Majority of Homeless Women Say They've Experienced Violence, Survey Finds

More than half of the women surveyed, 53.2%, said they have experienced domestic or interpersonal violence in their lifetime.

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A majority of Los Angeles homeless women interviewed in a recent survey reported being victims of some type of violence over the past year, according to a report released Thursday.

According to "The Los Angeles Women's Needs Assessment'' survey of 305 homeless women, released by the Downtown Women's Center, 60.2% of respondents said they had been victimized in the past year. More than half of the women surveyed, 53.2%, said they have experienced domestic or interpersonal violence in their lifetime.

According to the report, women's homelessness has reached "crisis conditions,'' with the most recent homeless count tallying nearly 11,000 women experiencing homelessness in the city of Los Angeles, a 13% increase from 2018 to 2019. More than 18,000 women are homeless in Los Angeles County.

The reports cited a "critical shortage'' of services and housing available to homeless women, noting there was a 41% increase in homeless women living in the county from 2013 to 2019.

"We must address this shameful crisis within a crisis of women experiencing homelessness across Los Angeles,'' said Amy Turk, the incoming CEO of the DWC. "These new data show that women continue to endure the harsh indignities of homelessness while remaining invisible and often forgotten on the streets. It's time we provide housing and services that directly meet their needs. These women deserve to be seen and to be heard.''

According to the report, women of color are disproportionately affected by homelessness. While black women make up 10% of the population of the city, they accounted for nearly one-third, 28.7%, of women surveyed, according to the report. A majority of newly homeless women were women of color -- 24.1% were black and 35.4% were Latina; LGBTQ homeless women are more likely to have experienced sexual assault or sexual violence, according to the report. More than one-third, 35.7%, of LGBTQ women surveyed reported experiencing sexual assault in the last year, compared to 27% of all women surveyed.

Also according to the report:

  • Housing continues to be the most critically needed resource yet also the most difficult to access. The majority of women, 82%, indicated they have struggled to access permanent housing.
  • Homeless women are more likely to be older than the general population of women in Los Angeles. Nearly half of women surveyed, 48.9%, were age 51 and older. However, the survey found the median age of respondents in 2019 had decreased for the first time since 2001.
  • Accessing necessary medical services remains a challenge. Although 84.2% of women indicated they had some form of health insurance, 63.2% reported visiting the emergency room within the last year, "suggesting they are not accessing primary or preventative care.''

If we truly want to confront the homelessness and housing crisis in our city, we must ensure women receive the services and support they need to stay safe and secure,'' Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said. "The Downtown Women's Center is at the heart of our work to lift up homeless women and put them on a path to healing, housing and hope, and this landmark report will help us understand the magnitude of this challenge and ultimately solve it.''

The DWC led the project and developed survey questions with input from partner organizations, other service providers and women who have experienced homelessness. The USC Sol Price Center for Social Innovation conducted the data analysis for the report.

"Women living in poverty are stigmatized,'' state Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles said. "It is imperative that we invest in collecting the right data to develop sound policy to derail the cycle of homelessness for women.''

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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