VOICES: Supporting homeless women in our community helps us all to thrive

Jacqueline Kasner is a rising senior Sport and Wellness (concentration in Health and Fitness) student at the University of Dayton, who has spent the Spring 2022 semester studying Health Disparities and how they impact different groups of people.

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Jacqueline Kasner is a rising senior Sport and Wellness (concentration in Health and Fitness) student at the University of Dayton, who has spent the Spring 2022 semester studying Health Disparities and how they impact different groups of people.

More than 216,000 women are homeless per night in the United States, meaning those women do not have a stable place they can call “home.”

In Montgomery County, 30% of homelessness was experienced by single women in 2020 alone. These women who experience homelessness are often deprived of everyday resources they need to survive. We may not see it, but there is an impact on them all around us. These women may not have a choice in being homeless. They may be fleeing from an abusive partner, evicted from where they live or just simply not able to afford a home for themselves and/or their children.

Women should be able to have access to resources and the support they need to be healthy and authentically themselves. This is a preventable problem, and one to which we can all contribute solutions.

Women experiencing homelessness often do not have access to basic resources including food, water and menstrual and other hygiene products. Compared to homeless men, homeless women are more likely to be even younger, more likely to have children living with them, and can even have more injuries and illnesses than homeless men.

Even if there are programs that offer these resources, it can be difficult to communicate this to the homeless community, and these individuals may not know where to find these items. Many women who are homeless may not prioritize their health and wellbeing, which can cause significant health problems for them. They often do not obtain mammograms, pap smears and other important health screenings that can lead to greater health problems and financial costs if gone unaddressed.

It’s important that we enable businesses to provide life- and health-sustaining resources such as hygiene products, healthy food, health screenings and mental health services–for those who need it the most.

As a Sport and Wellness major looking to become a future fitness professional after graduation, I have had the opportunity to learn more about the issue of homelessness among women in our community, a topic that’s been very intriguing to me. One effort to combat this issue in Dayton, where I commute each day for my classes, has been the presence of the YWCA.

The YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) is a global organization dedicated to the same goal: to ensure women are able to be seen as important human beings who deserve to be treated with the utmost respect and dignity, no matter who they are or where they came from. The YWCA not only serves as a shelter and safe haven for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors but also has programs dedicated to empowering girls and women.

We all can support homeless women in our community and enable them to live better lives. Most homeless shelters accept donations of unopened, unused feminine hygiene products, toiletries, diapers, baby formula, and hygiene products for children. Even donating money to local homeless shelters and outreach programs can help homeless women in many ways.

The YWCA can be a great source of help for homelessness, not even just for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. Another organization that helps women in need include Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH), which is an outreach program dedicated to supporting those who are living on the streets. In fact, PATH was able to provide a shower and laundry facility in April 2021 for their clients and support them through providing resources such as mental healthcare, substance abuse/recovery and even housing opportunities. St. Vincent de Paul also has a shelter that serves single women and families in Dayton. They provide items such as clothing, personal care items and help guide people in their housing process.

Reducing homelessness in women will take some time and will not just be an easy, one-step process. Donating money and products and supporting local businesses who provide assistance to women experiencing homelessness is one way we can help improve the lives of many women in our community. Supporting members of our community in great need not only improves their quality of life, but it helps all of us to thrive.

Jacqueline Kasner is a rising senior Sport and Wellness (concentration in Health and Fitness) student at the University of Dayton, who has spent the spring 2022 semester studying Health Disparities and how they impact different groups of people.

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