Well, being a woman in this world is hard. You are born at a slight disadvantage, provided you are born in a country like the United States. You are born to an extreme disadvantage in less progressive countries, or ones with strict value sets (which may or may not include women as lesser people) if you are lucky enough to be born at all.
Being a woman and homeless in the US has its ups and downs. It varies greatly in different areas of the country, different states and even within neighboring cities. In my experience women with children are always treated differently, usually put above and before anyone else, as they should be.
Of course as a woman with a child, sometimes you face scorn or judgement (actually this is common place) as if you are a horrible mother for being unable to provide for your child, or for bringing them into this world, in such a dark place, such as domestic violence. My experience with this is limited, so I can't really go into great detail about it.
However as a single childless woman (if your child is not physically with you, you are considered childless in most situations) its a grab bag as to what you will experience.
Most commonly you will experience degrading comments, assumptions that you are a drug/alcohol abuser, that you are lazy and incompetent and looking for a hand out, a social failure, corrupted and damaged, or that you must be crazy... and thats just when you are looking for help and/or a place to stay.
Some of the problems on the street (or in a shelter, or even in life) that I have personally faced include but are not limited to: Domestic Violence
Abuse (of all kinds)
I have had attempts on my life made more than once, even twice while pregnant (two separate pregnancies, two different men making the attempts)
It doesn't really bother me and I suppose it should. I think I cope by numbing myself to it and just taking away a life experience.
Anyways, women face quite a bit of stigma. Of course men do too, but not nearly to the degree women do, at least in my experience. I am consistently looked at as less because I do not bring my child with me into this. (Might I add, sending my child away was the hardest thing I have *ever* had to do) I am looked at as a drain on society, a person who just wants everyone else to provide for her, an incapable slut because I have never been married.
Don't mind the fact that I have a Masters degree, I am useless and just want handouts, right?
I am looked at as an object, as just another person. As I've explained previously, we all got here (homeless) in a different way. Everyone has different needs. Programs with individualized case management plans are far more successful than lump sum programs, that do little to address WHY a person became homeless to begin with.
Sometimes I hear you have to have a child to live here, to stay here, to obtain services. Well, I am doing the best thing I can for my child, by NOT bringing her into this, so thats just not an option. I will not corrupt someone elses life, especially that of my own child, to advance my own.
Then I hear I have to be a substance abuser. Great, so because I am clean and sober (and prefer it that way) that you can't help me. Okay, everyone needs a boost and help and addicts do too.
But then I hear, well, we can't help you because you are a woman. Well why? 'because we don't serve women, there just aren't that many homeless women.'
This is true. I don't know statistics, but I'm sure its at least a 1:5 ratio, women to men.
Well then, what do you suggest I do? 'Find a friend'. Yes, because all us women are social creatures that help one another. *cough*
Although I have a number of friends that would probably help me, many live too far for me even to contact them regularly, much less live with them. Many have families of their own, or are in college and simply can't add another person, who realistically can't contribute much at the moment.
So, I'm left playing the waiting game.
Waiting for a solution, a hand. I'm sure I'm not the only homeless woman experiencing this and I'm sure others find far better solutions to this than I can.
So my question is.. well, what are we supposed to do?
I am constantly solicited, especially on the streets, usually by disgusting men (You'd be surprised how many white collar men also solicit me) usually using the line of 'well it will help both of us out, if you know what I mean' usually followed with a sick laugh or smile.
I am not a hooker. I am not a prostitute. I will not lower myself, put myself in danger or bad situations for a meal, a quick buck, or the possible opportunity of somewhere to sleep for a night.
I'll take my chances on the street, thanks. At least there I can RUN.