Pathways to Homelessness, Voices of Women in Los Angeles - Abstract
Aim: To document women’s reasons for their homeless status and to identify resource needs. Method: Forty-seven homeless women residing in a downtown women’s day center on Skid Row, Los Angeles, CA filled out a 37-item self-administered questionnaire. Data gathered included demographics, health status, homeless status (how long homeless), as well as qualitative data on reasons contributing to homelessness, resources available and resource needs. Information on select aspects of women’s lives, such as domestic violence, substance abuse and preference for housing and social services was collected. Statistical analysis assessed selected differences among categorical and continuous data. Qualitative data were recorded verbatim, coded and analyzed using comparative analysis. Results: Over fifty-six percent (56.5%), of women reported experiencing homelessness for the first time. The median age when homelessness first occurred was 38 years and the average amount of time respondents were unsheltered was 365 days. One-half of women were single. The most common areas to sleep were at faith-based shelters (38.3%), and on the streets (23.4%). The primary reason for homeless status was financial, followed by fears of violence and drug and alcohol use by self, spouse, or others in the household. Women reported difficulty accessing basic services including restrooms, showers, clothing, food, and water. Resource needs included financial, housing, and social support. Conclusion: Homeless women in Los Angeles account for 32% of the 50,000-60,000 homeless individuals reported on any given night. Participating women in our study report financial loss, violence and substance abuse by self or others in the household that contributed to their homeless status. Targeted resources for women are needed to stem the path to homelessness.