Homelessness from a Strengths-Feminist Perspective

By: Mariah Stein

  1. Single women with children are the fastest-growing subgroup of the homeless population (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 413).homeless 5
  2. 43% of the homeless are substance abusers, 26% are mentally ill, 23% are veterans, 19% are employed full- or part time, and 8% have AIDS or related illnesses. (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 414) 

  3. Overall, the demographic portrait of homelessness is as follows: 48% single men, 11% single women, 38% families with children, 3% families without children, 53% Blacks, 31% Whites, 12% Hispanics, 3% Native Americans, and 1% Asians. (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 413-414)Denver Rescue Mission
  4. It is agreed upon that the number one problem is the need for affordable housing, and the number two problem is poverty. (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 414)homeless 4
  5. Although some people refuse to go to shelters and claim to enjoy the freedom of their lives on the streets, most people, especially women, are homeless by cruel circumstances, not by choice. Economic and social dislocations create the context for homelessness. (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 414)homeless
  6. Homelessness can be characterized as one of these 4 categories: a manifestation of class oppression, an embodiment of the contradictions of the postindustrial city, a product of the lack of affordable housing, or a chosen way of life. (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 415)homeless 3
  7. There are 3 stages in the chain of events that leads a person from having a residence to homelessness which include: a predisposing vulnerability to homelessness, economic or physical; precipitating incidents, the loss of a job, removal from welfare rolls, or the loss of affordable housing; and the inability to find substitute housing. (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 415)homeless 2
  8. The biopsychosocial construct applied to homelessness draws attention to: the biological consequences of living on the streets, the psychological repercussions of having no security or stability, and the social support network and the building of another societal response to the homeless as a highly visible segment of the poor. (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 416)homeless 7
  9. Among the unique contributors to women homelessness is victimization by spouses or boyfriends. On an average night, an estimated 20% of sheltered single adults are homeless because of domestic violence, and 50% of sheltered families are victims of such violence. (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 416)homeless 6
  10. Key feminist ideological themes in helping the homeless include: empowerment (power reconceptualized as limitless as limitless, collective, transitive- as a force enabling nonviolent problem solving and inclusiveness and making common cause), relatedness, and conscious-raising (renaming, recreating reality, liberation through one’s own actions, self-reliance, and rugged collectivism). (Boes and Van Wormer, 1997, pg. 419-421)


**Although many people have the misconception that homeless people chose to be homeless because they didn’t work hard enough or made a bad choice (drug/alcohol addiction), it is not true. “A common attitude  in this society is that women who have lost their homes need only a stronger work ethic, sobriety, and psychiatric treatment to reclaim their lives.” -Limbaugh (1992). In actuality, once a person gets to the stage of homelessness it is incredibly hard to get oneself back on track. Social services aren’t the best in making things better for these individuals either, and the stigma that society has with the homeless is awful. They truly deserve better help to turn their lives around. 

***For a real life simulation of what it’s like to be in poverty, check out playspent.org. It’s not as easy to get yourself back on track as you think.


Boes, M., & Wormer, K. (1997). Social Work with Homeless Women in Emergency Rooms: A Strengths-Feminist Perspective. Affilia, 12(4), 408-426.

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