Being homeless is not easy; being a woman and being homeless, is even less easy.

Today is International Women’s Day. Among other things, I find this day significant because of how difficult homelessness can be on women, physically and emotionally.

As the keeper of Glendale’s Vulnerability Index, I can tell you most of the homeless women living on Glendale streets will die prematurely if they are unable to get adequate housing and medical treatment.

I can also tell you that approximately one third of the homeless women we have surveyed have been victims of violent attack while being homeless. As violence against people who are homeless is not uncommon, I’m sure that this percentage is about the same, if not higher, in other communities.

Homelessness is difficult on everyone who experiences it, but women experience a heightened vulnerability while living on the streets.

In honor of International Women’s Day, I’d like to share one woman’s story with you. This woman exemplifies the courage of many of our clients.

Blanca, after being honored as a 2011 ‘Woman of Courage’ by the Glendale Commission on the Status of Women

Blanca was beaten by her husband for the last time when she was four months pregnant. She left; taking with her a one year old daughter and five year old son. She had no money and only the clothing on her back. She was homeless.

With nowhere else to go, Blanca found a domestic violence shelter where the family stayed until she gave birth to her third child. Baby A was born two months prematurely, weighed only two pounds and was given only a 60% chance of survival. While her son remained in the hospital in intensive care, Blanca temporarily recuperated at a friend’s home, but needed another place to stay.

Ascencia, then PATH Achieve Glendale, was the closest shelter to the hospital where Baby A was being treated, so Blanca and her children moved into our Emergency Housing Program. Though still tiny, after a few weeks, Blanca was able to bring Baby A ‘home’.

Just a few weeks after uniting her family, Blanca was able to move them into an apartment through Ascenica’s Transitional Housing Program. Staff and volunteers furnished Blanca’s new apartment with donations and provided legal advocacy, tutoring and encouragement. Blanca found a job, enrolled in school and began picking up the pieces.

Last year, Blanca and her three healthy children moved out of our Transitional Housing Program, and moved into her very own apartment. She works part time while attending college to pursue a career in criminal justice and continuing to build a better life for her family.

Everyday, women like Blanca come to Ascencia for help. Many arrive with their children, desperate for shelter and safety; others arrive completely alone, tired from years of abuse on the streets. And on any given day, women out number the men in our Emergency Housing/ Shelter Program.

That’s why for International Women’s Day, we’re thinking of all the homeless women who have rebuilt their lives- and especially thinking of those who are still homeless.

– Christina

P.S. To celebrate all of Ascencia’s strong, courageous women, we put up a few pics.

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