A Hidden Side of Homelessness: Why Women Avoid Homeless Shelters - Springs Rescue Mission A Hidden Side of Homelessness: Why Women Avoid Homeless Shelters - Springs Rescue Mission LUCKY ORANGE TRACKER BELOW

Are there fewer women than men struggling with homelessness?

two_strong_womenThis is a great question and it’s harder to determine than you’d think.

Looking at the gender breakdown of our shelter guests, women make up about 24 percent of our population. But that’s just looking at people who’ve stayed in our shelters.

Pikes Peak United Way’s annual point-in-time statistics for 2017 reveal that 37 percent of Colorado Springs’ homeless population are women.

So, it seems safe to say that fewer women struggle with homelessness than men, right?

Well, not necessarily. First, consider this:

Most women will exhaust every option they have before they stay in shelters and transitional housing.

Studies have found that, “Women often rely on situations of ‘hidden’ homelessness, that is, staying with family members or friends, and some seek alliances with men as an alternative to entering into or remaining in homeless services.” There’s a hidden and invisible side of women facing homelessness that’s hard to quantify.

Why is this?

Not all homeless women are mothers or have dependent children

If you’re a woman facing homelessness, most of the assistance available to you falls within two buckets: shelters and services for mothers with children or being lumped together with homeless men. There aren’t many shelters or services available just for women without children.

Thankfully, the number of resources and shelters available for women with children has grown dramatically in the past few years. For a while, homeless moms with children were the fastest growing demographic in the United States’ homeless population. Therefore, a lot of energy and resources have been focused on addressing this startling trend.

But sadly, women without dependent children have seemingly been neglected and left behind. For many women experiencing homelessness, if you don’t have a child with you, then your only option is to stay in a shelter with men. And for most women, that’s not really an option at all.

Homeless women avoid staying in shelters

young_woman_with_groceriesThe very sad reality about homeless women is that a vast majority are victims of physical abuse or sexual violence. Some studies have found that up to 70 percent of homeless women are victims of domestic violence and 41 percent are sexual assault victims.

So, it’s not surprising that homeless women might not feel comfortable staying in a shelter with men.

But women who aren’t victims of violence or abuse by men still avoid homeless shelters. There’s a false perception that women don’t struggle with homelessness as often as men and that if you are a woman facing homelessness, then you’re an exception to the rule.

Instead of going to the shelter, then, many homeless women find alternative ways to stay off the street. Some turn to family and friends—couch-surfing from night to night. Others sleep in their cars. And some even choose to return to abusive fathers, husbands or ex-boyfriends to avoid living on the streets.

Obviously, this avoidance of homeless shelters can perpetuate a bad situation and make it worse. Women struggling with homelessness invisibly have limited access to support groups, homeless services, counseling, and safe housing options that are readily available if they stay in a shelter.

So, how do we make shelters a more attractive option for women facing homelessness?

A space all their own

For starters, there’s a need for women’s shelters. We’ve recognized this need at Springs Rescue Mission, and we opened a women’s shelter last November with 32 beds. On average, though, 60 women stay in our shelter every night. We’re bursting at the seams and having to use mats on the floor to accommodate everyone.

Women’s shelters not only allow women to feel safe and secure, but also help minimize the negative stigma that an invisible population of homeless women perpetuates. That being, women are less likely to struggle with homelessness and that you’re a rare failure if you do.

Homelessness is a complex issue, and its complexity increases year after year as the causes of homelessness continue to evolve: lack of affordable housing, mental illness, addiction and drug abuse, unemployment, domestic violence, LGBT issues, evictions, foreclosures, criminal records, the wage gap, illiteracy, “affordable” healthcare and the list goes on.

One thing is for sure, though. Women are not less susceptible to experiencing homelessness than men. When services are made available to help homeless women specifically, it helps disarm the dangerous notion that encourages many women to struggle in secret. The hope is that more women will feel comfortable seeking the help and assistance they deserve when they know there are services available just for them.

After all, it can make a world of difference when you’re living in a space with other people facing similar issues and tackling similar problems as you. You don’t feel like an exception to the rule. You start to see that there are others in the same boat with you.

This place needs a woman’s touch

woman_getting_GIKAnother way we can make our women’s shelter a more attractive option for women facing homelessness is by giving it the panache and refinement that women often provide to their living spaces. Most women want their living space to feel like home; they want to add colors, decorations, and comfort.

When Valerie Daly, Mrs. Colorado 2017, took a tour of Springs Rescue Mission’s women’s shelter, the blank walls, the bunk beds, the sterile colors, and the general lack of refinement struck her. Valerie knows a thing or two about beauty and refinement, and she immediately wanted to help transform our women’s shelter and make it feel more like home for the 60 women sleeping there every night.

She’s hoping to raise $20,000 so we can purchase more beds, build more stalls in the restroom, and add comfort and decorations that make the space feel more welcoming to women. If you’re interested in helping Valerie accomplish this goal, learn more and help Valerie today.

