There is a misconception that homelessness is a male-orientated problem. Today, International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to share how women experiencing homelessness are affected and supported by St. Francis House.
On the 2nd floor of our day shelter in downtown Boston, The Carolyn Connors Women’s Center helps more than 500 women each year.
Women experiencing homelessness live under the constant threat of violence, the extremely chaotic nature of homelessness, fear of authority, and stigma. And, for women, the high levels of trauma caused by homelessness are linked to long term changes in neurobiology and physical health which can alter emotions, distort cognitive processes, and change behavior. Survival over health is often prioritized. All of these factors combined require St. Francis House to be very strategic and take individualized approaches to address the very unique needs of each of our women guests.
The very first step in the process of empowering women to change the trajectory of their lives begins with gaining trust.
Part of our work is in our commitment and ability to develop relationships with individuals who come here for day refuge services, create in them a sense of hope and belief that they can make positive change in their lives, and then wrap the necessary services around them to ensure they are getting a stable footing in moving forward.
Women who experienced homelessness, including those who find comfort at St. Francis House, often have extensive and difficult histories and experiences with abuse and violence. One of the most important services we can provide is a safe place of refuge.
Our Women’s Center is a women-only space that helps hundreds of women each year by understanding and responding to the unique way homeless women see themselves.
The welcoming environment of our Women’s Center provides space for comfort and privacy. We provide a calm and quiet space for our women guests with comfortable chairs, snacks, and camaraderie, so feelings of safety and calmness can be restored. Staff at our Women’s Center work with our guests to build relationships and expand their community networks.
With a goal of empowerment, we work to restore an individual’s choice and control over their lives that past abuse has tried to take away.
We encourage them to share their stories and give them the space they need to do so. We support our guests in developing meaningful relationships with staff, other guests, and their own communities. By restoring choice and control, we empower women to change the trajectory of their lives.
As part of our trauma-informed approach, we have exciting updates for the Carolyn Connors Women’s Center. Future plans include expanding the Center and enhancing our current model to serve an additional 250 women per year while strengthening our ability to ensure safety and target support services for women who are particularly vulnerable, such as women with severe mental illness or those who are in recovery.
At St. Francis House, we acknowledge that every guest who crosses our threshold has value, can make positive change in their lives, and has a role to play in the community. We acknowledge that our guests are the experts on their own lives, and every day we see women make lasting change and begin to thrive.
Our programs and services are rooted in the belief that recovery is possible for all of our guests. This philosophy is exemplified through the resilience of the women who find comfort at St. Francis House.