Homelessness among Women Skid Row California
A home provides physical space, personal identity or roots, legal and social dimensions, and a sense of emotional wellbeing. Every human being feels psychologically relaxed when he or she has a roof to shelter him or her from both physical and social environments. Therefore, the lack of housing as well as the aspect of individuals lacking a regular dwelling that offers security, space, and emotional attachment with the inhabitant is referred to as homelessness. The State of Homelessness in America 2013 examined the trend of unsheltered Americans in the 21st century and found out that this issue is still a problem experienced by a lot of people (Henry et al., 2013). These findings dispute previous arguments that homelessness was an ancient problem that could not be experienced in the 21st century. According to the U.S Department Of Housing And Urban Development report, a total number of 633, 782 Americans experienced homelessness in 2012 (Henry et al., 2013). The report also indicated that in every 10000 people, 20 of them were homeless were 38% lacked any shelter while the rest occupied emergency or transitional shelters (Henry et al., 2013). Based on these statistics, the issue of homelessness is a dire scourge that characterizes social problems experienced by some Americans. The statistics vary depending on the gender, social status, and the state or city being examined. In regard to gender, women are also subdued to this plight; hence, this paper develops a theoretical framework based on qualitative studies concerning the plight that is experienced by homeless women in Skid Row, California.
- Statement of the problem
Basically, homelessness is caused by the inability of individuals to pay for housing due to economic or social factors. Skid Row has been identified as a harbor for homeless people for many years. Women are victims of the effects of homelessness due to the laxity among the authorities (Anawalt, 2003). Several reports have been conducted regarding the situation, but this specific study will delineate the problems of homeless mothers living in Skid Row. The paper will look deeper into the reasons that contribute to them being homeless, the effects this causes to the society, whether there are any efforts by the government to intervene, and the probable recommendations.
- Description of the problem
Since the early 1900s, a lot of women began accessing the downtown escaping abusive relationships,s and looking to provide for their children. Unfortunately, the reception at Skid Row is quite the opposite. The sluggishness of the authorities continues to suppress women in undignified situations (Blankstein & DiMassa, 2009). Based on the statistics observed earlier, very few people in the area hold a substantial family symbolizing that the area is characterized by homeless individuals. Generally, women are an integral unit of society and they have a hoard of responsibilities. Most of their duties are bound to household chores and family matters. They have a responsibility of bringing forth and rearing children and it is disheartening to see them spending their nights out. Unfortunately, the local government has done very little to address this matter. Very few shelters have been constructed to house homeless women who struggle to survive. In addition, the police launched an initiative known as safer cities to curb the level of crime; however, the major targets are the homeless individuals. The police conduct a crackdown and several homeless women end up in the cell for violating Los Angeles Municipal Code 4118D which prohibits sleeping on sidewalks (Bratton & Keiling, 2003). According to the residents, that law is ambiguous and only applies in Skid Row; hence, they find the authorities incompetent and inhumane.
Description of the community
Skid Row is a portion found on the downtown side of Los Angeles city located east of the Financial District and the Historic Downtown Center. Skid Row is located in the state of California, County of Los Angeles, and the city of Los Angeles and uses the ZIP Code 90013 (City-data, 2008). The county is headed by a mayor who is known as Eric Garcetti, who was elected in the 2013 elections, and the chief of LAPD in Skid Row is known as William Bratton (Bratton & Keiling, 2003). The district is approximately 11.2 kilometers squared and as per the 2000 census, the population was estimated to be 17,740 people, but according to City-Data, the population was estimated to be 19,326 in 2008 (City-data, 2008). The area is very much congested with a total number of 18,695 people per square mile. The 2000 census showed that 9.8% of the total population comprised of minors, 55% made up the youth, 40% were aged 35 years to 64 years while the remaining 4% comprised of the elderly. The ethnic distribution of the district is quite diverse because it comprises people across all races. In detail, the whites dwellers make up to 25% of the total population, African Americans amount to 17%, Asians make up to 6%, Native Americans constitute 0.4% while the rest are comprised of Hispanics and other races. Generally, the largest portions of the population are not born in the area but are immigrants from other areas and the influx is caused by the popularity of the Skid Row area for housing the homeless, and due to their conditions, they tend to find a home. The 2008 data indicates that the number of homeless males living in Skid Row was 4,896 while only 2,426 women existed and 60% of both males and females were above the age of 47 years. Another shocking revelation is that 80% of the total females in the district are single mothers with only 5.3% having family households (City-data, 2008).
Approximately 1,932 people live in single rooms’ rental apartments in skid rows with only less than 500 affording three-roomed houses and above. Most of the houses were constructed in the early 1900s and there is no houses that contains four bedrooms and above in the area. Only less than 1% of the residents live in their owned homes, 20% live in rental units while the others are either temporary or permanently homeless. According to the 2008 report, 36% of the residents had attained elementary education with only 9% attaining an associate degree (City-data, 2008). Additionally, 76% of the residents live below the poverty level, and only 0.1% of families where both the husband and the wife were working. In 2010, the crime index of skid row was estimated to be 293.2 which was higher than the average U.S crime index average of 266.4 (Blankstein & DiMassa, 2009). The main source of livelihood in the area is food-based businesses which are regarded as hazardous due to the lack of sanitary services.
