Homelessness Still an Issue for Women and Children in Central MA

Homelessness among women is often misunderstood due to the lack of visibility of homeless women and their children on city streets.  You will not see them panhandling with their children. Instead, they are “couch surfing” at friends’ or families’ residences or living in cars and shelters. Ana, one of our most recent shelter guests, can attest to that fact:  “If it wasn’t for Abby’s” she said, “I probably would have froze in my car this winter.”

The data for homeless families in Massachusetts is startling. The income cutoff to be considered very low income in the state of Massachusetts is $37,150; however, the average income for a single mother with two children in Massachusetts is $20,400*.  It is no wonder women are forced to choose between basic necessities for themselves and their children.

With the economy in recession, women and children in Central MA are even more affected by homelessness.  On any given day, the Abby’s House Shelter Advocate receives an average of 19 phone calls from women who are looking for housing.  However, in light of the increase length of stay at our shelter (from an average of 11 nights to 27 nights) there are times when we do not have a bed available and must help the woman find another place to stay.  Sometimes, this search ends up with the woman “couch-surfing” for another night, week, or month. 

In addition to an increase in demand, Abby’s House has seen a change in the population we serve. There has been an increase in women age 55 and older who are losing homes due to foreclosure, layoffs, domestic violence, and divorces, women in their 20s who have aged out of the foster care system, and in the working poor, who can no longer afford market rents.  We have adapted our programming to meet the needs of these diverse populations, but until more affordable housing units and shelter beds are available for women and children, homelessness will continue to be an issue.

Until that day, our doors will remain open for women and children searching for a place to call their own.