Women and Homelessness in Michigan

Woman with child in arms looking back at a trailer.

The troubling connection between intimate partner violence and homelessness.

A past survey of homeless adults in Michigan found that physical abuse was most frequently cited as the main cause of homelessness, making homelessness in Michigan a uniquely women’s issue. This statistic is similar to ones around the country: in a single day in 2015, nearly 32,000 people, including children, fled to a shelter or transitional housing program to escape domestic violence.

In fact, 84% of homeless families are headed by a single mother, most of whom cite violence as the reason for their homelessness. Programs to support these women are overwhelmed with requests, with 42% reporting that they lacked the funding to house survivors, who may have no other short-term options when leaving an abuser.

Eviction and affordable housing.

Battered women are also more likely to face eviction because landlords have “zero tolerance for crime” policies that allow them to evict perpetrators and victims simultaneously. In one case, a woman and child were evicted for property damage when the child’s father, who did not live in the home and against whom she had a restraining order, broke down the apartment door to attack them.

Finding a new home after eviction, or after leaving an abuser, is made more difficult by the extreme shortage of affordable housing, since federal housing assistance programs are overloaded and underfunded. In 2012 the government reported a documented need for more than four and a half million homes than they could provide.

Compounding the difficulty of finding affordable housing, some landlords will outright refuse to rent apartments to women who have been victims of domestic violence.* This happens even though there are legal protections in place to protect survivors against housing discrimination. In one documented case a woman’s application was rejected because the landlord “did not want domestic violence victims in his apartments because abusers often found them and caused property damage.”

Woman holding child with close up of child's hand clutching her sweater.

Homelessness, abuse, and the affect on children.

Sadly, the children of homeless families are exposed to a series of violent and traumatic events, sometimes as a result of homelessness, and sometimes because of the intimate partner violence that resulted in them becoming homeless. By twelve, 83% of homeless children have witnessed at least one serious violent event.

Because of statistics like these, homelessness is an important women’s issue, and a life and human dignity issue as well. ArborWoman stands with those raising awareness and supporting young women and especially young mothers who find themselves without a home. We recognize that women are often left to make the difficult choice between homelessness and a violent relationship.

We believe that we have a special role to play in providing support for these women, because battered women are often isolated by their abusers. They may have been moved far from family, had their earnings or assets confiscated, and been forbidden to speak with friends. We do not want barriers like these to keep women and children in dangerous homes.

We offer confidential counseling and support services to young mothers, and also recommend the following resources in the Washtenaw county area for any women seeking shelter & support:

Alpha House

Catholic Social Services

Safehouse Center

 

SOS Community Services

If you are in immediate danger, please call 911

*Anti-Discrimination Center of Metro New York, “Center Study Finds Significant Incidence of Discrimination Against Survivors of Domestic Violence” (August 2005).

Iris Proctor
Iris is the director of ArborWoman.