"Because women are more domestic and nurturing, their experiences have brought to light a need within the general homeless population that if we want to create productive change, we probably need a more well-rounded approach," says Dr. Kissko. "That means going beyond their economic concerns to give them skills to empower themselves."
The reason for the rise in women's homelessness – women now account for 33 percent of homeless people – are many, say experts: the global economic downturn that added to the loss of manufacturing jobs, erosion of the safety net with welfare cutbacks, and ongoing gentrification in many US cities that has gobbled up affordable housing.
"It's important that most people understand that the face of homelessness is changing," says Lisa Watson, chief executive officer of DWC. "It's no longer the drunk older man living on the streets, which has been the typical media image for decades." She adds the rise in domestic violence to the equation. Although more than 98 percent of her residents stay housed permanently if they want, Ms. Watson says the idea of DWC is to help women gain skills so they will be prepared for jobs once California's unemployment rate drops from its current 12.4 percent.
Besides offering one site to help women with health needs, showers, beds, laundry facilities, a mailing address, and telephones, the DWC offers computer literacy classes, art and creative writing workshops, and poetry groups that help women communicate.