The city of San Francisco has more than 7,000 homeless people, and 35% (2,400) of these are women between 20 and 50 years old. Homeless women face challenges such as being overlooked, disregarded, ignored and looked down upon. Also, homeless women are far more likely to experience violence of all sorts, than American women in general, when living on the streets.
According to ”The Experience of Violence in the Lives of Homeless Women: A Research Report 2005”, a study of 800 homeless women in several Florida cities, the most significant risk factor for violent victimization as an adult, is a pattern of physical, emotional and sexual abuse as a child. Many young girls are destined to become homeless adult women, as they have been permanently scarred by their childhood victimizations and have an extremely warped sense of what is normal and acceptable in their relationships to men.
The study shows that the homeless women endured various combinations of victimization, homelessness and other traumatic life events and that in many cases, these experiences led the women to feel inconsequential, worthless, isolated and alone.
Many homeless women are homeless because of violence. This does not make homelessness easy to resolve, but it does, we think, make the resolution all that more urgent. And it is important to find the right way to approach these very vulnerable women.
Individual women and girls are invisible in a very different way compared to homeless men. The majority of the services and programs set up to help the homeless is made in response to the larger homeless men population.
As a result, service providers have noted that many women, as a minority in mixed shelters or housing programs, feel unsafe in these environments. The staff at these homeless shelters or programs may also not be able to address the specific challenges women face or be able to provide a safe space.
Axel Honneth a German professor and philosopher known for his recognition theory describes recognition as an important factor for the individual’s ability to develop self-esteem and self-respect. Recognition is about respecting the individual. Without recognition, you will feel invisible and inferior. Honneth describes recognition in the three spheres: the private sphere, the judicial sphere and the social sphere. According to Honneth, women, if they fail to gain recognition and emotional support, they risk losing a positive self-image.
Blossom Locker Room Project
The latest initiative from Blossom Project is to establish a locker room for homeless women in San Francisco.
The idea behind the project is to provide a locker room for homeless women, a secure place to store their personal belongings in. In addition to providing secure storage, the Locker Room will provide a safe space for women who are homeless to find a community to interact with and help address life’s challenges. Empower the women to gain control over and take responsibility for their own life and situation.
The locker room itself is more than just a place to store belongings – it is a physical space that is conducive to establishing a connection between the caseworker and the homeless women. The importance of this relationship cannot be overstated – it is symbiotic, and restores a sense of hope. It is a way to respect the women, see them as equal dignity and also empower the women.
Blossom Project is in the process of securing funding and working with City of San Francisco and other organizations to find an appropriate location for the project.
Feel free to reach out to Tine Christensen and her team if you would like to volunteer or get your company involved in supporting homeless women in the Bay Area.