We've Failed Our City's Homeless Women

I recently met a homeless woman who was born and raised in Ward 6, and attended the old Hine school. Until several years ago, she lived on Capitol Hill with her mother and sister. Her mother faced domestic abuse from her boyfriend, and suffered from many physical ailments, so she served as her caretaker. In 2013, her mother passed away, and six months later her sister was tragically shot and killed by her partner. Within six months, her mother and sister were gone, and she found herself homeless. She has been living on our streets since that time, hoping to someday receive a housing voucher.

Our city has failed her, and so many women like her. From failing to provide health care and mental health services to her family, to failing to support her when she has needed us most, our city left her and her family to fend for themselves. In spite of it all, her optimism was inspiring. She believes she will be ok, if she remains positive. It was a privilege to spend time listening to her story. It was sad to realize that she’s never had the opportunity to tell it to her representative on the DC Council.

It has become very apparent during my time running for DC Council in Ward 6 that the incumbent has not been listening to these women. They either don’t know who he is, or they tell me they don’t believe he knows they exist.

On any given night, an average of 882 unaccompanied women experience homelessness in DC. According to a recent study on the condition of homeless women in DC, 42 percent of these women have been victims of domestic violence. One in three homeless women report domestic violence as the direct cause for their housing instability. For the homeless woman I met, domestic violence existed in nearly every facet of her life.

At the federal level, resources for domestic violence and sexual assault victims are becoming more and more limited as Republicans continue their efforts to undermine Medicaid and eliminate insurance products sold on the individual market. The DC Council is doing little, if anything, in response. In fact, we’re often doing the opposite. In a progressive city like ours, we should not be leaving women experiencing domestic violence to fend for themselves.

We should be providing homeless women with the support and services they want and need. Other than housing, homeless women list access to affordable and healthy foods, mental health services, educational programs, healthcare, and employment and training opportunities as their top priorities. We’re doing little to assist them, and in many ways, my opponent has actually made their lives harder. By requiring proof of homelessness to enter shelters, and limiting access to private bathrooms, our DC Council has helped perpetuate the cycle of emotional and physical insecurity our women experiencing homelessness face.

These women have told us what they need, and our city has the resources to deliver, if we elect leaders who care enough to do so.