Every year, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development conducts a nationwide count of individuals living without homes. This count takes place every January, one of the most brutal times of the year to be living out of doors and unhoused.
As of 2022, there are at least 582,500 people living homeless in the United States. This figure represents hundreds of thousands of individuals and families struggling to obtain the resources they need to break the cycle of poverty, find affordable housing, and regain stability in their lives.
While men represent six out of every 10 homeless Americans, the nearly 223,000 women and girls living homeless in the United States share a unique set of challenges that make their experience even more dangerous.
Learning about these challenges is key to determining the best way to address the rising number of women and girls experiencing homelessness in the United States.
The Unique Struggles Faced by Homeless Women
No night on the street is easy. However, there are many challenges that are unique to women and girls that even programs that help the homeless do not address. Here are some of those challenges.
Many homeless women report sexual violence, harassment, or assault, both on the street and in shelters. These assaults often go unreported, as women are afraid of reprisals, such as losing their place in the shelter or losing access to their preferred sleeping area outdoors.
Lack of access to menstrual products
Many women and menstruating people struggle to procure sanitary supplies for their monthly period. These articles represent an additional expense they must shoulder monthly or find other ways of handling that are not always safe or sanitary.
Lack of visibility
Many researchers believe that homeless women are chronically undercounted due to the fact that they may be less willing to interact with service workers. As a result, they are less able to receive beneficial social services.
Kimberly and her daughter became homeless after fleeing domestic abuse. But with help from Soroptimist, Kimberly was able to turn things around and pursue her dreams.
How Women’s Education Can Help Prevent Homelessness
While some homeless women can get a bed in a shelter, many are living their lives entirely on their own and cannot access resources that can help end this cycle. Research has shown that without appropriate interventions, women are more vulnerable to recurring or repeated episodes of homelessness, putting both them and their families at risk.
Education is a crucial component of helping to end the cycle of poverty that puts so many women at risk of homelessness.
- Education increases a woman’s self-esteem, putting her in an empowered position to avoid situations like domestic abuse and family violence.
- Lack of education has long been associated with increased risk for homelessness, with one study finding 53% of homeless mothers surveyed did not have a high school diploma.
- Higher education is associated with having a more active role in reproductive choice. 21% of homeless women without a high school diploma were pregnant by 16 years old.
While many girls and young women living in poverty may find it challenging to stay in school, Soroptimist/LiveYourDream.org has programs that can help.
Dream It, Be It: Career Support for Girls
Dream It, Be It is an invaluable resource for young women who are currently facing obstacles to their success in traditional education. Obstacles often include poverty, unstable home lives, living in foster care, or teen pregnancy. Aimed at high school girls, this curriculum-based program connects girls with professional women in their community who can help them work through topics like career goals, resiliency, and planning for the future. Reaching girls while they are still young not only helps them stay healthy and safe in the short term, but can also reduce the number of women in crisis in the future.
Live Your Dream: Education and Training Awards for Women
The Live Your Dream Awards program is a unique education award for women who provide the primary financial support for their families, giving them resources to improve their education, skills and employment prospects. Many recipients have overcome enormous obstacles, including homelessness, on their path to a brighter future. Read the story of one award recipient, Kimberly Thompson, who fought homelessness and used this award to pursue a college degree.
Take action to help prevent women and girls from living on the street. Here’s how:
How You Can Help
- Donate any sum of money today to help promote access to education through programs like Dream It, Be It and the Live Your Dream Awards.
- Share the Live Your Dream Awards application.
- Share this blog to raise awareness about how education can prevent homelessness by posting statistics and information on your social media pages.
- Volunteer your time by joining a local Soroptimist Club.
Jordana Weiss is a freelance content writer based in Seattle, Washington. She specializes in planning and writing high-performing blogs, articles, and web content for growth-oriented organizations. To get in touch with her, visit her website at www.jordanaweiss.com.