When women and girls rise, their communities and their countries rise with them. – Michelle Obama

When Ms. J. was 22 years old, she had already overcome significant adversity. Following her high school graduation, Ms. J. and her newborn son were kicked out of the only home she had ever known due to her mother’s struggles with addiction. With no other housing options, she moved in with her boyfriend, the father of her child. This would allow her to pursue education that could lead to a Medical Assistance certification.

Unfortunately, this living situation became volatile, and Ms. J. had to withdraw from school and flee to a domestic violence shelter with her son. Now, from the shelter, she was marshaling her strength and all resources available to her in pursuit of a stable life for her family.

Violence is a leading cause of homelessness among women, and is one of many factors that contribute to women being in greater need of affordable housing. Other factors include continuing gendered labor market conditions that result in women’s pay being consistently lower than men’s pay. Gender-based social norms also force women to take on unpaid work as well as significant expense related to childcare. Trans-women face particularly tremendous barriers to well-being such as greatly increased levels of violence and discrimination that limits housing options.

These realities cause women to be more likely to have lower income and wealth when compared to men, and to therefore be in greater need of housing that is affordable. Approximately 75% of those living in affordable housing are women.

But no state currently has an adequate supply of affordable rental housing. An estimated 12 million renters and homeowner households are cost-burdened and pay more than 50 percent of their annual income on housing. Having adequate safe, affordable housing is a central and actionable way to redress the trauma and exploitation that disproportionately impact women.

When Ms. J. was referred to St. Ambrose’s Rental Services Program her case manager helped her find a job and an affordable rental property.  “The home was so big and beautiful! I never had anything like that before. It means everything to me that I have a nice home to raise my son in.” Looking to the future, Ms. J. has plans to get a more permanent job, start college, and see her son begin school.

In the face of destructive setbacks and barriers, women like Mrs. J are building better worlds for themselves and future generations. Women are doing the essential, largely unpaid and unrecognized work of healing themselves and their families from systemic harm. Women are also more likely to be involved in grassroots change movements, advocating for transformation and justice in their larger communities.

St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center works toward a vision of the future in which everyone in our community has a place they are proud to call home. We stand with our clients, supporters and partner organizations in the pursuit of economic and social justice for women and for our communities as a whole.

This article was written with information from the following sources: