Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis has been well documented, with increases in the numbers reported across both the city and the county. Chronic and first-time homelessness is on the rise, and as a new report from the Downtown Women’s Center shows, the “crisis within the crisis” that homeless women face in the city is only growing worse.
The sixth edition of the DWC’s Los Angeles City Women’s Needs Assessment paints a stark and maddening picture of the conditions those women deal with, from violence on the streets, poor healthcare access and run-ins with law enforcement. The 2019 report was the first one to look at the entire city, and not just the Skid Row area, since it started in 2001, and it contrasts the epicenter of homelessness in Los Angeles with the wider city.
Los Angeles Downtown News last week wrote about the report, which found that 10,845 women are homeless in the city. The report points to an aging population, with the service area covering Skid Row seeing women who are 51 or older accounting for more than half of those surveyed. A plurality are women of color. Of those surveyed, 62% said they have experienced violence in the last year. Per the report, chronic homelessness for women in Los Angeles is up, and homelessness is rising specifically due to the rise in rents and the lack of affordable housing in the city.
This page does not need to tell you that homelessness is a growing problem in Downtown and Los Angeles, that is evident. But it’s important to know how people are being affected by homelessness and for each demographic the experience is different.
The DWC’s report is a useful tool, not just because it provides data on the crisis, but explicitly links how issues such as rising costs of living, trauma and limited resources can perpetuate homelessness. It also shows just how much gender can come into play when it comes to the impacts of homelessness.
Urgent and informed help is needed, not just to house those women on the street, but to make sure they stay housed and get the care they need. Much has been said about the need for service providers that understand exactly the experiences that their clients have likely experienced while living unhoused. As Los Angeles works to alleviate the crisis, it should keep this holistic, all-encompassing approach in mind.
Currently the city, in partnership with the county, is building supportive housing meant to shelter and help those on the streets. Last year the city opened a 25-bed women’s-only Bridge Home Shelter at the Downtown Women’s Center. The report explicitly highlights the need for trauma-informed care, with services that take into account both the direct and indirect violence and abuse so many homeless women face. A roof over one’s head can help, but this is long-term care that is needed.