Homeless women in America: Their social and health characteristics
Women make up a significant minority of the homeless population in the United States. This dissertation examines the social and health characteristics of homeless women, the data having been obtained from the National Health Care for the Homeless Program (HCH), sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Pew Memorial Trust. This program is designed to provide health care and social services to homeless people in 19 U.S. cities. The data are gleaned from medical and social service records on the entire HCH client population (over 20,000 individuals), and from a supplemental questionnaire completed on a sample of the HCH client's. The findings indicate that there are at least five types of homeless women in the HCH population. The first, and largest group includes the single, significantly mentally impaired women, most closely fitting the stereotype of the "bag lady." Two-thirds of this group are receiving government entitlements, but only one-half are receiving mental health counseling. Release from a mental institution is a reason for homelessness for nearly one-third of these women. The second group of women are the women with dependent children in their care. Only half of these women receive AFDC benefits, but they are in better physical health and are rated as having better chances at employment and finding housing than any other type of women. The very young, single women make up the third, and smallest, group of HCH women. Findings suggest that this group may be the most difficult to reach and to maintain contact with, given their low average number of contacts with the HCH program and the lack of information available in their files. The fourth type includes the women with adult family members but no dependent children. The adult support they were presumed to have appears to be of little benefit in their homeless state. The fifth type of women, single, with no significant mental impairment, no children, and no adult support, are by far the most deviant and addicted of any group. The implications of the findings are significant for both service providers and policy makers. Interventions for homeless women must be tailored to their specific problems, and can be guided by the health and social characteristics found here to be associated with each type of homeless woman.
0453: Womens studies