HOMELESSNESS 

The majority of women who sell sex on the street are homeless, however, the studies cited below are about homeless women in general and not specifically about homeless women who sell sex

“Being a woman is an independent risk factor for suffering violence among the homeless.”

Calvo, F., et al. “The Prevalence and Nature of Violence Against Women Experiencing Homelessness: A Quantitative Study” Violence Against Women. 2021

“An alarming number of the (homeless) women interviewed had engaged in unwanted sexual liaisons (paid and unpaid) in order to secure accommodation and in exchange for basic necessities such as food and clothing.”

Reeve, K., Casey, R., and Goudie, R. “Homeless Women: Still being failed yet striving to survive.” Crisis. 2006

“Age and arrest history are the strongest predictors of duration of homelessness.”

Canton, C., et al. “Risk Factors for Long-Term Homelessness: Findings From a Longitudinal Study of First-Time Homeless Single Adults.” American Journal of Public Health. 2005. 95:10

“In homeless women with serious mental illness, the lifetime risk of violent victimization is so high that rape and physical assault are normal.”

Goodman, L. Dutton, MA, and Harris, M. “Episodically homeless women with serious mental illness: prevalence of physical and sexual assault.” 1995. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 65(4):468-78

“Mental illness often precedes homelessness and can prolong it while homelessness, in turn, makes existing mental illness worse and increases the chance of becoming mentally ill.”

Hodgson, K., Shelton, K., Van Den Bree, M., and Loc, F. “Psychopathology in Young People Experiencing Homelessness: A Systematic Review.” American Journal of Public Health. 2013. 103(6)

AGE OF DEATH

  • 39-42 — Average age of death of homeless women *1,2,3

    • 81 — Average life expectancy of female in general U.S. population 4

  • 56 — Average age of death homeless male 1,2

    • 76 — Average life expectancy of male in general U.S. population 4

  1. Thomas, B. “Homelessness Kills: An Analysis of the Mortality of Homeless People in early twenty-first Century England.” Summary University of Sheffield. 2012

  2. Romaszko J., et al. “Mortality among the homeless: Causes and meteorological relationships.” PLoS One. 2017; 12(12): e0189938.

  3. Cheung, A., and Hwang, S. “Risk of death among homeless women: a cohort study and review of the literature.” 2004. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 170(8):1243-7 [Study looked at 1,981 women not accompanied by dependent children who used homeless shelters in Toronto and found the average age of death was 39]

  4. Social Security Administration: https://www.ssa.gov/oact/STATS/table4c6.html
    * — Data acquired through analyzing autopsy reports in Bernalillo County, conducted by Street Safe

PERSONAL HISTORY

  • 2 — average number of children 1

  • 45% have been in jail 1

  • 39-42% report have been homeless multiple times 1,2

  • 30% were sexually abused as a child 3

  • 76% of homeless people have a history of traumatic brain injury 4

    • 21% of non-homeless people have a history of traumatic brain injury 4

  1. Teruya, C., et al. “Health and Health Care Disparities among Homeless Women.” Women Health. 2010. 50(8): 719–736 [Using data from 1,331 homeless women living in Los Angeles County from 1994-1996, the researchers found that: 45% has history of incarceration; average number of children per woman was 2.1; 42% report have been homeless multiple times]

  2. Reeve, K., Casey, R., and Goudie, R. “Homeless Women: Still being failed yet striving to survive.” Crisis. 2006 [In a survey of 144 single homeless women in 2006 in England, researchers found 39% had been homeless more than once]

  3. Sundin, E., and Baguley, T. “Prevalence of childhood abuse among people who are homeless in Western countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” 2014. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 50(2) [Researchers looked at 24 reports published between 1990-2013 that covered 9,730 adult subjects and found on average 32% of homeless women had a history of sexual abuse]

  4. Cusimano, M., et al. “The Temporal Relations of Traumatic Brain Injury, Victimization, Aggression, and Homelessness: A Developmental Trajectory.” 2021 Neurotrauma Reports.

CAUSES OF HOMELESSNESS

Main reasons for homelessness for women:

  • 26-32% Relationship breakdown with family 1,2,5

  • 20-30% Domestic violence and abuse 1,2,3,4,5

  • 6-8% Eviction 1,5

 

Main reasons for homelessness for men: 1

  • 24% mental health problems

  • 15% interpersonal conflict

  • 14% alcohol or drug problems

 

Most common cause of homelessness for women by age range: 5

  • Under age 21 — Relationship breakdown with family

  • Age 30-40 — Eviction/repossession for rent or mortgage arrears

  • Age 41-50 — Domestic violence

  1. Tessler, R., Rosenheck, R. & Gamache, G. “Gender Differences in Self-Reported Reasons for Homelessness.” Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless. 2001. 10, 243–254. [Researchers interviewed 4,497 homeless males and 2,727 homeless females from 1994-1998. The main reason for homelessness for young women: 21.97% interpersonal conflict; someone no longer able to help 15.29%; Mental health problems 14.01%; Alcohol or drug problems 11.62%; Lost a job 7.04%; Eviction 6.12%. The main reasons for homeless in men: mental health problems 23.84%; interpersonal conflict 14.48%; alcohol or drug problems 13.61%; someone no longer willing to help 10.85%; lost a job 10.38%; loss of job 10.38%; eviction 3.29%]

