Downtown Women’s Center (DWC) is the only shelter that caters to the needs of homeless women on Skid Row. Los Angeles’s homeless population is growing, particularly the population of homeless women. Representatives from the DWC came to speak at an All School Assembly (ASM) on Monday, Oct. 17 to highlight the issues facing homeless women in Los Angeles.
According to the L.A. Times, Los Angeles’s homeless population grew 11 percent since 2013, meanwhile L.A.’s population of homeless women has grown by 55 percent.
The DWC is unique because it caters to women, offering them a variety of services including permanent housing, health and wellness services and job readiness training. The health and wellness services include trauma care, mammograms and mental health consultations, among other female-specific health services.
According to DWC Press Release and Policy Coordinator Rachel Kassenbrok, these services become all the more important when one looks at the statistics of problems facing homeless women: over 60 percent of homeless women in Los Angeles have experienced domestic violence, around 50 percent have experienced sexual assault, over 40 percent have experienced child abuse and over 30 percent have felt the need to trade sexual favors for services, including housing, according to the Downtown Women’s Center Action Coalition.
“A woman who’s been sexually assaulted may be far less included to stay in a co-ed shelter if it means sleeping just a curtain away from a room full of men, or accessing health services at a co-ed health clinic if it means sitting in a waiting room full of men,” Kassenbrock said.
According to Kassenbrock, this discomfort is a factor that makes women experience higher rates of chronic homelessness, meaning one has either been homeless for a year or experienced four or more instances of homelessness, than their male counterparts. Pamela Walls, a formerly homeless woman who spoke at the ASM, was among the women who faced chronic homelessness.
“Because I had been in a shelter for almost a year, I thought I was not going to get out, and the Women’s Center got me out of there and put me in a hotel room which started me on the pathway to housing,” Walls said.
Marlborough plans to continue working with the DWC by donating the proceeds of the Winter Fest raffle to the Center. The Social Justice Los Angeles (SJLA) club at Marlborough also plans to continue working with Los Angeles’s homeless population.
According to Co-President Eleanor ’21, SJLA plans to continue working with DWC throughout the year by setting up hours for girls to volunteer.
“Girls need to help out the many women they see on the street, whether it be by a just smile or a meal,” she said.