UTEP Leads Research about Women, Homelessness
Last Updated on October 01, 2021 at 2:32 PM
Originally published October 01, 2021
By Daniel Perez
An international, multilingual peer-reviewed journal recently published a research paper that explored the experiences and the specific needs of homeless women in the Paso del Norte region prepared by an interdisciplinary team led by researchers from The University of Texas at El Paso.
The Ehquidad International Welfare Policies and Social Work Journal included “Interpersonal and Structural Complexities Among Women Experiencing Homelessness in a U.S.- Mexico Border Community” in its July edition. The paper was based on the data researchers collected from 30 homeless women who lived in various shelters throughout the Paso del Norte region during the summer of 2019.
The study identified barriers to health and social services and provided recommendations for improving access to care for these women. Findings showed that these women have critical needs that service providers do not meet to include interventions that address childcare, employment, intimate partner violence and physical and mental health illnesses.
Maissa Khatib, Ph.D., associate professor of practice in UTEP’s Women’s and Gender Studies program and a member of the research team, said this study was important because there had been no definitive research into the number of women who were homeless along the U.S.-Mexico border, the issues that created their homelessness, and the kinds of interventions that could help them.
Khatib said women are among the most vulnerable homeless subpopulations because of several interrelated factors such as a shortage of women-centered services, women’s vulnerability to various types of family violence, exploitation and marginalization, as well as higher rates of poverty so they lack the necessary resources when escaping violence. She added that women often seek shelter in “non-service-led situations” such as couch surfing or staying in unsafe housing.
One of the main things that researchers found was that women have unique needs and their experiences prior to and during their stays in homeless shelters differ from those of men in similar situations. Khatib said the team’s paper included several policy and practice recommendations for women-centered services, and suggestions to design effective and efficient interventions in childcare, employment, physical and mental health services and the prevention of intimate-partner violence.
The goal of these suggestions is to protect women and provide them with therapeutic support that would assist them to quickly transition out of homelessness and have a stable life, Khatib said.
Other researchers on this project were Eva Moya, Ph.D., and Yog-Fong Paat, Ph.D., associate professors of social work; and Silvia Chavez-Baray, Ph.D., a lecturer in the Department of Social Work. Also on the team were Lourdes Perez, who earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from UTEP in 2019 and now is a doctoral student in behavioral health at Pennsylvania State University; and Ryan Floresca, who received his bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from UTEP in 2020. Today he is a student at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso Paul L. Foster School of Medicine in El Paso.
The National Science Foundation and the UTEP Department of Social Work funded the study.