Skid Row's Midnight Mission Now Has Overnight Shelter for Homeless Women

On Skid Row, women only have a handful of options if they need a place to sleep. The Union Rescue Mission is regularly packed with women on cots set up wherever space can be found. The Los Angeles Mission and Weingart Center have longer-term programs, but with extensive waitlists. The Downtown Women’s Center has permanent supportive housing apartments for 119 women, but no overnight shelter beds.

This has become a crisis in recent years as more women become homeless and wind up on the streets. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority last year reported a 55% increase in homeless women over the previous three years, outpacing the growth in homeless men. Last summer, the Union Rescue Mission reported serving more women than men for the first time in the institution’s 125-year history.

Last week, a small but important step was taken to address the situation. On Wednesday, March 8, the Midnight Mission debuted its Women’s Crisis and Bridge Housing Center. It offers 42 beds for women in their own wing of the center at 601 S. San Pedro St.“The experience of being homeless is challenging and traumatic, but it is especially difficult as a woman, when every evening can seem like a nightmare,” G. Michael Arnold, CEO of the Midnight Mission, said at a Wednesday press conference. “On any given night, there are 14,500 women homeless on the streets. We have to address this, and the problem is getting worse.”

The space formerly held the mission’s day center. That has been relocated to the dining hall. Bunk beds line the walls of the cool, calm room, while some simple cots are arranged in rows across the floor. Women are already utilizing the center.

Women who come to the Midnight Mission don’t have to enroll in a long-term program to sleep overnight, but the goal is to put them on a path to access more services and ultimately get into permanent housing, said Assistant Program Manager Rita Richardson. The Midnight Mission has job and mental health counseling, drug treatment services and other programs. It works with newcomers to determine their physical and mental condition.

“Bringing them in is addressing their housing situation first. We want to then fast-track them to get stable again,” Richardson said.

[Skid Row's Union Rescue Mission Is Overflowing With Women]

The mission has allocated $900,000 to kick off the women’s center. It is also partnering with other Skid Row service providers, notably the Downtown Women’s Center, to improve outreach and interactions when serving homeless women.

The lingering effects of the recession of nearly a decade ago are still being felt, especially by women, according to experts. A 2016 report from the Downtown Women’s Action Coalition found that nearly two-thirds of women surveyed in Skid Row had graduated from high school or completed their GED, up from only 31.8% of women in 2010. Another troubling finding is that homeless women in the community are aging, with 60.2% of women stating they are 51 or older, compared to just 47% in 2010.

Being a homeless woman is also particularly dangerous. Nine in 10 Skid Row women reported experiencing physical or sexual assault while homeless, according to the DWAC survey.

“Homeless women are black, white, Chinese, from poor and from wealthy backgrounds. If you think people want to be out on the street, you’re wrong,” Louise Mbella, a community activist and former co-chair of the Downtown Women’s Action Coalition, said at the press conference. “Women who are happy, safe and loved do not run away to the street. They need help.”

Part of the solution, experts say, is to provide additional overnight shelter and services. They noted a need for more specialized funding and strategizing focused on sub-groups of homeless people, such as women or youth.

“Special funding for women is pretty dismal. There has been very little to no awareness about women’s homelessness. No funders ever even ask about women on their applications,” Downtown Women’s Center Executive Director Anne Miskey told Downtown News last year.


Article Date: 
Thursday, March 9, 2017