March 8, 2024

International Women’s Day 2024: Invest in women: Accelerate progress

The global theme of International Women’s Day 2024, Invest in women: Accelerate progress, outlines five key areas that need joint action to ensure women are not left behind. The following adaption of these areas through a housing lens will support you to join the world’s conversation #InvestInWomen to amplify the need to invest in women’s safe homes to accelerate progress.

Investing in women (and their homes): A human rights issue

Gender and racial inequality are drivers of homelessness; more than two-thirds of New Yorkers at risk of or experiencing homelessness are women of color (and their children). A majority are living with complex trauma that results from domestic violence and childhood sexual abuse, and that is corrugated by ongoing poverty and risk of homelessness. Investing in safe homes for women benefits us all.

Ending poverty and homelessness

As a result of the COVID pandemic and ongoing poverty, 1.1 million New Yorkers (more than two-thirds of whom are women and children) in 440,000 households are in rental arrears and on the brink of homelessness. Approximately 90,000 are already in homeless shelters. Going into shelter disrupts children’s access to school such that less than half graduate high school, putting them on a fast track to adult poverty and repeated homelessness. Upstream interventions to provide rental assistance and invest in affordable housing would disrupt the poverty that causes homelessness and end the cycle of homelessness that causes poverty.

Implementing gender-responsive financing

Prevention is the most cost-effective and humanitarian way to solve homelessness. In contrast to the per household $3,300 arrears bill of the current 440,000 NYC households behind on their rent, the per household cost of homeless shelter provision is $100,000 average cost. Acting upstream to keep women and their families safely housed prevents the trauma of homelessness, as well as the loss of school, work and community (that often result from the loss of home) and prevents intergenerational homelessness.

Shifting to a care society

The provision of care should be a shared responsibility involving the state, markets, communities and families. Poverty and the crisis of rising food, rent and other basic need costs increases workloads (often requiring women to work multiple jobs), causes homelessness and food insecurity and disproportionately shifts an unequal load of unpaid care work to women and marginalized groups. This stress exacerbates the complex trauma that results from the violence and abuse many women at risk of or experiencing homelessness have endured (domestic violence is one of the three leading causes of homelessness). An upstream model that combines homelessness prevention with mental health and well-being services provides the security that could disrupt poverty and allow women and their children to thrive.

Supporting women-led organizations

Women-led organizations are leading efforts to change the narrative about homelessness, highlighting that women of color and their families are the most hurt by homelessness, homelessness is intergenerational and ending women’s poverty and inequality is a prerequisite for solving homelessness.

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