“Ask MAx” is published weekly in the Springfield Times, Springfield, OR. You can subscribe to the Springfield Times at http://www.springfieldtimes.net/.
Maybe because it was just Mother’s Day that I noticed that there are a LOT of homeless women. I can’t even imagine my mother in a homeless situation. How does this happen?
Your observation is correct, the number of homeless women has significally risen in the past two years. The increase is contradictive to the 2012 “State of Homelessness in America” report that “shows that despite the bad economy (2209-2011) homelessness decreased by 1 percent…”.
Women, particularly unmarried mothers and the elderly, represent one out of four chronically homeless adults. Many of these women are homeless 365 days or more, have mental health and/or substance abuse problems, and homeless alone.
Who are these women? My own awareness of homeless women has me stopping to talk with them to find out how/why they ended up on the streets. Let me introduce you to some of the women I met: (fictitious names)
Ella: 69 year old living in the park with her friend Frances. Ella was brutally abused for over two decades by her husband. She said that being homeless has a sense of relief that she is “free”. She felt a responsibility to stay out in the open with Frances, particularly through the nights—raining or not.
A principal cause of women’s homelessness is violence against women. It is estimate that 100% of homeless women have experienced domestic and/or sexual violence in their lives; 22-56% of homeless women actually reported that this violence was a direct cause of their homelessness.
Frances: Ella’s friend, Frances, is a 74 year old woman on the streets because of the lack of affordable housing and her past. Even though Frances receives a monthly social security check, she had been turned down for low cost housing because she was a convicted felon over 30 years ago. She prefers to stay out in the open at night because she had been attacked in a covered shelter. She is grateful for Ella’s friendship.
As the Boomers are becoming eligible for retirement, poor planning has already led to a shortage of affordable housing. Certain subsidized housing can exclude convicted felons without limits to the time of conviction, people with bad credit, and, anyone that has been evicted or receives a negative previous landlord report. These three criteria help decrease the “waiting lists”.
Greta: 61 years old, Greta had been a registered nurse since her twenties; an on-the-job injury limited her ability to adequately perform her duties when she was 51 years old. She exhausted all her insurance and unemployment benefits and was still in “Social Security limbo”; she has been waiting for over two years for her SSD benefits. Meanwhile, she had “lost everything” and is presently sleeping on a back porch picnic table of an abandoned house.
Approximately 17 million women lived in poverty in 2010; 7.5 million in extreme poverty. The 1.4 million jobs added since 2009 were primarily male oriented leaving the female unemployment rate higher than it was prior to when the recovery began.
I hope this answered your question, Mark. Don’t be afraid to stop and ask. Ignoring that these people exist is part of the problem. Any of us can end up on this journey.
Have a question about addiction, recovery, or life transitions such as retirement, career change, grief and loss issues, empty nesting, etc, ‘Ask MAx’. Send your questions to Lifestyle Changes, PO Box 1962, Eugene, OR 97440; or, e-mail your questions to: maxfabry@HealerToday.com. Learn more about MAx Fabry at www.lifestylechangescounseling.com.