  2. Embleton, L., et al. “Causes of Child and Youth Homelessness in Developed and Developing Countries.” 2016. Journal of American Medical Association Pediatrics. 170(5):435-444 [A review of 49 studies representing 13,559 participants from 24 countries, of which 21 represented developing countries: most commonly reported reason for street involvement was poverty at 39%, 32% family conflict and 26% abuse]

  3. Alvarez, J., et al. “Intimate Partner Violence and Housing Instability.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2007. 32(2):143–146) [30% abuse]

  4. Daoud, N., et al. “Pathways and Trajectories Linking Housing Instability and Poor Health among Low-Income Women Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV): Towards a Conceptual Framework.” Women & Health. 2015 [Researchers conducted interviews with 41 women low-income women in Ontario, Canada, between 2010 and 2011 and found 20% of homeless women were fleeing abuse]

  5. Reeve, K., Casey, R., and Goudie, R. “Homeless Women: Still being failed yet striving to survive.” Crisis. 2006 [In a survey of 144 single homeless women in 2006 in England, researchers found 26% left home after a relationship breakdown with family, 8% because of eviction and 14% left to escape domestic violence. When accounting for age, 40% of women aged 41-50 left because of domestic violence, while 56.8% of women under age 21 said they left because of a breakdown of relationship with family. For women 30-40: Most common cause of homelessness was eviction ]

OTHER CAUSES OF FEMALE HOMELESSNESS

One study in 2006 of 144 single homeless women living in England found that “homelessness (for women) could often be traced back to very particular, and traumatic, experiences.”

 

Often these included sexual abuse, neglect by family and domestic violence. But the researchers also noted two other life experiences that we, at Street Safe, have heard mentioned as well:

  • Reproductive health issues and the loss of children

  • Bereavement

 

Several times over the years women we work with at Street Safe have said their grief was what catapulted them to the street.

As the researchers said, “It is important to stress that clear links could be established between these various life experiences and women’s homelessness. Indeed it was often articulated in these terms by respondents themselves. In other words, these were not mere coincidences, with causal relationships imposed upon them. These traumatic experiences did lead, sometimes via a long chain of events, to women becoming homeless.”

Reeve, K., Casey, R., and Goudie, R. “Homeless Women: Still being failed yet striving to survive.” Crisis. 2006

 
 
 
 
 

VIOLENCE AGAINST HOMELESS WOMEN

  • 100% of homeless women reported having been the victim of violence of some type — including threats of violence — in the last year 1

    • 71% of homeless men reported having been the victim of violence of some type in the last year 1

  • 20 — number of violent episodes homeless women suffered per year 1

    • 3 — number of violent episodes homeless men suffered per year  1

  • 34-74% of homeless women report being physically attacked 3,4

  • 70% of homeless women were attacked by homeless men 1

    • 27% of homeless men were attacked by other homeless men 1

  • 45-51% of homeless women report intimate partner violence 1,2

  • 30% of homeless women were attacked by strangers 1

  • 25% of homeless men were attacked by strangers 1

  • 100% of homeless women reported having been the victim of psychological violence 1

    • 47% of homeless men reported having been the victim of psychological violence 1

      • Psychological violence includes verbal insults, threats, intimidation, stalking and humiliation that results in physical, mental, spiritual, moral, and social harm

  • 30-33% of homeless women had been raped as an adult 4,5

  • 63% of homeless women experienced sexual violence in the last year 1

    • 6% of men experienced sexual violence in the last year 1

  • 88% of homeless women said they would “never” report an incident of violence 1

    • 65% of homeless men said they would “never” report an incident of violence 1

  1. Calvo, F., et al. “The Prevalence and Nature of Violence Against Women Experiencing Homelessness: A Quantitative Study” Violence Against Women. 2021 [Study looked at violence against 504 individuals experiencing homelessness in Spain. They found that 51.1% of women were attacked by a romantic partner]

  2. Vijayaraghavan, M, et al. “Health, Access to Health Care, and Health Care use Among Homeless Women with a History of Intimate Partner Violence.” 2011. Journal of Community Health. [Of 329 sheltered homeless women in New York City, 44.7% reported intimate partner violence]

  3. Kagawa, R., and Riley, E. “Gun violence against unhoused and unstably housed women: A cross-sectional study that highlights links to childhood violence.” Injury Epidemiology. 2021.8:52 [Of 245 women with a history of housing instability from San Francisco, 73.8% had been physically attacked as an adult]

