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We Must Expand Access to Shelters

June 19, 2004

Re "Domestic Abuse Shelters Lack Services for Disabled," June 14: It's equally hard to find domestic violence placements for women who are homeless. One reason is that many long-term homeless women have mental disabilities that shelters feel unable to accommodate, just as they may be unable to accommodate physical disabilities.

Unfortunately for homeless women, another reason is ignorance. Shelter staff sometimes seem unable to grasp that a lover or spouse can hurt you just as easily if you live on the street as if you live behind four walls. The dependence and isolation that your article describes, which drove a deaf woman back to her abusive husband, applies equally to people who rely for basic daily sustenance on a violent partner. In addition, many women end up homeless because they had to get out of a violent home.

Time is of the essence in domestic violence. Someone who needs to escape an abusive partner needs to do so now. We need state and federal funding to expand shelter access first, so that no one will be turned away. The next step is to equip shelters and their staffs to better address the needs of their clients, including those with physical and mental disabilities.

Kay M. Gilbert

Santa Monica

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