Homelessness among women in the greater Los Angeles area has reached a crisis level. A variety of organizations are working to attempt to address the matter of unhoused women in the community. A woman we call Margie (in order to protect her privacy) was a woman who received crucial services when she ended up without housing. Unfortunately, the story of the latter part of Margie’s life is sad and troubling. In this article, we focus on seven time periods associated with Margie’s life … and death:
- Background before housing issues arose
- Collapse of Margie’s marriage
- Substance use disorder
- Life on the street
- Moment of hope
- Unattended death
- Unattended death remediation
Margie’s Background Before Encountering Housing Issues
Long before Margie encountered housing issues, well before she ended up living on the street and eventually finding supportive housing, Margie enjoyed a fairly typical life. She graduated from high school, with honors. She attended community college and obtained an Associate’s Degree in web design. Not long after graduating from college, Margie obtained a job at a firm and got married.
Despite trying for several years, Margie and her husband never had any children. Margie’s parents died during the decade following her graduation from college, within a few years of one another. Being an only child, Margie’s husband really did become her only close family member.
Collapse of Margie’s Marriage
Sadly, within about five years of getting married, Margie and her husband began having some fairly pronounced relationship issues. In addition, Margie’s husband began a series of affairs with several other women and one man. He began drinking fairly heavily.
It was during this time period that Margie began experiencing domestic abuse at the hands of her husband. This took the form of physical and emotional abuse. Margie eventually escaped life with her husband and went into something of a battered women’s underground railroad. During a period of about a year, Margie lived under the radar in a residence for victims of domestic violence.
Margie’s Challenges Associated With Substance Use Disorder
Eventually, Margie moved from the residence for victims of domestic violence. She obtained a divorce from her husband. Initially, all seemed fairly positive in Margie’s life – for about a year.
About 14 months after her divorce, Margie began drinking more heavily and fairly rapidly developed an addiction to Oxycontin, a highly addictive opioid. Initially, Margie had a legitimate prescription to the medication as a result of being involved in an automobile accident. Ultimately, developing an addiction to the drug, Margie was left obtaining it illegally.
There are a number of issues associated with Margie’s abuse and ultimate addiction to Oxycontin, including:
- Substance use disorder is a chronic disease that affects the brain and behavior. It is a complex condition that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain.
- Addiction to drugs or alcohol is a form of substance use disorder. It is a chronic, relapsing condition that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain. Addiction can have a significant impact on a person’s life, leading to social, occupational, and legal problems.
- Substance use disorder can lead to serious health problems, including overdose and death. The use of drugs or alcohol can have a significant impact on a person’s physical and mental health, leading to a range of health problems, including liver disease, heart disease, and mental health disorders.
- People with substance use disorder often experience social, occupational, and legal problems. Substance use disorder can have a significant impact on a person’s life, leading to problems with relationships, employment, and the law.
- Treatment for substance use disorder can include medication, therapy, and support groups. There are a range of treatment options available for people with substance use disorder. These can include medication-assisted treatment, behavioral therapy, and support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.
- Recovery from substance use disorder is possible, but it often requires ongoing care and support. Recovery is a lifelong process, and people with substance use disorder may require ongoing care and support to maintain their sobriety and prevent relapse.
- Substance use disorder affects people of all ages, races, and backgrounds. It is a condition that can affect anyone, regardless of their age, race, or background. It is important to seek help if you or someone you know is struggling with substance use disorder.
In a relatively short period of time, Margie’s substance use disorder resulted in her losing her job and, ultimately, her home. She ended up living unhoused on the street.
Life on the Street
Margie spent about five months living on the streets of Los Angeles, including in Skid Row. She had to do things she never imagined during that time period in order to stay alive. This included becoming a street-based sex worker.
Eventually, an outreach team from an organization dedicated to aiding unhoused women in Los Angeles County connected with Margie. The organization was able to assist Margie in accessing addiction treatment. In addition, the organization was able to assist Margie in obtaining a small apartment. The nonprofit got Margie off the streets and living in a safe place.