  4. Hudson, A., Wright, K., Bhattacharya, D., Sinha, K., Nyamathi, A., & Marfisee, M. (2010). “Correlates of adult assault among homeless women.” Journal of health care for the poor and underserved, 21(4), 1250-1262. [Researchers looked at 202 homeless women residing in shelters or living on the street in the Skid Row area of Los Angeles. Of the women, 33% were raped as adults, and over one-third were sexually harassed or physically abused as adults]

  5. Teruya, C., et al. “Health and Health Care Disparities among Homeless Women.” Women Health. 2010. 50(8): 719–736 [Using data from 1,331 homeless women living in Los Angeles County from 1994-1996, the researchers found that: 30% have been raped as an adult; 34% have been physically assaulted as an adult]

 

MENTAL HEALTH & HOMELESSNESS

Most studies about mental health in the homeless do not make differentiations between the genders, so the following statistics are for homeless individuals in general not just women

  • 76% of homeless individuals suffer from mental illness 1

The most common diagnostic categories were:

  • 37-38% alcohol use disorders 1,2

  • 22-24% drug use disorders 1,2

  • 11-13% major depression 1,2

  • 12-13% Psychotic illness such as schizophrenia 1,2

One study that did look at gender differences between homeless women and men interviewed  those entering permeant supportive housing and found: 3

  • 85% of homeless women have chronic mental health issues

    • 69% of men homeless men have chronic mental health issues

  • 94% of homeless women had diagnosed chronic physical health issues

    • 88% homeless men had diagnosed chronic physical health issues

  • 3 — number of diagnosed chronic mental health conditions of homeless women

  • 2 — number of diagnosed chronic mental health conditions of homeless men

  1. Gutwinski, S., et al. “The prevalence of mental disorders among homeless people in high-income countries: An updated systematic review and meta-regression analysis.” 2021. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003750  [Note: Article does not account for gender differentiation. In a review of 39 publications with a total of 8,049 made and female participants, the mean prevalence of any current mental disorder was estimated at 76.2%; the prevalence diagnostic categories were alcohol use disorders, at 36.7%; drug use disorders, at 21.7%; schizophrenia spectrum disorders 12.4%; major depression 12.6%]

  2. Fazel, S., Khosla, V., Doll, H., and Geddes, J. “The Prevalence of Mental Disorders among the Homeless in Western Countries: Systematic Review and Meta-Regression Analysis.” PLoS Med. 2008. 5(12) [Note: Article does not account for gender differentiation. In a review of 29 studies published between 1979 and 2005 including a total of 5,684 made and female individuals, the prevalence of major mental disorders among homeless in North America and Europe was found to be: Psychotic illness prevalence estimate of 12.7%; depression prevalence estimate of 11.4%; personality disorder prevalence estimate was 23.1%; alcohol dependence prevalence estimate was 37.9%; drug dependence prevalence estimate was 24.4%]

  3. Winetrobe, H., et al. “Differences in Health and Social Support between Homeless Men and Women Entering Permanent Supportive Housing.” Women’s Health Issues. 2017. 27(3): 286–293 [Interviewed 421 homeless adults moving into permanent supportive housing in the Los Angeles area and gender differences, including potential disparities in physical and mental health and social support]

 

VIOLENCE AGAINST MENTALLY ILL HOMELESS

  • 49% of mentally ill homeless women have been physically assaulted 2

    • 40% of mentally ill homeless men have been physically assaulted 2

  • 73% of physical assaults against mentally ill homeless women were by a stranger 1

  • 62% of physical assaults against mentally ill homeless women took place on the street 1

  • 31% of physical assaults against mentally ill homeless women occurred in a shelter 1

  • 21-57% of mentally ill homeless women have been sexually assaulted as an adult 1,2

    • 2.2% of mentally ill homeless men were sexually assaulted 1

  • 55% of sexual assaults against mentally ill homeless women were by a stranger 1

  • 23% of sexual assaults against mentally ill homeless women were by an acquaintance 1

  • 57% of sexual assaults against mentally ill homeless women were occurred on the street 1

  • 13% of sexual assaults against mentally ill homeless women were occurred in a shelter 1

  • 15% of mentally ill homeless women reported multiple sexual assaults 1

  1. Goodman, L. Dutton, MA, and Harris, M. Episodically homeless women with serious mental illness: prevalence of physical and sexual assault. 1995. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 65(4):468-78 [Of 99 episodically homeless women with serious mental illness (schizophrenia, bipolar, major depression) 87% reported childhood physical abuse and 65% child sexual abuse; as adults, 57% had been sexually assaulted by a stranger; 40% by intimate partner; 40% by acquaintance or relative; 92% had been physically or sexually abused in both childhood and adulthood]

  2. Kushel, M., et al. “No Door to Lock — Victimization Among Homeless and Marginally Housed Persons.” Archives of Internal Medicine. 2003;163(20):2492-2499. [Of 2,577 homeless (living on the street) and marginally housed (those who live in low-cost hotels) adults who have co-occurring mental illness in San Francisco, Calif., 20.9% women and 2.2% of men were sexually assaulted and 49% of women and 39.5% of men were physically assaulted]