Broken Lives and Shattered Souls

Posted: October 14, 2008 in Bureauacracy, Children, Family, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness

While I was taking care of the administration part of the blog yesterday I checked my stats – as I usually do. I then took a quick look to see which search inquiries had been used via a search engine to find the site. Most of them I’ve seen in one form or another. This time in the list, however, is one I’ve never seen: domestic violence impact on homelessness.  

Although I’ve touched on the subject of domestic violence and how it impacts homelessness, I don’t remember ever having written an entire post about it. So, I did some research into it. Afterward, while I thinking about, I could see how it wasn’t just the lives of the women who were being abused who were being affected. There were additional innocent by-standers whose lives were being destroyed as well: those of children.

The National Coalition for the Homeless fact sheet, Domestic Violence and Homelessness, has this to say on about it,

When a woman leaves an abusive relationship, she often has nowhere to go. This is particularly true of women with few resources. Lack of affordable housing and long waiting lists for assisted housing mean that many women and their children are forced to choose between abuse at home or life on the streets. Moreover, shelters are frequently filled to capacity and must turn away battered women and their children. An estimated 29% of requests for shelter by homeless families were denied in 2006 due to lack of resources.

I cannot even begin to imagine what must go on in the mind of a young mother with dependant children who must face choosing between continuing to be a victim of domestic violence or facing life on the streets with her children. Nor can it be easy for her to determine which course of action is best.

On the one hand, there is the need to think about the safety of her children. Fleeing the relationship would mean that her children would not have a roof over their heads; no "safety net," so to speak. The potential of some random act of street violence aimed at her children might make staying in the relationship worth the physical abuse; a type of parental sacrifice, as it were. However, it would probably also enter into her mind that if her partner wasn’t hesitant to abuse her, how could she be certain that the abuse wouldn’t eventually be inflicted on her children. And what if her partner were to physically abuse her to the point of causing her to be hospitalized, who would take care of her children? Could she trust her partner with her children?

For such a mother, it would be nothing less than choosing between the lesser of two evils.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless fact sheet, Homeless Families with Children,

Homeless families are most commonly headed by single mothers in their late 20’s with approximately two children.

A mother in her late 20’s probably doesn’t have an extensive work history. She may not even have more than a high school education. Not exactly a prime candidate for a job which would provide a livable wage for her and her children. The shrinking affordable housing market would mean that even if she were employed, she would still have to seek assistance through the "welfare system." However, as seems to be the habit with government bureaucracy, they’re not going to be moving at lightning speed to ensure that she and her children don’t end up on the streets. In fact, most likely, they will refer her to the local homeless shelter or a battered women’s shelter. Sadly though, most of these facilities do not have adequate room to accommodate every family which needs emergency shelter.

Being a single adult who finds themselves homeless is hard enough. But to face homelessness as a single mother with dependant children must be emotionally devastating. On top of that, considering the many misconceptions and stereotypes which are attached to being homeless, it would make all the more difficult for these young women to find a way off of the streets and into stable housing.

Moreover, without a safe location where her children could remain during the day, it is easy to see how finding – not mention maintaining – employment would be a monumental undertaking. This lack of assistance in caring for her children would create the potential for her to become completely co-dependant on government assistance and homeless support services organizations for their very survival. It’s a cycle which, once created, is almost impossible to escape and could mean that she and her children might become perpetually homeless.

Even despite the large push for cities and towns to create and implement a 10 year plan to end homelessness in accordance with federal mandate, because these plans will target assistance only to those individuals who fit the federal definition of chronic homelessness, she will not benefit from these programs.

Perhaps saddest of all, is that she will become a target for sexual harassment and advances from, not only homeless men, but from non-homeless men as well, who will seek to use her desire to care for her children as a means to take advantage of her. They will use her love for her children as leverage against her, believing that out of desperation she will be willing to debase herself and provide "sexual favors" in exchange for money or housing.

The impact which domestic violence has on causing homelessness is very real.

In its wake, it leaves behind multiple broken lives and shattered souls.

  1. Skye says:

    There are levels and levels that we, as average citizens, don’t even realize. What, indeed, IS a desperate mother going to do?

  2. Tim says:

    Thank you for a very moving post. Yes, it is a very sad situation be it homeless individuals or families. There are ways out though for these families. Although it’s not easy, it is possible. I live in the Cincinnati, Ohio area and families that are homeless are many, but mostly invisable to the average person. If just a few people from every church, civic group, etc would reach out and help, say that they care, what a huge difference it would make.

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