Today I sit in my cozy office, safe from the outside elements. I hear my coworkers and I remark how cold it is, even inside. Then I feel guilty, probably a guilt I don’t need to feel, but one that is sitting upon my heart nonetheless. It’s the middle of March and California’s rainy season is in full force. We may not have it as bad as the East Coast right now, but desert temperatures fluctuate drastically throughout the day, leaving one’s body in shock. How privileged I am to be able to neutralize those affects with warmth and protection inside 4 walls and a roof.
The small nip I feel from the cold as I walk from the door to my car is nothing compared to what our homeless men and women feel every minute of every day. They may be lucky enough to receive temporary shelter, but only 1 out of every 4 homeless people are currently in shelters. In Los Angeles that is a staggering number considering we have an estimated 57,794 homeless people in Los Angeles County. This is according to the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority. That’s 57,794 sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, and children who are freezing on our streets any given day. When temperatures get this low, adding rain to that, some people don’t make it through the night; shivering all night long until their body succumbs to the cold. In most parts of California there are winter shelters, but they are only open from December 1st to March 31st. With both the cold winters and sweltering summers we need shelters that are open year round.
Not only do we need shelters that are open year round, but we need more shelters for homeless women. According to the 2017 census, women make up 31% of the homeless population. Majority of these women face sexual assault and are being forced into prostitution by gang members. What’s hard is that 34% of the homeless population are homeless because of lifetime experience with domestic/intimate partner violence. These women are leaving abusive relationships, ending up on the streets, and are finding themselves back in abusive circumstances. It’s a cycle that needs to end, but how?
The movement #shedoes is focused on pushing to get shelter for these women. A few weeks ago I joined them for a prayer circle in Downtown LA outside the Mayor’s prayer breakfast. Although Mayor Garcetti didn’t show up we had the opportunity to pray with some of the local pastors for the safety and protection of these women. The goal of #shedoes is to get 1,000 homeless women off the streets and into shelters by August. I am still in the beginning stages of getting involved with #shedoes and learning about the homeless problem in LA. This is not something that can be swept under the rug because homelessness is on the rise. We should fight to change the stigma around homelessness and to change the circumstances they fall into. You can learn more about this organization through #shedoes on Facebook or the #shedoes webpage. As I continue to learn more and become more involved with the #shedoes movement I will keep you informed.