Homelessness and Women : A Reflection During Women’s History Month

Homelessness and Women : A Reflection During Women’s History Month

Written by: Lara Pukatch, Miriam’s Kitchen Advocacy Director

As you know well, our mission is to end long term homelessness in DC, a crisis that is disproportionately impacting men. Approximately 80% of those that come to our dining room, access our outreach services, or reside in our housing program identify as men.

So, what does this have to do with Women’s History Month? A LOT. Unpacking a crisis that is disproportionately impacting men is exactly how we understand the ways in which the very same crisis is impacting women and gender nonconforming folks.

Gender, like race, is everywhere, and it matters to everything. The gender we identify with – whether it’s male or female or both or neither – impacts the way we experience the world and the way we are perceived by those around us.

Whether society perceives us as female or male impacts – and often defines entirely – the rights we have, the resources we can access, and the responsibilities we are given. And all those things impact our ability to access safe, affordable homes.

Women may not comprise most of our guests and clients, but Miriam’s Kitchen will always stand in solidarity with women experiencing homelessness, especially those who are often overlooked.

It is estimated that approximately, 1,963 women in DC are experiencing homelessness, many of whom are experiencing homelessness with their families or as heads of household. It is critically important that we work to ensure that all families in our city can access safe, affordable housing. In addition, we also want to highlight a subpopulation of women that is often less visible: those women who are experiencing homelessness alone and without their children.

In 2017, we were proud to collaborate with others to design and implement a long overdue 2017 DC WNA Executive Summary (002) (women who are not experiencing homelessness with partners or children), which found that:

  • 882 unaccompanied women were experiencing homelessness in the District of Columbia
  • Black/African American women make up the largest share of women who are experiencing homelessness (75%)
  • Approximately 20% of women surveyed identified as LGBTQ+
  • Almost 1/4 (24%) of women surveyed were unsheltered or in unsafe housing
  • Nearly 1/3 of women in the study indicated that violence was the cause of their homelessness or housing instability
  • Almost 2/3 (63%) of women with histories of violence and trauma also reported at least one act of violence against them during this current period of homelessness or housing instability

We will continue to bring this gender lens to our work to explore the barriers that women, men, and gender nonconforming individuals face in experiencing and exiting homelessness – not just during Women’s History Month, but all year long. And, we will not forget the powerful ways that gender and race intersect, resulting in added barriers and discrimination for women of color facing housing instability.

Finally, we recognize that we are not the experts on this issue. We hope you will join us in celebrating and supporting the many organizations that have been leading the work to promote racial and gender equity in our city for decades. While there are more leaders than we could possibly list in the post, we’d like to call attention to a few of our partner organizations:

District Alliance for Safe Housing (DASH), DC Coalition Against Domestic ViolenceN Street VillageCalvary Women’s ServicesCollective Action for Safe SpacesFair Budget CoalitionHIPsBread for the CityHouse of RuthThrive DCOne DCEmpower DC