As A Precusor To Homelessness In Women Essay, Research Paper
Domestic Violence and how it is seen as a Precursor to Homelessness in Women
Human Ecology 3070
October 18, 2001
“ Domestic Violence and how it is seen as a Precursor to Homelessness in Women”
“As soon as we moved into this house, you think you can have your way… You are my wife and I tell you what you can do and what you can’t do.” This kind of statement is typical of what a battered woman knows to be the only truth in her household. Domestic violence is greatly on the rise and is one of the leading causes of homelessness among women in today’s society.
Rather than approach domestic violence as a direct “cause” of homelessness, one might hope to understand how such violence could help create the circumstances that might particularly make a woman more susceptible to homelessness. Domestic violence and poverty may intersect with other issues to produce the circumstances that often leave women no other choice but to seek temporary shelter for the short-term, and therefore remain precariously housed.
Homelessness is defined as a person who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate night time residence, and has a primary night time residence that is:
A) Supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations.
B) An institution that provides temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized
C) A public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.
(Stewart B. McKinney Act, 42 U.S.C.; 11301, et seq. (1994).
According to the McKinney Act (1994), this definition usually includes those people who face imminent eviction form their current form of shelter.
Domestic violence, or battering, is the establishment of control and fear in a relationship through violence and other forms of abuse. The batterer uses acts of violence and a series of behaviors, including intimidation, threats, psychological abuse, and isolation to coerce and control the other person. (Somers, 1992).
When most women are in a dangerous situation where domestic violence of some sort is occurring, they are being victimized. The impact of divorce, battering, and other family disruptions in combination with economic insecurity and primary responsibility for their children lead many women towards homelessness. It is believed that half of all homeless women have been a victim of some form of domestic violence, based on self-reporting and observations of various programs staffers. (National Research Council, 1996). However, the numbers of homeless domestic violence victims may be underestimated because some victims are reluctant to self-report. Homeless women seldom view their abuse as their primary problem and may not reveal that they are victims. In some cases, if a woman reports that she is a victim of domestic violence, a homeless shelter may refuse to accept her for security reasons. Most shelters do not offer services to women unless they conform to the criteria that distinctly makes them part of the particular group the shelter program targets. Programs can be specifically geared towards battered, homeless women and have been a great success in dealing with the emotions of the situation.
Much of the writing and public discuss on domestic violence suggests that a woman who escapes a violent relationship is almost always in serious physical danger, and therefore needs a shelter of some sort to escape from a mate who will eventually harm her again repeatedly. An interesting article titled “ Homeless women blame domestic violence” in a United Kingdom newspaper gave some chilling facts about domestic abuse and its repercussions.
- A report by the charity Crisis found that 63% of homeless women aged between 30 and 49 in the United Kingdom said that domestic violence was the key reason they had lost their homes.
- A survey done by Crisis found that the older in age British women became, the least likely they were to know where to go for help once they became homeless.
- In the early 90’s, women used to make up only 10% of homeless community, and in 1999 they now made up for 37% of the same homeless community.
Many women who are being victimized are being left with no choice. Many believe that homelessness is something that happens to other people before it happens to them. Many avoid the night shelters because they are deemed dirty, violent and unsafe. A large portion of homeless women end up staying too long in hostels, which some said that hostel life was making them ill. Many of the victimized women stated a want to go back to work, but felt is was not worth their while giving up housing benefit when cost of hostel, shelter and hotel accommodation was so high. And because of the extensive resources a woman who leaves a violent relationship needs in order to support herself and her children, the only choice that most are making is to stay in that deep hole of poverty and homelessness or the violent relationship of abuse.
However, with the pattern of persistent poverty and battering, homeless shelters are likely to focus on women’s housing and employment needs, while battered women’s shelters concentrate on the psychological ramification of violence. The organization of homeless and domestic violence shelters, however, demands that a woman defines themselves in one way or another in order to receive services. Because battered women’s shelters define their service as “crisis” housing, most initially accept women for no more than thirty days so women cannot depend on always depend upon even ninety days of shelter. The women shelters present few choices to available to women who are in need. It demands a significant amount of money to avail oneself of other options, such as staying in a hotel, renting an apartment alone, or moving to another city. Women in both kinds of shelters express their desires to receive respectful, individualized treatment from a staff who will respond to their experiences with domestic abuse and their housing and employment needs. Still, when their ability to gain entrance into a shelter depends on their conformity to certain identities – “battered women” or “homeless women”, many women have been known to self consciously manipulate their histories in order to fit into these socially constructed categories of need.
The main purpose of defining the patterns of violence that homeless women know all to be too true was to provide a better understanding of the women’s experience. The relationship between homelessness and abuse is more profound for women. Many women report that domestic violence is the primary cause of their homelessness. Though much attention has been paid to the “ feminization of poverty”, it seems to be that there has been less emphasis on the significance of poverty for increasing the likelihood that women will become homeless. Female single parent families rose form 23.7 % of all families in poverty in 1960 to 52.6 % of all families in poverty in the mid 1990’s. (Hagen, 1994). As a result of historical growth in women’s poverty and female headed family homelessness, it has been increasingly important for research to focus on the unique sets of issues and problems that women’s homelessness presents.
1.) Somers, Amy. Domestic Violence Survivors, Homelessness: A National Perspective. 1992.
2.) National Research Council. Understanding Violence Against Women, Washington, DC: National Academy of Press. 1996.
3.) Alexander, J. (1999, May 30). Homeless women blame domestic violence. BBC News, pp. C3.
4.) Hagen, J. (1996). Gender and Homelessness. Social Work 32(July/August). 312-316.
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