The woman’s full name in this story is being withheld to protect her privacy.
By Sally Ehrmann
Jen struts through the Harold Washington Library Center, stopping only to drop a few fraying books into the return bin. She produces a deep guttural laugh as she steps outside into the brisk November air and lights a cigarette.
She is a mother to an adult son and two cats. She is a sister, a friend and an animal lover. She is working toward her associate degree at Harold Washington College.
The 54-year-old Chicago-area resident faced hardships in her life, molding her into the woman she is today. Recently, she faced a roughly yearlong bout of homelessness.
“I may be down, but I will never be out,” Jen said. “I’m like a cat. I will always bounce back. I didn’t let it break me. It didn’t break my spirit. I had dark days, but I got out of it.”
Jen is not alone in her experience as a woman experiencing homelessness. According to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, about 39.5% of all homeless individuals in Chicago identified as female in 2018. While women may be the minority, experts agree that women face greater threats of violence, harassment, assault and hygiene problems when living on the streets. Continue reading