Helping the homeless women we know about…and the ones we don’t

We know there are at least 500 women that need help and support to find a pathway out of homelessness in Colorado Springs. But for every homeless woman we know about, there may be more struggling invisibly. We’re adding and improving services for women, with the hope that these women won’t struggle alone.

Homelessness is a hard problem to overcome, and it’s even harder to fight it on your own. Learn more about ways you can help women and men experiencing homeless know they’re not alone and that you’re here to help.


  1. They conveniently leave out that men don’t even have those types of options available to them that women allegedly exhaust because home less men are far more stigmatized and less likely to receive sympathy for being homeless. He is always seen as a burden and far less likely to receive help from friends, family and social workers. There are good guys in the shelter and they are mixed in societys worst including rapists and pedophiles. Yet there is no consideration for their safe space. This article distorts factors to fit a feminist, male disposability agenda.

  2. I believe they were simply addressing the low visible population of women in homelessness and that the reality is that it is a false perception. The fact remains that women feel shame staying at a shelter where men tend to be to proud to ask for help from family and friends. The article was clear on this point, men will use a shelter as a first resort where women will use it as a last.

  3. That is not factual. Men don’t have the same safety net as women. Shelter is never a choice. I’ve been homeless

  4. I am currently homeless due to a accident and no work, plus was also in a abusive toxic relationship, I too went back to him, but like I read in the article, I too am currently homeless, I live in my car, stay here and there every now and then to shower wash my hair, resources suck, they are always full, and no bed’s, so this is why women like me,sleep in our traveling 4 wheel home, sad to say but true, half of the women I’ve meet stay in situations that are bad, me I finally left… thank you..

  5. I so much appreciate the efforts being made for homeless women! I was homeless, (a woman), living in my car for a year, on and off, after getting out of an abusive relationship and struggling to get on my feet. The last time I was homeless, every shelter was full and couldn’t take me, and I was pregnant! As a last resort, I had to move back in with my parents, which means I couldn’t live near my children anymore. While I was homeless, I was attacked several times by men, because there are those who don’t respect you as a woman, just because you’re homeless.

  6. Very ???? everyone should have a descent place to live and these men keep your hands off these women leave them a lone they are a gift from god I no what I’m talking about I have been married 27 yrs to my wife and I have never hit her we all have ???? and ???? I would love to have money to help other people in very bad relationships I would open a descent shelter for women and children’s

  7. Do you all know of programs help a signal mom thts in a homeless situation

  8. I never understood how rich people from chicago like Oprah or Michael Jordan , or Kanya West, these sports team owners, etc. see homeless people all over Chicago and never, try to help house them, but give money to every other organization that comes up in other countries, Homelessness would end if even those people I just mentioned would put 3 million each toward apartment buildings or remodel many of the boarded up abandoned homes that are dangerous with no one living in them. Smh

  9. I’m 47 and now homeless after an accident, being a woman alone? It’s scary.i don’t know what to do, where to go, I thank god I have a car and this phone. I worked most of my life, no drugs, alcohol. Just scared and have to believe Gods got me

  10. I’m a hidden homeless woman. 58 years old. I have to be out of where I am by May 31st. I have nowhere to go. I’m tired. I don’t know what’s going to happen to me but, i refuse to be in a shelter with men. 😭😫😣

  11. The biggest problem is there is no place for non married couples to be able to stay together. Homelessness is already a major struggle for us this just makes it harder.

  12. Cynthia? Me too

  13. I would like to extend some experience…
    I once found myself sleeping inside a warehouse on Chicago’s south side.
    I didn’t want to put myself in this situation, but the reality is…
    People put themselves into that certain position in life due to their behavior patterns and that is how and why homelessness happens in real life.

    People don’t realize that their behavior puts them at risk and soon their situation changes and that it can easily keep snowballing into a much more dire situation than they’ve anticipated and the results are often disgraceful and shameful.

    To prevent yourself from such a situation, you’ll need to see the patterns that have occurred and to be able to understand them so that these behavior patterns don’t ever happen again.

    First, put yourself back into a simple mode of thinking. Then, find a new way to place a different standard in front of yourself so you can follow this rule as a primary guide to take you away from a bad situation and into a good situation.

    Brush yourself off and repeat the process to upgrade your standards and you will eventually see how life works out for the better!

    People become homeless for a reason and they put themselves in that position to eventually happen. It’s up to the individual! Do not allow yourself to be trapped in a relationship that will eventually shatter any hopes you may have to regain your life back.

    I’ve been homeless before and it sucks big time! It’s not good to be in that situation, but it can help you to realize that there is more to life than being homeless with much hope than to be homeless with no where to go or to have no one to turn to for the help that you need!

