Blog by Laura Calenda, Chief Marketing & Philanthropy Officer
Why are women falling into homelessness?
Women’s History Month has traditionally been a time to highlight the many contributions of women to our society. But when women don’t feel safe, can’t make ends meet and don’t have a roof over their heads, they get stuck in survival mode and are unable to realize their true potential.
25 years ago, it was rare for a woman to experience homelessness in Rhode Island. Today, women make up 38%i of our state’s total homelessness population. Poverty, lack of affordable housing and domestic violence are largely to blame.
Mind the (wage) gap
It’s difficult to earn a living wage when women earn only 82 cents for every dollar paid to white menii. For African American and Latina women, the wage disparity is even worse: They bring home only 59 cents and 50 cents respectively for every dollar paid to a maniii. As a result, thousands of women lived below the poverty line in Rhode Island last yeariv, earning less than $12,140 if single and less than $16,460 if they had a childv.
With rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Rhode Island averaging $15,456vi a year, it’s virtually impossible for a woman at that income level to find a place to call home, never mind buy food, cover her utilities or seek childcare. In fact, there are only five communities in the state where someone earning less than $50,000vii a year can afford to live.
Is it any wonder that so many women struggle just to get by?
Domestic Violence driving women into homelessness
In addition to economic disparity, 1 in 4 women will also experience domestic violence during her lifetimeviii. Survivors fleeing an abusive relationship often turn to homeless service providers for a safe place to stay, making domestic violence one of the leading causes of homelessness among women.
Investing in women means investing in our community
Despite their growing numbers, there are very few programs—and even less funding—available to help women experiencing homelessness in Rhode Island. This is unfortunate because when women thrive; communities thrive. Families are strengthened. Businesses grow. Economies are stimulated.
So let’s give our mothers, sisters and daughters the hand-up they deserve by adequately funding programs and services focused on helping women in need. Let’s start paying women what they are worth and let’s invest in more housing that women can afford. When women are empowered to meet their true potential, it is society as a whole which benefits.
i HUD Point in Time Count, 2018
ii U.S. Census Bureau, 2017
iii U.S. Census Bureau, 2017
iv Talk Poverty, 2018
v WelfareInfo.org, Rhode Island
vi 2017 Housing Fact Book, HousingWorks RI @RWU
vii 2017 Housing Fact Book, HousingWorks RI @RWU
viii National Coalition Against Domestic Violence