Monday, May 18, 2015

Challenges of being a woman in need

Over the past week, I spent my time helping a woman trying to get access to basic needs. She arrived in Oklahoma recently after having lived abroad and needed a place to stay. She also needed a car since public transportation is not available in this region. What I encountered in my attempt to find this woman basic shelter revealed why many women don't seek or receive the help they sometimes desperately need.

I called several non-profits and government agencies first. A few did not return my calls although my messages clearly indicated this woman needed immediate shelter. The groups that did call back cited the same challenges: not enough resources, time, funds, or volunteers to accommodate her. Section-8 housing units were contacted as well as public housing facilities. Same issues here: no space, not enough resources. In fact, there was a six-month wait before she would even be considered for a room.

Next came the need for a car. You would think that some non-profit group would lead you to an agency or individual who was willing to lend a person in need a car, especially in the Midwest plains where public transportation is unimaginable. Once again, another disappointment. Not one agency was able to name anyone private or public who can help find a car for the woman, not even one affordable enough to rent or buy in the very, very short-term.

To give the government some credit, public assistance and state-sponsored medical coverage were provided. My guest was able to have some money in her pocket to avoid starving. But keep in mind that the housing developments offered by the government were unable, so the woman was looking at having enough to eat for a very brief time, receiving some decent health care if it were needed, but potentially having to live homeless until some room was made for her in the public housing units.

For those of you thinking that her basic needs were unmet because this woman had recently arrived to the US, I'll have you know she's an American citizen who had moved abroad for a two-year period. She had returned expecting to pick up from where she had left off in life, but things didn't work out that way. Let me add she has degrees and over a decade's worth of professional experience. Instead, she found a lot of voice messages, uncertainty, and potentially living in the streets.

It's not the first time I've witnessed such a dire experience. Every year, many women have nowhere to go. They can be women who are going through divorce, escaping an abusive husband, or just needing to start over. Instead of being greeted with an opportunity to start a new life with some optimism, they instead find rejection, disappointment, and nowhere to go. There have even been women of domestic violence turned away from shelters that were unable to accommodate them for some reason.

It's a shame that women are forced to live through such a nightmare, especially in one of the richest, most powerful countries in the world.

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