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Homeless women in the United States: Wikis


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The fastest-growing group of homeless people in the United States is composed of single women with two or three children. Before the 1980s the homeless population was mostly composed of men.

Within the last two decades, US society has begun to acknowledge the growing numbers of homeless women and children. Homeless women are rarely seen because they often find shelter with relatives, friends, or other homeless women. The majority of homeless women are on the streets because of divorce or escaping domestic abuse. Abandonment is also a key contributor to homelessness in women.

After the Great Depression, divorce rates dropped but abandonment rates rose suggesting that couples simply split rather than pursue a costly divorce. Decline of the welfare state, and lack of affordable housing have also led to the increase of homelessness in women.


Domestic violence and divorce

Women may be at an increased risk of homelessness or be compelled to live with a former or current abuser in order to prevent homelessness. Men also find themselves homeless secondary to Divorce and when abused by women at an even higher rate than women do. Men are also more likely to be victims of Domestic violence than women. For example, a Pitt University study[1] shows that men are sometimes abused by women just as much as the reverse. What does that mean? 834,732 men battered a year means every 37.9 seconds on the average, another man is battered. On the average, every 20.9 seconds, another woman is battered. On the average, every 20.6 minutes, another man in Washington is battered.

Decline of the welfare state

Participation in the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and food stamp programs began to decline dramatically after the enactment of the Federal Welfare Law enacted in 1996. In 1996 President Clinton endorsed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act which required that a person had to work in order to receive government assistance and support. The bill converted AFDC to a block grant- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)-with fixed funding. This is where the federal government gives the states “blocks” of money to distribute for income support and work programs based on what they spent in 1994. According to the Congressional Budget Office, that bill included nearly $55 billion in cuts in low-income programs in a six year time period.

Other provisions made it possible for states to withdraw a substantial amount of state resources from basic income support and work programs for poor families with children to divert federal TANF block grant funds to other uses. The legislation allowed states to deny aid to any poor family or category of poor family. Also, the legislation prohibited states from using block grant funding to provide aid to families that have received assistance for at least five years, but the state could also cut that time limit shorter - including availability to cash aide and work slots.

The bill cut out $28 billion in food stamps, cutting the benefits by almost twenty percent. These reductions affected the working poor, the disabled and the elderly. In the legislation the food stamp provision affected the poor between the ages of 18-50 who had no children. The bill reported that these individuals were limited to three months of food stamps while unemployed in any three year period.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that all of these provisions would deny food stamp benefits to an average of 1 million people a month who are willing to work but can’t find a job and are not offered a workfare. The lack of food eats into the housing budget.

Lack of affordable housing

Many people believe that affordable housing is an urban or welfare problem, but it is a problem for people with and without jobs, and it happens in every ethnic background. People in poverty have been increasing due partly to declining minimum wages, and government assistance such as welfare cash assistance and HUD. In the 1970s, the United States Congress increased funding for housing assistance due to the dramatic increase of homelessness. But after the 1980s, HUD assistance fell at an alarming rate.

In 1996 through 1997, Congress allowed zero funding in budgets for new Section 8 certificates. Section 8 is a housing program that allows low-income renters to pay 30 percent of their income to rent in unsubsidized units on the private market. Because the “one-for-one” rule had been abolished, the federal government doesn’t have to provide new or additional Section 8 certificates for every unit demolished. The private market is to the point where they are unwilling to create and keep affordable housing through the government.

Reports show that 30 percent of low income people receive housing subsidies. This condemns most people to live one paycheck away from living on the streets. Furthermore, as the number of people in or near poverty increases, affordable housing has declined, due to the decrease in government housing assistance, the rising cost of rent, high-end new construction, condominium conversion, and old projects being torn down. Most homeless people rely on shelters until they can find a permanent home, but due to the increase of homeless people, shelters have had to deny people and families a place to stay because they are over the limit and don’t have room for them.

See also


  • Butler, Sandra S., 1957. Middle-aged, female and homeless.
  • Bulman, Philip Michael. Caught in the mix.
  • Arrighi, Barbara A. America's shame.

External links



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