While DC General stays open, there are around 5,000 emergency shelter beds. DC has the obligation to provide shelter for all homeless individuals when it’s a Cold Emergency [DC Department of Human Services]. It is required by law.
But a shortage of beds means that in normal conditions, there are at least 2,000 people who are going to be left out in the rain. This lack of capacity especially hurts women, for whom there are only 313 shelter beds in the city.
When you look at the estimated population of homeless individuals in DC [Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness], that means we're talking about 1,000 people/shower location. That’s impossible :(
In addition, when looking at confounding factors such as accessibility and transportation, the available showering areas become even less of an option.
Living in these extremely challenging conditions proves to be a uniquely hard experience within the homeless community as a feminine body—or any body other than a non-cisgender male for that matter. Being a feminine body is extremely dangerous and dehumanizing. You are often targeted for violence and taking care of hygienic needs is a luxury rather than a given.
In addition, domestic violence is the immediate cause of homelessness for many women [National Alliance to End Homelessness]. Studies show that a high percentage of women experiencing homelessness are domestic abuse survivors, even if domestic abuse is not the direct cause of homelessness.
Many poor families share the same characteristics as homeless families [National Alliance to End Homelessness]. They are headed by single women with low education, young, and have high rates of domestic violence and mental illness. All it takes is one unplanned life event to shake someone’s world.
Nothing changes until we make it happen. We need to change our lens and see that homeless individuals deserve safe, healthy, and most importantly autonomous lives.