History of the problem
- Origin and evolution
Traditionally, Skid Row has been reported to be a single male-dominated area, and women and children could be vulnerable to violence since they were regarded as a threat to the males (Anawalt, 2003). Recently, only ten percent of the population is women and children with the highest number of women belonging to 35 to 50 years. The name Skid Row was coined from Seattle Washington where loggers stored their timber waiting for shipment (Rowe & which, 1990). After the Great Depression in 1930, a great hunger epidemic hit the area and most of the workers were left homeless; consequently, only the war veterans, unemployed, and aged people were left occupying the area (Rowe & Wolch, 1990). As a result, it was left as a male-dominated area with women being perceived as intruders. Their main source of livelihood was embedded in the construction of the railroad that currently serves Los Angeles and after The Great Depression, they could not get money to feed themselves. Loss of employment meant that they could no longer afford to pay for their houses and they resulted to be spending nights outside. Both men and women were equally affected but the female suffered more since they had children to take care of (Rowe & Wolch, 1990). After the Second World War, the federal government constituted a law that required all houses to be equipped with safety measures or face demolition. Consequently, only a few could meet the requirement hence the others were destroyed rendering more people homeless. This contributed to the displacement of a significant number of extremely low-income and dependent people. The recession in the 1990s hiked the situation because many families broke up and the number of people in need of shelter increased.
- Impacts of homeless women in the community
Homelessness among women has numerous adverse impacts that affect the political, economical, and social environment.
- Political and legal impacts
As indicated earlier, the affected individuals feel that the government has a way to solve the situation but it has completely failed to do so. This kind of perception affects the political influence among the people. As a result, a certain politician’s influence may reduce affecting his or her political career. Similarly, census data are used by the government in creating boundaries and districts and severe homelessness may lead to an abolition of a political boundary. Also, there is bad blood between the affected individuals and the authorities since the municipal laws seem to be targeting the homeless (Bratton & Keiling, 2003). There is an assumption that homeless women are drug abusers; hence the authority brands them as criminals (Rick, 2006).
- Economic impacts
Funding homeless women is a challenge that needs to be addressed by allocating adequate finances to the affected people. However, individualism among the politicians over the budget risks the affected individuals. This results in budget cuts to cater for the homeless which is a huge expense compared to preventing people from becoming homeless. The annual cost of sheltering and sustaining every homeless person in Los Angeles County is $1.5 billion while only $600 million are allocated to the scheme annually (Bratton & Keiling, 2003). Also, productivity reduces since homeless women cannot manage to work under their conditions. Tourism is also affected since the city is perceived to be dirty and that it contains women who have corrupt morals.
To start with, homelessness among women risks the future of next-generation which can be depicted by the low population reported in Skid Row. When there is a high level of single mothers, the bearing of children is at risk which affects the rate of population. Secondly, children brought up by homeless mothers do not access education which results in a high illiteracy level (Anawalt, 2003). Lack of education leads to unemployment and the absence of jobs results in criminalization (Blankstein & DiMassa, 2009). Thirdly, the streets are usually flooded with beggars and people sleeping in public places. As a result, the hygiene level is highly affected which can result in to spread of diseases. Consequently, such mothers lack access to medical care especially during birth which may result in complications during birth. Another social impact is the high rate of women turning into drugs and prostitution. The number of brothels at Skid Row is increasing at an alarming rate and the rate of consuming illegal drugs is still increasing. Also, the reputation of women living in Skid Row is usually bad as they are associated with immorality. Homeless women suffer from psychological illnesses such as depression and some end up taking away their own lives (Rick, 2006). They are regarded as outcasts in the community and people view them as women who lack the willpower to control their morality. Therefore, homeless women have serious adverse consequences that affect the whole community at large.
Union Rescue Mission is one of the agencies dedicated to salvaging the plight of women encountering homelessness. Although they state that ending homelessness is not an easy job, their collaboration with the government and well-wishers will help a lot. The agency offers emergency services which include food, transitional shelters, clothing, clinics, individual assessment and counseling, day center, family community center, personal hygiene, life management classes, and spiritual nourishment. Similarly, GateWay Project is a responding agency that targets helping homeless men and women (Kleiboemer & Frank, 2013). Each member registers with a nominal fee of $210 which is used to cater for their beddings, meals, counseling, education, and empowerment. In addition, the agency offers transitional housing campus for homeless women and children and permanent housing services. Emmanuel Baptist Rescue Mission also offers shelter, counseling, spiritual teachings, food, and other personal paraphernalia. Lastly, the local authorities invented an initiative known as Skid Row Housing Trust which is intended to build more apartments for housing homeless individuals. These agencies also offer a strong religious foundation to the affected women so that they can be contented psychologically to curb depression.
Homelessness among women is a severe challenge that affects the area of Skid Row. People have dedicated the city to being a designation for the homeless Americans, and it is unfortunate that this perception exists among Americans. Virtually, the issue of homeless started in the 19th century and it is unfortunate it has not been resolved up to date. Women and mothers are vital in society and their lack of shelter adversely affects the whole community. Lack of education is directly linked to the problem of women’s homelessness because they cannot afford to take their children to school (Rick, 2006). Illiteracy and unemployment trigger the rise of insecurity and criminal activities. On the contrary, instead of the local government apprehending the situation of homelessness, it sets up policies that are meant to harass the homeless. These harassments increase homeless mothers’ tribulations and afflictions. The whole city becomes a mess since the economic, political, and social environment is negatively affected. The government should speed up in upholding positive measures that are meant to control homelessness, especially among women.
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