Unaccompanied Women Who Are Unsheltered in Southern California: What Will It Take to End Their Homelessness?

 

- A brief prepared by Sofia Herrera, PhD and Joe Colletti, PhD -
Urban Initiatives on Homelessness and Poverty

May 2017

This brief notes that approximately one of four unsheltered adults in Southern California are women living on the streets without children under age 18 according to 2016 point-in-time homeless counts.1 The 2017 point-in-time homeless counts will soon be available. 
 
Southern California is a region divided into 13 Continuums of Care (CoCs) by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as listed in table 1. This brief also outlines several next steps to help end their experience of homelessness.

Table 1 breaks down the total number of unaccompanied women without children which is 12,026 and represents 26.7% of the total number of unsheltered adults in Southern California. Nearly every CoC is within a few percentage points of 25% or one of four.

Table 1. Unsheltered Adults in Households without Children: 2016[2]

Southern California Continuum of Care:

Total #
of Adults

 

Females

 

Males

 

Transgender

 

 

#

%

#

%

#

%

Glendale City

43

13

30.2

30

69.8

0

00.0

Imperial County

252

68

27.0

184

73.0

0

00.0

Kern County

494

118

23.9

375

75.9

1

0.02

Long Beach City

1,360

384

28.2

971

71.4

5

0.04

Los Angeles County*

30,867

8,403

27.2

22,029

71.4

435

01.4

Pasadena City

348

95

27.3

252

72.4

1

0.03

Orange County

2,193

516

23.5

1,677

76.5

0

00.0

Riverside County

1,320

386

29.2

933

70.7

1

0.01

San Bernardino County

1,107

305

27.5

801

72.4

1

0.01

San Diego County

4,544

1,146

25.2

3,373

74.2

25

0.06

San Luis Obispo County

1,024

230

22.5

789

77.0

5

0.05

Santa Barbara County

803

203

25.3

598

74.5

2

0.02

Ventura County

642

159

24.8

483

75.2

0

00.0

Total:

44,997

12,026

26.7

32,495

72.2

476

1.1

*The Los Angeles County continuum of care includes 85 of the 88 cities that make up the county and all unincorporated areas. The three Los Angeles County cities of Glendale, Long Beach, and Pasadena established their own continuums of care and are listed individually in table 1.

Next steps to help end homelessness among unsheltered women without children

This section outlines several steps to help end homelessness among unaccompanied women without children in Southern California which include the following:

1. Build Upon the Existing Partnerships Among the 13 CoCs

The 13 CoCs have formed the Southern California Alliance of Continuum of Care Leaders and predisposed to supporting one another by sharing with, and learning from, one another about homelessness.[3] Building upon the existing partnerships of these CoCs can involve combining plans and resources within sub-regions to prevent and end homelessness among unsheltered women without children. Existing sub-regions, and suggested sub-regions, include: a) Los Angeles County; b) Inland Empire; c) Northwest Region; and 4) Southern Coast and Border Region.

a. Los Angeles County

Table 2 notes that 32,618 unsheltered adults without children were counted in Los Angeles County and this represents 72.3% of the 44,997 unsheltered adults without children in Southern California. Of the 32,618 adults counted in Los Angeles County, 8,895 or 27.3% were unsheltered women without children.

The continuums of care that make up the County of Los Angeles include the Los Angeles County CoC which consists of all the cities in Los Angeles County except the cities of Glendale, Long Beach, and Pasadena which have established their own continuums of care. The Los Angeles County CoC also includes the unincorporated areas of the county.

Table 2. Unsheltered Adults in Households without Children: Los Angeles County

 

Los Angeles County Continuums of Care:

Total Number of Adults

 

Females

 

Males

 

Transgender

 

 

#

#

#

 

#

%

Glendale City

43

13

30.2

30

69.8

0

00.0

Long Beach City

1,360

384

28.2

971

71.4

5

0.04

Los Angeles County*

30,867

8,403

27.2

22,029

71.4

435

01.4

Pasadena City

348

95

27.3

252

72.4

1

0.03

Total:

32,618

8,895

27.3

23,282

71.4

441

1.3

These four CoCs have a long history of partnering together concerning various issues and projects involving homelessness. Such partnerships have involved homeless management information systems, coordinated entry systems, and winter shelter programs. These CoCs can further support one another by sharing with, and learning from, one another about unsheltered women without children.

b. Inland Empire

 Table 3 notes that 2,427 unsheltered adults without children were counted in Riverside and San Bernardino counties and together they represent 5.4% of the 44,997 unsheltered adults without children in Southern California. Of the 2,427 adults, 691 or 28.5% were unsheltered women without children in this region.

