What we know about women who live on the street and their experiences with violence both as children and as adults is limited. Many dozens of studies and comprehensive literature reviews of physical and sexual violence committed against homeless women have been published.
Many of these studies, however, have been more concerned with establishing the fact of violence committed against these extremely vulnerable women than in exploring the context and experience of this violence, especially in terms of contributing risk factors, the role of violence in the etiology and dynamics of homelessness among women, or the consequences of violence in other areas of these women’s lives.
In short, prior research has only presented a bird’s eye view of women’s experiences with violence on the street. Yet without a more complete understanding of the realities of living on the streets or in the shelters and all that these living conditions entail, we cannot possibly hope to eliminate these experiences or even design policies that might ameliorate them. The Florida Four City Study was designed to provide a more complete picture of violence in the lives of women without a home.
JANA L. JASINSKI is Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Central Florida. JENNIFER K. WESELY is Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, University of North Florida. JAMES D. WRIGHT is Provost Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology, University of Central Florida. ELIZABETH E. MUSTAINE is Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Central Florida.
Funded by the National Institute of Justice, UCF faculty Drs. Jasinski, Wright , and Mustaine and UNF faculty Dr. Jennifer Wesely conducted a study involving 200 face-to-face structured interviews with women from homeless shelters in four Florida cities (Tampa, Jacksonville, Miami, and Orlando). In addition twenty in-depth interviews were conducted with women who were homeless and had experienced violence.
Hard Lives Mean Streets: Violence in the Lives of Homeless Women (Northeastern University Press)
“This is an excellent and much needed contribution to the field. The scholarship is first rate and the authors provide cutting edge data on the complexities of homelessness and violence. It is refreshing to read a rich scientific account of one of society’s most compelling social problems that offers in-depth qualitative data on the lives of people who typically suffer in silence.” (Walter S. DeKeseredy, Ph.D., Professor of Criminology, Justice and Policy Studies, University of Ontario Institute of Technology and co-author of Dangerous Exits: Escaping Abusive Relationships in Rural America)
Although homelessness is a serious social problem in the United States, there is little direct information about the actual experiences of violence, past and current, among homeless people. This volume, based on the Florida Four-City Study, brings together interview material from 737 women, including structured quantitative interviews as well as in-depth qualitative interviews. The authors investigate how many homeless women have experienced violence in their lives, either as children or as adults, and then examine factors associated with experiences of violence, the consequences of violence, and types of interactions of homeless people with the justice system. The volume concludes with pragmatic and compassionate policy recommendations.