Homeless Women Face Health Issues, Violence

by Rosi Andrade and Franziska Frank

TUCSON, AZ – (October 22, 2018) – How are women becoming homeless, and how is their health and well-being affected? A recent white paper by the UA Southwest Institute for Research on Women (UA-SIROW) reviewed the existing literature for answers, adding to the body of knowledge with new findings from interviews with homeless women at Sister José Women’s Center (SJWC) in Tucson, Arizona. READ THE FULL REPORT

The literature survey pointed to several key things to understand about women’s homelessness, the researchers said. These include:

·         Simply moving women into housing without a transitional period of support and recovery results in recurring homelessness.

·         A majority of homeless women are domestic violence survivors. For many women, domestic violence is a precursor to homelessness.

·         Alcohol and drug abuse is not only a cause but an effect of homelessness.

·         Exposure to multiple stressors takes a toll on homeless women’s physical and mental health, which can create a cycle of failures, making it harder to work, seek employment and find stable housing.

Interviews with homeless women in Tucson echoed those findings. Based on 50 interviews conducted in 2017 at Sister José Women’s Center, researchers reported additional detail about their specific needs and challenges:

·         Fifty-three percent noted they were considerably to extremely troubled by physical or medical problems including autoimmune (lupus, arthritis, diabetes), respiratory, high blood pressure, or physical or mental disabilities. Many suffered from health conditions such as hearing loss, dental issues, post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety and chronic pain.

·         Access to quality or even basic health care among homeless women was limited. Copayments, scheduling and attending medical appointments, and getting and filling prescriptions presented significant obstacles.

·         Sixty-two percent noted they were considerably to extremely troubled by problems finding work. This was greatly impacted by not having a permanent address and shelter to keep their personal items or pet safe, as well as lapses in work history.

·         More than 80% of the interviewed women reported having experienced domestic violence, and about two-thirds experienced additional violence in the community.

·         Though they showed a variety of histories of substance use and other drug abuse, and many had participated in detox treatment at some point in their lives, only a small number of women reported ongoing substance abuse, mainly alcohol and crack cocaine.

·         Thirty-three percent said people wanted something from them, including money or sex, in exchange for shelter and protection.

Sister José Women’s Center is a nonprofit shelter in Tucson, Arizona, providing drop-in services (e.g., breakfast, showers, laundry facilities, pillows and cots for daytime resting, visiting outreach from local agencies, free Wi-Fi, leisure activities during the day) and overnight shelter.

Sister José Women’s Center and the UA Southwest Institute for Research on Women are working together to use this data to implement new programming supporting women’s pathways out of homelessness.

Making Action Possible for Southern Arizona (MAP) Talks are webinars featuring guest speakers, Jennifer Pullen (MAP Dashboard Coordinator), and George Hammond (EBRC Director). October's MAP Talk will feature guest speakers Dr. Rosi Andrade and Franziska Frank from the University of Arizona's Southwest Institute for Research on Women (SIROW). They will discuss their recent white paper on the Health and Social Well-Being in Chronically Homeless Women: Tucson and Southern Arizona's Current Risks and Future Opportunities. MAP Talks are available in the MAP Dashboard library https://mapazdashboard.arizona.edu/library?type=All&tag=1914

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