Homeless Women in Denver -- September 2005

Denver Women's Commission
Homeless Women in Denver -- September 2005


The Denver Women Commission applauds the hard work of the Denver Commission to End Homelessness. We appreciate its efforts to mobilize and organize the Denver community and its resources to address this difficult problem. You can download the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness and learn more about the Denver Commission to End Homelessness by visiting www.denvergov.org/Homelessness

As the Denver Women's Commission, we are concerned about homeless women. The 2005 Point-in Time Survey estimated that there are 1,088 homeless women in Denver County, or about 38.8% of all homeless (p.2).

Homeless women in general have differences from homeless men:

 Domestic violence is one of the most prevalent causes of homelessness for women, particularly homeless women with children. Of the 1088 homeless women surveyed in the 2005 Point-in-Time Survey, 207 or 19% cited abuse or violence as the cause of their homelessness. Of the 1088 women, 287 or 26% cited relationship problems as the cause of their homelessness. 109 women selected both categories. (Tracey OBrien, from Point-in-Time Survey data) In Colorado in 2004, safehouses statewide housed 3,040 women. They turned away 4,793 women because they were full (Domestic Abuse Assistance Program, Colorado Department of Human Service).

 Homeless women are more vulnerable to sexual assault or other assault when living on the street.

 Homeless women are more likely to have children, requiring larger housing units than a single adult. They also may fear their children may be taken from them if identified as homeless.

 Homeless women with children are more likely to need subsidized child care to return to economic security.

 Because they are more likely to have children, homeless women are more likely to be eligible for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Yet TANF grants (e.g. $356 per month for a mother and two children) are not sufficient to prevent homelessness, unless the families are lucky enough to find subsidized housing. In Table 10, Page I-25 of the Denver Plan to End Homelessness, 139 homeless people identified TANF as a source of income. Denver County only has about 1,850 parents with children on TANF. (Contrast with the 41 people in Table 10 who receive child support.)

Women are more likely to have caregiving responsibilities that may make it difficult to get or maintain employment. In Denver, the poverty rate for families headed by single mothers is double that of families headed by single fathers. On average, women earn less than men, and have higher poverty rates than men. These factors make them vulnerable to homelessness.

Out of fear of domestic violence, street assault, and sexual assault, and loss of child custody, homeless women may be less visible than their male counterparts. Women are more likely to be the hidden homeless.

Through our legislative advocacy agenda, the Denver Women's Commission is working to address root causes of homelessness for women. Legislation affecting survivors of domestic violence, TANF recipients, and caregivers can reduce homelessness. Access to substance abuse treatment and mental health services, changes to unemployment insurance, and making the State Earned Income Tax Credit permanent could all prevent some Denver women from becoming or remaining homeless.