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Survey finds more women than men in East Texas homeless shelters

Hiway 80 Rescue Mission

A Longview, Texas, homeless shelter is preparing to build a larger women’s and family shelter. The Hiway 80 Rescue Mission has seen a spike in homeless women over the past seven months. It’s currently housing 65 women and children, up from 25 at this time last year, according to associate director Rusty Fennell.

“We’re over bed capacity already. We’ve been over bed capacity for awhile,” Fennell said.

The rise in women seeking shelter is a trend seen by agencies across Northeast Texas, and validated in an annual count of homeless people. Fennell is president of the Northeast Texas Homeless Consortium. The results of its annual survey reveal, for the first time, women make up the majority of homeless people in emergency shelters. Fennel said women may be turning to shelters sooner, before they fall completely destitute.

“To see more women coming into a shelter might actually be positive because they’re turning to shelters before they exhaust their resources and create further problems," Fennell said.

The overall count of homeless people in the six-county East Texas region was virtually unchanged from last year. The consortium counted 578 homeless people, Fennell said, but area school districts are still completing their tabulation of homeless children. To date, two Longview-area school districts have reported 109 homeless children.