homelessness. Thirty-eight percent of all domestic violence victims become homeless at some point in their lives.” (FYSB 2016).

For researchers who study homelessness at academic institutions and in government agencies, one of the major research-related frustrations is a lack of research–quantitative or qualitative–on women’s homelessness. Specifically, there is little attention given to the issue of how to ameliorate homelessness for women. Which policy interventions are working and which policy interventions are failing homeless women in the U.S.? Just as there is often a lack of “political will” in local, state, and national government environments when addressing the issue of women’s homelessness, there seems to be  a lack of “research will” dedicated to investigating the best and worst ideas for reducing women’s homelessness.

Therefore, I was excited to see the publication of the March 2017 report titled “Women’s Homelessness: International Evidence on Causes, Consequences, Coping and Policies”. This report is available online and accessible to everyone: click here to access the report. One of the best strategies for finding successful policy interventions to ameliorate women’s homelessness in the U.S. is to look abroad. Go international with your investigative scope and try to find places where certain policy interventions have already succeeded in reducing women’s homelessness. Then ask, can we apply this policy intervention to the U.S. context? Will this idea work here? This report is the exemplification of an excellent resource for policy practitioners and researchers to examine in their quests to find the best methods for addressing women’s homelessness in the U.S. and abroad.

(Note: the report that I am referencing in this post addresses women’s homelessness in mainly developed, industrialized nations. Therefore, its scope is not as broad as it could be, and it omits a lot of information about, and analysis of, housing and women’s homelessness in developing nations. However, the report was published very recently so the information included in it is very up-to-date, and this report presents a good example of how to examine an issue using an international lens.)

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Domestic Violence, Homelessness, and Housing

domestic violence, Homlessness, housing

The article, “High Housing Costs Raise an Obstacle for Women Fleeing Abuse” written by Colleen Long and published on 8/15/15 in the Associated Press, highlights the close relationship between homelessness and domestic violence.  There are a lot of reasons why victims of domestic abuse do not “leave” their abusers immediately (or ever). These reasons are personal for each individual victim and can include (but are not limited to) economic, financial, social, emotional, and psychological motivations for staying with an abuser.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness in the United States.  As rents and housing costs soar, it has become increasingly difficult for people fleeing domestic violence to find affordable, PERMANENT housing.  There are many domestic violence shelters in the United States that struggle to meet the demand for temporary housing and supportive services.  If a person who has experienced domestic violence is able to attain temporary shelter and services, after leaving the shelter, they will have to look for permanent housing. The high housing costs can prevent them from finding a stable place to live.  Click on the link above to read more about this issue in the AP article.

A big thank you to Dorothy Holt for finding this informative article!