Los Angeles Women’s Center tackles female homelessness

Sep 18, 2020 | Cal Matters

Despite the havoc the COVID-19 pandemic has caused by canceling countless events across the nation, the Downtown Los Angeles Women’s Center (DWC) is holding a virtual campaign to raise funds to help homeless women.

Unlike previous years when a gala was organized, this year the “Together Housed” campaign began on Sunday, September 6 and will continue until Sunday, September 27.

Lorena Sánchez, a DWC spokesperson, said homelessness among women has been a problem that existed since before the pandemic and continues growing. Therefore, it is important to hold this event. 

“Before the pandemic we would provide between 200 to 250 plates of food a day and now we are giving between 800 and 1,000 plates,” Sánchez said.

The DWC refers women in need of temporary housing to one of its two shelters in the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles.

“When we can, we help them by paying the rent. We try to prevent them from becoming homeless,” Sánchez said.

Statistics from Project RoomKey, a program that provides temporary shelter to homeless people during the pandemic, reported that 1,500 female participants have experienced domestic violence in the past or present.

Since the stay-at-home order was given, DWC case managers, who operate remotely, estimate that they have housed more than 50 women.

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Sánchez said that the DWC, which is a day center, offers access to bathrooms, showers, cell phone and internet recharge service, food and a women’s clinic among other help. Some of the services, however, had to be moved to the parking lot of the site to follow CDC rules and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Obtaining a case manager is optional, the spokeswoman said. Women can choose to go to the center daily for their basic needs or go further and receive the necessary help to find a more permanent place.

Sánchez said whatever amount is collected from the virtual fundraiser will go towards the most essential expenses, including the purchase of more personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, prepaid phone cards and electronic devices to help women with more services.

Statistics from the Women’s Needs Assessment released in January by DWC revealed that women of color are disproportionately affected by homelessness.

African-American women represent 10% of the population of the city of Los Angeles, but they accounted for almost a third (28.7%) of the women surveyed.

Most of the new homeless women were women of color: 24.1% were African-American and 35.4% were Latinas.

How to support the campaign

DWC founder Jill Halverson said when she opened DWC in 1978, it was run entirely by volunteers for the first 14 years. Now DWC has a staff of over 200 and about 5,000 active volunteers.

“We serve thousands of women every year,” she said. “But the sense of community and community support hasn’t changed at all. It continues to drive our work now as it did then, and to take it in new directions. And that’s really the heart of this new campaign.”

During the virtual campaign DWC asks its followers to activate their social networks to obtain funds, either individually or as a team. They ask individuals to raise $1,000 and teams to raise $3,000.

Additionally, they encourage followers to share awareness content through social media platforms to increase public exposure to the issues surrounding women’s homelessness in Los Angeles, which has been growing each year at a rate that exceeds that of men.

To support the DWC campaign visit: https://secure.qgiv.com/event/together-housed/

If you or a woman you know needs help you can call the DWC at (213) 680-0060, or visit the center at 442 S. San Pedro Street in downtown Los Angeles.

Jacqueline Garcia is a reporter with La Opinión. This article is part of The California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequity and economic survival in California.

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