  14. As I read about the many different experiences, it saddens me to know that living in the U.S.A a person can always be one check away from being homeless. Everyone’s circumstances are different but don’t blame the average working person who tries to get by on their overly taxed salary when taxes, expenses, Bill’s go up but your net income doesn’t. You were in a rent stable apartment that was taken over and the subsidy is gone now you have to move. Your property taxes escalate because a developer put 500k homes 2 blocks from you now your taxes increase but your net income is the same. It’s not always the fault of the victim when they have 2 constantly change due 2 circumstances beyond their control where the more wealthy DON’T pay their fair share of taxes and the less fortunate are over taxes.

  15. I’m looking for shelter for me and my kids and my Sister we had a house fire

  16. Homeless 60 year old woman (carcamper) in Washington State ten years..

    Having been in
    Bad Credit karma pergatory for years and years and years…

    -TEN years on the streets of Washington State

    Im not even Catholic.

    My pension check didn’t come into my bank yesterday like it should have and now Im scrambling for my money over at the bank and calling my pension office on the phone for hours and hours I am starving and car needs gasoline !!!

    I have no cash for gasoline and its freezing outside & gasoline helps keeps me warm in the car.

    I was never evicted or arrested, no criminal record, no alcohol or drugs.

    I did have a massive heart attack and collapse from the stress of driving, driving, driving…. back and forth; round and round ; constantly going nowhere and everywhere, driving in huge circles wearing down both myself and my cars out….

    Incessantly driving up and down washington state round in huge nonstop circles from Oregon to Canada …

    …i literally wore out eight vehicles in past ten years from incessant 24/7 driving thousands & thousands of miles.

    With No home to go home to;

    I said prayers EVERYDAY asking GOD FOR A PEACEABLE DWELLING PLACE so far to no avail…

    Ive been unable to efforts of finding a suitable indoor dwellings and living in a home.

    I wore both myself and the cars I drove out on the roads.

    I Took wonderful care of the cars but literally drove them into the ground till they had to go to the junkyards when I bought another one to replace it.

    I don’t know what to do about things in my life, so I just keep doing what I’ve been doing, to keep getting what I’ve already got …

    Which is the insane single gypsy introvert lifestyle & never staying in one area long enough to even be noticed by the COPS who move all the homeless folks along anyway but ive never in that group, cos I’ve already left hours before the COPS even show up at all..

    Very highstrung introvert and well aware of the streetlife and freeways around here, I don’t hang round any other folks at all, and so I vanish & vacate at a moments notice going back into the ether from whence I came …since no sounds are made by me and silence is golden, I’m never noticed by anyone either way.


    …I melt into the background scene and evaporate as a puff of steam or as a vapor in the KJV BIBLE….

    …thats what it means to CONSTANTLY BE IN ALERT STEALTH MODE & have lots of hiding places and leave no trace…..

    …..in other words, I don’t trash where IVE BEEN parked, nor leave any evidence of having ever been there at all…

    BEING in constant STEALTH-MODE…

    Makes the most sense & is SAFEST ALSO…





  17. I am a 61 female Navy Veteran. I have to be out of my Apartment on January 31 due to a sleazy landlord. I l lost everything 3 years ago due to hurricane Irma and now this. I don’t know where to go or what to do. I am tired and scared.
    my family has told me I am on my own. To those judgmental people who say we bring this on ourselves. I am a good person, I don’t drink or do drugs.

    just so tired.

  18. I have been homeless pretty much sence my mkom and dad died,my ex is a horrible person to me,the only thing is he pretty much suculd me to where I was always alone.he told me no would ever love me I fat ugly no and it’s not even true but I believed and thought everyone hated me.I even lost what I needed to make my life complete!My children).I’m trying to get my self back bhut I have get him out off my life.almost 5 years I badly need a home thier one shelter I maybe could go to but almost everyone uses drugs

    .and over60 of them end up missing and no one can find them.ibdont have my kids at the moment so I can’t go to the family shelters.please I lost my car so it’s even harder ,I stayed in porta potty acarwash stalls and it’s very scary when u are alone and a female with no car .God please help me with my life to get a job or even 2 ,or even s car please can some one help me

  19. People are on the streets for many reasons. I am 60 and have no where to go as of september 10th nd i have a dog who i rescued about 9 years ago. I have medical problems- if i was 62, i could be put on a list that tskes 2 to 7 years to get an apartment. I have brain trauma too and learn slowly, so fast food is out- i am too slow. I hace a car but no money for gas. Family has helped very little- makes me very sad, too. I keep prayingvto Jesus Christ because He and my dog are all i have fit in this world.

  20. Dear God, When are the cities in America going to start looking at just how many HOMELESS AND ABUSED WOMEN there are….Then truly MEET THE NEED.

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About the Author - Matt Stickel

Matt Stickel has been with Springs Rescue Mission for almost four years and is currently serving as the Marketing and Communications Manager. His great-great grandfather was an English carpenter who built some of the first houses along Tejon St. in the late 1800s. Matt's family has called this amazing city home for generations since. He enjoys hiking local trails and reading inspirational books every chance he gets.