When I heard that a women’s only homeless shelter in the UK was being shut down because it didn’t also serve men, I was furious. Having gotten to know the women who frequent Rosie’s Place , a women’s shelter in Boston, on a personal level, I can tell you that the existence of women-only shelters is crucial to the process of rehabilitation. The sad truth is that men are usually at the root of the women’s poverty. They were abused or abandoned, and when they attempted to live on their own they were left without the resources needed for survival. They are more vulnerable to attacks on the streets and are more likely to have children to provide for that sink them deeper into helplessness. When they seek help at shelters serving both sexes they are often abused, harassed or robbed by the male guests or even exploited or undermined by the staff.
Yet when they turn to a women’s only shelter, they enter an environment of trust and sisterhood. They are more willing to open up and listen to the women that are trying to help them without the fear that the person behind the desk is just another man out to harm them. A shelter run by women is more likely to have a welcoming, safe atmosphere rather than a cold, institutionalized environment full of shame and guilt. The fact that this women’s-only shelter was deemed unsuitable for taxpayers’ money just because it excludes men is outrageous.
I will always have a special place in my heart for Rosie’s Place and its guests, and my support extends to women struggling with poverty around the world. I don’t know why affluent societies such as ours have developed such a negative view of the homeless, but when I think of those women having one more door shut on them, it breaks my heart. They are not leeches or lepers, but people who deserve our sympathy, respect and charity. Shutting down this shelter is not an issue just of women’s rights, but of human rights.
I know it is difficult to think of others during times like these, and that not everyone is in a place to help, but if you do have the time or means to support a shelter, especially one reserved for women, I urge you to consider it. And if you would like something in exchange for your service, Rosie’s Place just so happens to have a program where women are taught craft and entrepreneurial skills, and sell their handmade jewelry for a profit. -Celeste
Photo courtesy of Tony Phillips