Family Violence Leads to Homelessness

Why do women put up with an abusive husband? One of the main reasons is lack of financial resources to leave the marriage. Even if they come from a middle or uppermiddle income family, chances are the man controls the money. That is the way with controlling, abusive men. They handled the money. It is a way of trapping women in a bad marriage. Some men even put their wives on a budget and then even ask for an accounting of the budget money.

The facts speak for themselves. 92% of Homeless women came from abusive homes. And of this number most have been abused as teens. They often married early to get out of a bad situation at home, only to fall into a worse situation. It is a low self-esteem problem. They feel they can't survive on their own and need a strong man to help them.

My sister stayed with her abusive, alcoholic husband for 17 years before she finally made the decision to get a divorce. She didn't wind up homeless because she knew how to handle the money. She was one of the smart ones who didn't let her husband control every aspect of her life. Other women aren't so fortunate. Not that it was easy for my sister. It wasn't. It isn't easy for any woman who chooses to walk away from an abusive relationship.

When my friend decided to leave her husband several of us offered her our homes for a temporary shelter. She stayed at different people's homes until she could find an affordable apartment. But what if a woman has to leave the area to get away from an abusive husband? What if she doesn't have family or friends to back her? Then she winds up homeless, living in her car, or in a woman's shelter.

If a woman has no support system she may find herself in an impossible situation. This why it is vital to have shelters for battered women. Unfortunately, there are more battered women than shelters in America so some women wind up on the street.

Another friend found herself in this situation before I met her. She told me she would walk the streets at night with her daughters because there wasn't even a general shelter in town. Sometimes they'd spend part of the night at a late night restaurant or donut shop. If the weather was nice, they'd camp out. A few times they wander into a church where they would get temporary help and shelter. It was a horrible way to exist.

Remarkably, this woman changed her life for the better. She got a job, went back to college, found an apartment for herself and her two daughters. Her initial help came from welfare.

"Requests for emergency shelter by homeless families with children increased in 68% of US cities surveyed in 1999."

In Connecticut, the Prudence Crandall shelter can only help a limited number of women at a time. If her husband is the kind to hunt her down, going to a friend's or family won't help. He'll find her. A restraining order helps somewhat, but it is just a piece of paper.

My sister had a restraining order against her husband. He still came around and threatened her at my mother's home. My sister called the police and he was taken away but let out the very next day. That is no kind of real protection at all. The problem is the police don't see spousal abuse as a criminal problem. They put it under the category of a domestic dispute which makes it seem less serious than it is. That accounts for the many women found and killed by their ex spouses.

There is stigma associated with single parents who go on welfare, and yet for many women there is no other choice. They need the help of welfare to get on their feet and start their lives over again. Estimates are that more than 50% on welfare are there because of domestic abuse.

As a society it is important for us to care for those who can't care for themselves. Here are some things we need to do:

1-Set up more shelters for abused women, and other women who find themselves homeless. It is especially important to have a place where women can go with their children.

2-Make it a serious crime to ignore a restraint order. Even making is a misdemenor can help if the court locks the offender up for a few months, or a year. This way the abused woman can have time to escape to somewhere safe.