At Housing Up, we know women are a particularly vulnerable segment of the homeless population. Most of our families are led by single mothers, 33% of whom have experienced domestic violence in the past. These women shoulder the significant responsibility of raising a family while also trying to navigate finding a stable home, securing a well-paying job, and ensuring that their children are provided for.

A  recent survey from the Women’s Taskforce of the District of Columbia’s Interagency Council on Homelessness further demonstrates the difficulties faced by women experiencing homelessness. The report consists of 434 surveys of 44 questions, taken by women ages 17-78 in various forms of housing: emergency shelters, transitional housing programs, safe houses for women of domestic violence, and couch surfers.

The study finds stark conclusions about housing and the specific barriers women face in securing stable housing. According to the study, 55% of all homeless women can be categorized as chronically homeless. 59% of women experiencing homelessness are sheltered regularly in some form of housing (emergency shelter, safe houses, etc.). Of the remaining unsheltered women, 67% have not sought emergency shelter in over a year, citing lack of transportation, inconvenient waiting periods and reservation methods, and overcrowded shelters as barriers to application.

Homeless women are a very vulnerable population: 73% of women report having experienced violence or threats to their safety, and 31% of women reported fleeing domestic violence as the cause of their homelessness or instability. Those who stayed in shelter report generally positive experiences, with 80% reporting that shelter staff treat them with respect and make them feel welcome and that facilities meet their needs. This includes LGBTQ women, who are slightly overrepresented in all categories. However, only half (52%) of women agreed that food in these shelters was healthy.

When it comes to housing assistance, knowledge of processes and access to information are huge barriers to entry. 73% percent of women surveyed say that provider staff have aided them in finding and completing housing applications. This is crucial, as the number one reason women say they have not applied for housing assistance is that they didn’t know what to do or where to go, don’t know if they qualify, and are unsure if they have the proper paperwork to apply. The top three resources desired by the women are job employment and training, access to healthcare, and educational programs.

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