The Inland Empire refers to the cities of western Riverside County and southwestern San Bernardino County. These geographical areas within each of the two counties include the more populated areas in the two counties.

Table 3. Unsheltered Adults in Households without Children: Riverside & San Bernardino counties

 

Inland Empire Continuums of Care:

Total Number of Adults

 

Females

 

Males

 

Transgender

 

 

#

#

#

 

#

%

Riverside County

1,320

386

29.2

933

70.7

1

0.01

San Bernardino County

1,107

305

27.5

801

72.4

1

0.01

Total:

2,427

691

28.5

1734

71.4

2

0.01

These CoCs have a long history of partnering together concerning various issues and projects involving homelessness. The partnerships have involved sharing the homeless management information system (HMIS) and the End Homelessness Among Veterans Initiative. The CoCs in this region can also further support one another by sharing with, and learning from, one another about unsheltered women without children.

c. Northwest Region

Table 4 notes that 2,963 unsheltered adults without children were counted in Kern, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties which represents 6.6% of the 44,997 unsheltered adults without children in Southern California. Of the 2,963 adults, 710 or 23.9% were unsheltered women without children.

The Northwest Region consists of Kern, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties. One region that the four counties share is the Cuyama Valley which runs along the Cuyama River and it includes northern Santa Barbara, southern San Luis Obispo, southwestern Kern, and northwestern Ventura counties.

Table 4. Unsheltered Adults in Households without Children: Kern, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties

 

Northwest Region Continuums of Care:

Total Number of Adults

 

Females

 

Males

 

Transgender

 

 

#

#

#

 

#

%

Kern County

494

118

23.9

375

75.9

1

0.02

San Luis Obispo County

1,024

230

22.5

789

77.0

5

0.05

Santa Barbara County

803

203

25.3

598

74.5

2

0.02

Ventura County

642

159

24.8

483

75.2

0

00.0

Total:

2,963

710

23.9

2245

75.8

8

0.03

These CoCs can further support one another beyond involvement with the Southern California Alliance of Continuum of Care Leaders. As it has been noted before, these four CoCs can further their involvement by meeting together and sharing with, and learning from, one another about unsheltered women without children within the Northwest Region of Southern California.

d. Southern Coast and Border Region

Table 5 notes that 6,989 unsheltered adults without children were counted in Imperial, Orange, and San Diego counties which represents 15.5% of the 44,997 unsheltered adults without children in Southern California. Of the 6,989 adults, 1,730 or 24.7% were unsheltered women without children.

The Southern Coast and Border Region consists of Orange and San Diego counties that border the far southwest coast of Southern California, and Imperial County, which borders Mexico alongside San Diego County. Imperial County was formed and established from the eastern portion of San Diego more than 100 years ago.

Table 5. Unsheltered Adults in Households without Children: Imperial, Orange, and San Diego counties.

Southern Coast and Border Region Continuums of Care:

Total Number of Adults

 

Females

 

Males

 

Transgender

 

 

#

#

#

 

#

%

Imperial County

252

68

27.0

184

73.0

0

00.0

Orange County

2,193

516

23.5

1,677

76.5

0

00.0

San Diego County

4,544

1,146

25.2

3,373

74.2

25

0.06

Total:

6,989

1,730

24.7

5,234

74.9

25

0.04

 

These three CoCs can also further support one another beyond involvement with the Southern California Alliance of Continuum of Care Leaders. They can advance their involvement by meeting together and sharing with, and learning from, one another about unsheltered women without children within the Southern Coast and Border Region of Southern California. To date, the San Diego County CoC and its members has supported the Imperial County CoC by providing trainings and technical assistance regarding continuum of care annual applications, homeless management information system, coordinated entry system, and changes in HUD regulations.  

