25 Clearinghouse Rev. 421 (1991-1992)
Woman Battering: A Major Cause of Homelessness

handle is hein.journals/clear25 and id is 421 raw text is: Woman Battering:
A Major Cause
of Homelessness

by Joan Zorza

Much of the literature on homelessness
never mentions woman battering as a cause of
homelessness. The United States Conference of
Mayors listed lack of affordable housing, mental
illness, unemployment, poverty or the lack of
income, and inadequate benefit levels in public
assistance programs as the causes of homeless-
ness in American cities.' Jonathan Kozol's book,
Rachel and Her Children, which did so much to raise the
problem of homeless families to national attention,
hardly mentions the subject, except with very occasional,
oblique references such as family breakdown.2 Studies
of homeless women and families traditionally exclude
battered women's shelters,3 presumably because their
residents are unrepresentative of the homeless.
Yet, the reality is that battered women and their
children compose a significant proportion of occupants
of homeless shelters. Woman abuse is the most common
cause of homelessness at Wellspring House shelter in
Massachusetts.4 The New York State Office for the Pre-
vention of Domestic Violence found that in 1987 battered
women and their children composed 40 percent of those
in the state's homeless shelters.5 New York domestic
violence programs sheltered another 7,700 women and
children that year.6 Domestic violence was the main
1. LAURA WAXMAN & LILIA REYES, A STATUS REPORT ON
HUNGER AND HOMELESSNESS IN AMERICA'S CITIES 1990,
United States Conference of Mayors (Dec. 1990).
2. JONATHAN KOZOL, RACHEL AND HER CHILDREN 11 (1988).
3. See, e.g., Bassuk & Rosenberg, Why Does Homelessness
Occur? A Case Control Study, 78 AM. J. PUB. HEALTH 7,
783 (1988).
4. HELEN HEMMINGER, A STUDY OF THE FORMER GUESTS OF A
HOMELESS SHELTER, Executive Summary, Wellspring
House, Inc., Gloucester, Mass. (1991).
5. OLGA DWYER & EILEEN TULLY, HOUSING FOR BATTERED
WOMEN, New York State Office for the Prevention of
Domestic Violence 7 (1989) [hereinafter DWYER & TULLY].
6. id.

reason that most families with children were
homeless in Oregon in 1988.7 Domestic violence
is the cause of 42 percent of homeless families in
Philadelphia. On an average night, one-half of
adult clients in American shelters that serve pri-
marily families with children have been involved
in domestic violence.9 The Senate Judiciary
Committee notes that, according to a report pre-
pared for the Ford Foundation,10 50 percent of all home-
less women and children in this country are fleeing do-
mestic violence.1'
Equally as disturbing is the fact that numerous
women are forced to go back to their abusers because of
lack of money or housing. Fifty-nine percent of women
and children seeking shelter in New York City's battered
women's programs are turned away for lack of space.12
In Massachusetts, where 60,000 women are beaten so
severely each year that they flee their homes and all of
their belongings, taking only their children,13 the state's
7. KAY SOHL, HOMELESS CHILDREN AND YOUTH IN OREGON:
BARRIERS TO SCHOOL PARTICIPATION 6, Executive Sum-
mary, Oregon Shelter Network, North Bend, Ore. (1988).
8. REPORT OF THE TASK FORCE FOR LEGAL SERVICES TO THE
NEEDY, PENNSYLVANIA BAR ASSOCIATION 25 (Dec. 1990)
[hereinafter PENNSYLVANIA BAR REP.].
9. DIVISION OF POLICY STUDIES, U.S. DEP'T OF HOUSING AND
URBAN DEVELOPMENT, REPORT ON THE 1988 NATIONAL
SURVEY OF SHELTERS FOR THE HOMELESS 14 (Mar. 1988).
10. ELIZABETH SCHNEIDER, LEGAL REFORM EFFORTS FOR BAT-
TERED WOMEN: PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE 7 (prepared for
the Ford Foundation, July 1990).
11. The Violence Against Women Act of 1990: Hearings on S.
2754, Senate Comm. on the Judiciary, Report 101-545,
101st Cong., 2d Sess. 37 (1990) [hereinafter Judiciary
Committee].
12. DWYER & TULLY, supra note 5, at 9.
13. The Domestic Violence Trap, Boston Globe, Oct. 22, 1988,
at 14 (Editorial).

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