One in three women and one in four men have experienced domestic violence, but homeless women in San Francisco fare much worse, with 44% reporting that they have experienced abuse. While the United States dedicates the month of October to Domestic Violence Awareness, it is safe to say that one month does not do justice to the severity of this epidemic. At GLIDE, our staff approach their year-round domestic violence work with a keen understanding and lived experience of the unique barriers and threats that women in the Tenderloin face on the streets.
“It’s tough in the Tenderloin when you’re a homeless woman. I’ve experienced it,” says Shannon Wise, program manager of GLIDE’s Women’s Center. “Women walking around the streets of the Tenderloin, they’re subjected to another layer of abuse when it comes to men.” In many cases, women will gravitate towards a man who she believes can offer her protection on the streets, but this can come at a cost. “Then, you’re subjected to his own abuse, because he can protect you from everything else,” Shannon recounts.
Before the pandemic, GLIDE was a place where women could come and find physical and emotional reprieve from the outside traumas and abuse that they experienced. Over the last year and a half, GLIDE has flipped its service model to meet women where they’re at during the COVID-19 pandemic: at shelter-in-place hotels and centers.
Shortly after the onset of the pandemic in 2020, GLIDE was contracted by the San Francisco Department of Public Health to support residents of the shelter-in-place hotels. GLIDE case managers support women residents by offering critical low-threshold services, while building trust and confidence through sharing their own lived experiences.
For battered women, access to trauma-informed mental health and substance use services is crucial to recovery and resiliency. In remembering her own experiences, Shannon explains, “It’s another layer of trauma that somebody has to heal from. Sometimes women don’t heal from it. Sometimes they do. Some of the barriers to the women we serve is not enough mental health treatment and not enough substance abuse services.”
Julia Williams is one of GLIDE’s case managers who visits the shelter-in-place hotels. She was drawn to GLIDE with a desire to close the gap between homeless women and the services that they need. “I’m a survivor of domestic violence and I’m also the daughter of a single mother; so, the unique needs of women are really close to my heart,” Julia says. “Women need a lot of services that are overlooked, even though 47% of the homeless population in San Francisco are women. I want to step in and provide that care for them.”
Julia is often the first connection a hotel resident has with social service providers. This initial contact with residents allows case managers to open conversations and gateways to comprehensive help. Case managers like Julia will work one-on-one with their clients to understand their needs and then connect them with resources, escort them to doctor’s appointments, help them apply for jobs or SSI, and much more.
For women who have experienced domestic violence, GLIDE’s case managers connect survivors with the resources they need to leave their relationship, access mental health treatment, and help to build confidence that she can overcome her situation.
“What I try to do is provide help and support and also share my story because I think that can be really impactful,” says Julia. “If I can make it out, I feel like that gives them courage that they can too.”