2. Determine the severity of service needs

Determining the severity of service needs should be accomplished through data-driven methods. Each continuum of care has a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) and likely each has a standardized assessment tool and process that is embedded in HMIS through a coordinated entry system (CES). A determination of service needs should not be based on a specific diagnosis or a disability type but based on the severity of service needs for each unsheltered woman without children. For example, some women may have a couple or more diagnoses that are compounded by age, long histories of homelessness and experiences of incarceration.

It is important to note that determining the severity of service needs cannot be made based on any factors that would result in a violation of any nondiscrimination and equal opportunity requirements, see Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing: Continuum of Care Program Interim Rule § 5.105(a).

3. Prioritizing permanent supportive housing

Permanent supportive housing has been defined by HUD as

“permanent housing in which supportive services are provided to assist homeless persons with a disability to live independently” and “the program participant must be the tenant on a lease for a term of at least one year, which is renewable for terms that are a minimum of one month long, and is terminable only for cause.”[4]

Unsheltered women without children with the most severe service needs should be prioritized for permanent supportive housing by applying a gender lens to services and by following a Housing First and low barrier approach.

A Housing First approach seeks to eliminate barriers to obtaining and maintaining permanent housing. HUD strongly encourages permanent supportive housing providers not to screen out potential participants based on those clients possessing the following

    1. too little or little income;
    2. active or history of substance use;
    3. criminal record, with exceptions for state-mandated restrictions; and
    4. history of having been or currently a victim of domestic violence (e.g., lack of a protective order, period of separation from abuser, or law enforcement involvement).[5]

 HUD also strongly encourages permanent supportive housing providers not to terminate residents for reasons related to each of the following: 

    1. Failure to participate in supportive services;
    2. Failure to make progress on a service plan;
    3. Loss of income or failure to improve income;
    4. Fleeing domestic violence; and
    5. Any other activity not covered in a lease agreement typically found in the project’s geographic area.[6]

 4. Creating permanent supportive housing plus+

Creating permanent supportive housing plus+ ensures that permanent supportive housing includes specific elements in addition to those noted above that help unsheltered women without children with the most severe service needs maintain their housing. Elements include:

    1. A congregate living environment in which each woman has a private bedroom and bathroom but shared communal spaces such as a kitchen, living room, and dining room;
    2. A sense of ownership of communal spaces that facilitates a feeling of influence as to who has access to such spaces;
    3. A choice of unwanted intrusions including surveillance and security measures;
    4. Trauma informed care staff and services;
    5. Fostering of a sense of community and or sense of belonging

For many unsheltered women without children that present with severe service needs housing is more than just bricks and mortar. A gender lens to services, trauma informed care services and freedom of choice and autonomy are key determinants of permanent supportive housing plus+

This brief provides a foundation to the next steps to help end homelessness for unsheltered women without children. While progress has been made through the implementation of best practices such as a housing first and low barrier approach, the needs of the needs of unaccompanied women remain relatively unexplored and largely unmet. In fact, many women are still left languishing on the streets.

The regional meetings recommended in this brief should include researchers, policy-makers, community groups, service providers, and others when appropriate, to help combine the planning and resources to help end homelessness among unsheltered unaccompanied women and address the disturbing issues and problems that contributed to their homelessness.

Please contact Sofia Herrera, PhD, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions regarding this framework at sofia-herrera@urban-initiatives.org.



[1] A “Continuum of Care” is a geographically based group of representatives that carries out the planning responsibilities of the Continuum of Care program, as described in 24 CFR Part 578 of the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing: Continuum of Care Program Interim Rule by HUD.

[2] HUD requires all CoCs to conduct an unsheltered homeless count every other year during the last 10 days of January. Since this requirement began in 2005, every other year falls on odd number years. HUD, however, strongly encourages CoCs to complete an unsheltered every year. Nine of the 13 CoCs completed an unsheltered count in 2016 and four CoCs did not. Thus, the numbers in Table 1 include 2015 data for these four CoCs.

[3] Urban Initiatives coordinates and helps facilitate the meetings.

[4]  HUD, 24 CFR Part 578 [Docket No. FR-5476-I-01] RIN 2506-AC29, Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing: Continuum of Care Program Interim Rule, p. 57 of formatted version).

[5] “Detailed Instructions for Completing the FY 2016 Continuum of Care (CoC) Application,” pgs. 64 - 66.

[6] Ibid.

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