Homeless women on downtown Los Angeles' skid row are increasingly older and racial minorities, a report released this week found, and half of homeless women have experienced sexual assault.
The Downtown Women's Action Coalition, a group aiming to improve women's housing and other services, surveyed 324 women in the Skid Row area in 2013 for the fifth Downtown Women's Needs Assessment.
The coalition also proposed solutions to homelessness and related problems, including an expansion in affordable and permanent supportive housing, increased local women's health services, community interventions to prevent sexual violence, training and employment programs and decriminalization of homelessness.
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The DWAC found half the women surveyed were 51 or older, an increase from the 2010 survey when that number was 47 percent.
About 20 percent of older women on Skid Row said they had been homeless for less than a year, the report said, indicating "the continual arrival of newly homeless older women, who have lost housing as a result of the death of a spouse or estrangement from adult children."
Older women also reported having poorer physical and mental health than younger women.
The report found many women were victims of sexual abuse, which the World Health Organization has said makes people more likely to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and to abuse alcohol or drugs.
Forty percent of women surveyed said they had been victims of child abuse, 50 percent said they were victims of sexual assault and about 60 percent said they had experienced domestic violence.
Nearly a quarter of respondents had experienced all three, and about 14 percent said they had been sexually assaulted in the past year.
Systemic racial discrimination accounts for an increase in minority women who are homeless on Skid Row, according to the report.
About 58 percent of the women were African American, up from 53 percent in 2010.
"Over time, discrimination in education, housing access, and wages and employment opportunities leave these groups more vulnerable to poverty and homelessness," the DWAC said the report.