I just got a call from a homeless woman who has no place to go. Last night, she slept in a parking garage downtown. She had no sleeping bag. No blankets. She was cold. Temperatures were in the 50′s last night. Concrete makes a cold, hard bed.
The women’s winter shelter closed at the end of March. The Greensboro Urban Ministry shelter is full. She’s applied to the Salvation Army’s shelter program, but hasn’t gotten in there, either. There are no other shelters in Greensboro.
A nurse at the IRC (a friend of mine) suggested she call me. Our StreetWatch ministry provides tents and sleeping bags for homeless people who sleep outside. She asked me for blankets and she wanted to know where would be a safe location for her to sleep? And quite honestly, I didn’t know what to tell her.
I’ve had so many calls lately about homeless women on the street in Greensboro. They all need someplace to stay. I get calls from the homeless women themselves, calls from police officers, calls from homeless service providers. The shelters are full, what are the options? Well, not many that I know of.
There are women’s shelters in other towns nearby, but that’s not an option for many of these women, for various reasons. I’ve suggested to all of them that they go to the IRC, which has a housing program, but what I hear back is that unless they have an income, there’s no housing available. (Makes sense and I knew that, but I remain hopeful that someone will have housing vouchers!)
Most of the homeless women who sleep outside have a boyfriend or husband. If they weren’t with a partner when they became homeless, they find one quickly. I hear from many women that companionship and safety are very important when you live on the street. A woman living outside alone is much more vulnerable.
I’m not sure what to tell the lady who called me today. There are two tent cities within walking distance of downtown, but neither has single women living there and at both places, the residents have a voice in who joins their community, so there’s no guarantee that either will be the right fit for her. I’m not sure if she’d prefer community life or a place to herself. And it’s not always easy to find a safe, legal place to camp. (Property owners have given permission for homeless people to camp on the land where the tent cities are located.)
I’m about to go to the StreetWatch storage unit to pick up blankets and a sleeping bag and go find this lady. I still don’t know where she’ll sleep tonight. Another homeless woman sleeping outside in Greensboro. That’s messed up. We need a women’s shelter. Well, we need more shelter space for homeless people, period. But women, especially, do not need to be living outside. And women living alone on the street? That should just never, ever happen.