Violence Against Women
The prevalence of violence is the biggest difference between men’s and women’s experiences of homelessness in Los Angeles.
For many women, violence is not a single instance but an ongoing reality that is further exacerbated by the experience of homelessness itself. Of the women surveyed in the DWC 2019 Los Angeles City Women’s Needs Assessment, more than 60% had experienced violence at some point in the last 12 months, and 25.7% reported the violence as occurring constantly or often. In addition:
Domestic Violence & Homelessness
Research shows that domestic violence is one of the main drivers into homelessness for the over 18,330 homeless women in Los Angeles County.
A lack of safe, affordable housing options often forces women to choose between remaining with their abuser and becoming homeless. In other instances, women who have survived violence will become homeless later in life, even if it is not the initial cause of their entry into homelessness.
In order to explore and bring attention to the intersection of domestic violence and homelessness, DWC joined forces with Rainbow Services in the fall of 2016 to co-launch the cross-sector Domestic Violence and Homeless Services Coalition (DVHSC). The Coalition’s aim is to create a client-centered system that increases access to safe housing and supportive services for survivors of domestic violence and their families, with an emphasis on integrated, trauma-informed care. The Coalition also seeks to foster increased community connections through public events, leadership in research and data collection, and public advocacy. Leading partners of DVHSC include the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), the City Attorney’s office, and County Supervisor Kuehl’s office, and funding is provided through the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.
Safety & Trauma
While it’s no secret that sleeping on the streets is dangerous for women, more than one-third of women also report feeling unsafe in overnight shelters. According to our 2019 Needs Assessment, 26.4% of women who slept most frequently in shelters also reported having experienced sexual assault in the last year, with another 23% reporting feeling unsafe in shelters.
Part of the problem is that the shelter system in Los Angeles County is simply unequipped to meet women’s specified needs. Of the emergency shelter beds that are made available year-round, only 17% were available to women as of 2017 — a group that now comprises 32.4% of the total homeless population in the County. Many shelter beds available to women also exist in mixed-gender settings, increasing the likelihood that women who have survived violence will feel unsafe or be re-traumatized in those locations.
At DWC, we believe the best way to ensure that transitional housing is safe for women is to provide women-only shelter beds and to require that all shelter staff are trained in Trauma-Informed Care (TIC).
TIC is a necessary standard in ensuring women’s unique service needs are met in both women-specific and mixed-gender settings. Its service approach acknowledges the long-term impacts of trauma, understands signs and symptoms of trauma, and responds by integrating knowledge about trauma into all policies and practices.
We practice a TIC approach across all our programs and services, including our new Bridge Housing Program, which provides critical overnight housing to 25 single, unaccompanied women who are in the process of securing permanent housing. We also provide TRIC trainings to service providers and public entities that interface with individuals experiencing homelessness, such as the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Library, and Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. Our Trauma Recovery Center, created in partnership with Peace Over Violence with funding from the California Victims Compensation Board, also offers individual and group therapy, psychiatric/medication services and assessments, and referrals to trauma services for homeless and housing insecure women across Los Angeles.