The City Council unanimously voted Wednesday to have “unaccompanied women” who are unhoused classified as a subpopulation in the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s annual homeless count.
The designation is for homeless women who have no children or spouse, and the action asks the city’s and county’s homeless service providers to list them as a specially vulnerable group that is worthy of additional resources and services.
“Without resources geared specifically to them, unaccompanied women experiencing homelessness are only going to struggle to navigate a system not designed with them in mind, while remaining vulnerable to violence, trauma and sexual assault,” said Council President Nury Martinez, who authored the proposal.
The council voted to have LAHSA and the city’s and county’s nonprofit partners work with the Downtown Women’s Center to collect the data.
“We must do better, and that begins with identifying them as an official subpopulation in order to get them the services, housing and resources that meet their unique needs,” Martinez said. “The Downtown Women’s Center is a leader in helping women experiencing homelessness, and the center’s experience and involvement in this process to better serve unaccompanied women is invaluable.”
The council also voted to have participants of the annual homeless count collect information on race, gender, age, location, sexual orientation, domestic violence/intimate partner violence status and other data related to unaccompanied homeless women.
According to the 2020 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count (also known as the point-in-time count) conducted by LAHSA in January, 21,129 — one-third — individuals experiencing homelessness in the county were women, a 15% increase from 2019’s homeless count, Martinez said.
Nearly 55% of those women were unsheltered, but it’s unclear how many of them were “unaccompanied,” meaning women over the age of 18 living without a partner or children.
Although the annual homeless count includes subpopulations, such as veterans, families, transitional age youth and the chronically homeless, it does not include unaccompanied women.
Since 2015, the number of women experiencing homelessness has increased by 64%, outpacing the increase among men, Martinez said. In the city of Los Angeles, there are now 13,330 unhoused women who are disproportionately women of color.
“Today’s vote by the City Council is a historic step for ending women’s homelessness in the city of Los Angeles,” said Amy Turk, CEO of the Downtown Women’s Center. “Thanks to this motion authored by Council President Martinez, Los Angeles is the first city in America to officially designate unaccompanied women … as a recognized homeless subpopulation.”
In 2001, the Downtown Women’s Center launched the Los Angeles Women’s Needs Assessment. The survey, which is conducted every three years, documents the demographics, needs and conditions of homeless and low-income unaccompanied women in Los Angeles.
Martinez said the reports have been instrumental in not only providing basic information on unaccompanied women and trends on this subpopulation of homeless individuals, but they also shows the effect that sexual, domestic and interpersonal violence has had on unaccompanied women.
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