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By Danielle Roman and Vicky Arenas, The People Concern

National Women’s History Month originates from the very first “International Women’s Day” in 1911. In 1987, Congress designated the entire month of March “Women’s History Month”. National Women’s History Month is a time to honor women’s contribution to American history, reflect on their current position in our society, and look towards a brighter future. The People Concern is proud to celebrate Women’s History Month by exploring the intersectionality of womanhood and homelessness, sharing stories of strength and inspiration we witness every day, and offering services tailored specifically to meet the needs of women experiencing homelessness.

Historically, women struggled for their equality and economic independence. Today, women are still confronted with issues that increase their risk for homelessness including being disproportionately affected by domestic violence, the wage gap, lack of affordable housing, lack of affordable quality child care and greater home and caretaking responsibilities. Factors such as race, sexual orientation, education, children, mental and physical disabilities, unemployment, substance use, and lack of available resources further exacerbate the challenges faced by unhoused women.

The 2019 Needs Assessment conducted by the Downtown Women’s Center (DWC) and the USC Price Center for Social Innovation reported that there are 10,845 women in the City of Los Angeles and 18,331 women in Los Angeles County who are experiencing homelessness. African American and Latinx women are overrepresented in the homeless population and women of color are also more likely to become chronically homeless. Transgender women face additional challenges when accessing services such as shelters and showers that are often designed with a cis-heteronormative ideology. These realities point to the complex, negative consequences that racism and sexism continue to have on our society today; in addition to a lack of available affordable housing and physical and/or mental health conditions, domestic violence is a leading immediate cause of homelessness for the women The People Concern encounters.

The People Concern’s multi-disciplinary outreach teams throughout LA County work diligently to connect with people living outside and build trusting relationships so that they can then connect them to resources and help them restore a sense of safety and stability. These efforts take time – everyone’s needs and circumstances are unique – but we are immensely proud of the women we serve and the resiliency they demonstrate in times of great adversity.

Women like Angela. Angela was an employee at a local university’s student health center. She enjoyed coming into work each day and lived a simple, happy life. But following the death of her parents, she began to feel isolated, depressed and trapped in a cycle of grief. Seeking a solution to her unhappiness, Angela moved out of the country with hopes of a fresh start. Her time abroad, however, was short-lived. After losing her savings, she returned to Los Angeles, but this time, she had no home, no money and no support system. Angela’s experience on the streets was traumatizing and after three years of living without shelter, she moved into one of The People Concern’s interim housing facilities in Santa Monica. Not only did Angela find a warm bed, wellness activities, and staff dedicated to helping her make it home but Angela also found her passion. Since connecting with us, Angela has rediscovered singing and participates in a community choir. Today, she feels empowered to share her story with others so they can learn from her experience.

In addition to providing integrated services for people experiencing homelessness and victims of domestic violence, The People Concern offers programs designed to empower, celebrate, and unite our female program participants. These programs include daily women’s wellness groups and workshops to foster a community of sisterhood such as housing 101, cooking classes, gardening, budgeting and money management, emotional management, harm reduction groups, art, and jewelry-making. Daybreak Designs, The People Concern’s social enterprise, empowers women to design, create, and sell their own jewelry for a profit while perfecting their craft and acquiring valuable business skills. Additionally, The People Concern, in partnership with the UCLA Rape Center, is able to reserve emergency beds for victims of rape and assault who are experiencing homelessness. Program participants are given a safe place to sleep and assistance getting back on their feet through family reunification or referrals to other resources. Finally, Sojourn, is The People Concern’s domestic violence program serving adult and children victims of domestic violence. Sojourn’s 24-hour crisis intervention hotline is the entry point to all of Sojourn’s services including peer counseling, advocacy, referrals, and assistance to shelter.

This National Women’s History Month we celebrate the work that our partners, staff, volunteers, and supporters do every day to ensure that LA County’s most vulnerable women are housed, healthy, and safe for good.

Here’re a few things you can do today to support women experiencing homelessness in your community:

Contact your local representatives to voice your support for interim and supportive housing for unhoused women and families.

Donate and assemble hygiene kits that outreach teams can use to connect with people and bring them inside. Email donations@thepeopleconcern.org for more information.

Show our neighbors you care by volunteering with The People Concern’s homeless services and/or domestic violence programs. Email volunteer@thepeopleconcern.org or visit https://www.thepeopleconcern.org/ for more information.

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