A Moment of Hope for Margie
During the first year in her apartment, Margie found a job (in web design). She also stayed clean from mind-altering substances. Unfortunately, not much beyond that initial year, Margie relapsed and began using Oxycontin once again. Ultimately, she overdosed on Oxycontin she did not realize had been laced with fentanyl.
End of Margie’s Life: A Lonely Unattended Death
When Margie experienced a fatal overdose in her apartment, she was alone. In fact, at that juncture in her life, Margie did not have regular contact with many people beyond the person from whom she purchased Oxycontin, and the case worker assigned to her by the agency that provided her with supportive housing. The case worker met with Margie every couple of weeks,
A couple of weeks following her death, Margie’s remains were discovered in her apartment by the building’s manager. A neighbor had complained about an “odd smell” seeming to come from Margie’s apartment.
Professional Unattended Death Cleaning: Dealing With the Aftermath of Margie’s Death
Once Margie’s remains were removed from the apartment, and after the police investigation of the death scene was completed, the manager of the building engaged the services of an unattended death cleaning professional, Eco Bear.
“Our company has an extensive background in providing unattended death cleaning services,” explained Eco Bear CEO, Emily Kil. “We understand the importance of providing comprehensive unattended death cleaning assistance in a professional and maintaining the confidentiality of our clients.”
Emily Kil explained that there are a number of basic components of safe, comprehensive elements of professional unattended death cleaning of the type provided by Eco Bear after the death of Margie:
- Wear protective gear, such as gloves and a face mask, to prevent exposure to harmful pathogens.
- Remove any items that could pose a health hazard or are no longer salvageable, such as spoiled food or damaged furniture.
- Clean and sanitize all surfaces, including floors, walls, and ceilings, to remove any remaining pathogens and odors.
- Dispose of any biohazardous materials, such as bodily fluids, in accordance with local regulations.
- Restore the area to its previous state, including any necessary repairs or renovations, to ensure the space is safe and livable again.
- It is recommended that you hire a professional cleaning service that is trained in unattended death cleaning to ensure the job is done thoroughly and safely.
Facts and Stats About Homelessness Among Women in Los Angeles
Before diving deeper into the tragic unattended death of Margie, a consideration of some fundamental facts and statistics associated with homelessness among women in Los Angeles is important. In an interview with the LA Women’s Center, some important information has been gleaned:
- Women represent 31 percent of the homeless population in Los Angeles County. This means that out of the total homeless population in Los Angeles County, nearly one-third of them are women who are struggling to find a safe and stable place to live.
- Nearly 60 percent of homeless women in Los Angeles County report experiencing domestic violence. This is a shocking statistic that highlights the harsh realities of homelessness and the many challenges that women in this situation face.
- Women are more likely to experience unsheltered homelessness, with 78 percent of homeless women in Los Angeles County living on the streets, in tents, or in cars. This is a particularly alarming statistic, as unsheltered homelessness can be dangerous and often leads to serious health issues.
- Approximately 6,000 women experience homelessness on any given night in Los Angeles. This is a large number of women who are struggling to find a safe place to sleep and a roof over their heads.
- Homeless women in Los Angeles are more likely to have chronic health conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, and asthma. This is a major concern, as homeless women often do not have access to the healthcare services they need to manage these conditions.
- Nearly 70 percent of homeless women report experiencing physical health issues, and 57 percent report experiencing mental health issues. This is a significant problem, as homelessness can exacerbate existing health issues and cause new ones to develop.
- Homeless women are more likely to experience sexual violence, with 43 percent of homeless women in Los Angeles County reporting that they have been sexually assaulted while homeless. This is a heartbreaking statistic that highlights the vulnerability of homeless women and the dangers they face on a daily basis.
- Approximately 60 percent of homeless women in Los Angeles report having been employed within the last year. This is a surprising statistic, as it shows that having a job does not always guarantee that a person will be able to afford housing in Los Angeles.
- Homeless women in Los Angeles face significant barriers to accessing resources, including a lack of affordable housing, limited access to health care, and a lack of social support networks. These barriers make it difficult for homeless women to get the help they need to get back on their feet and find a safe, stable place to live.
Temporary and Transitional Housing Options for Homeless Women in Los Angeles
There are a number of programs, projects, and facilities available to homeless women in Los Angeles County. These include organizations that facilitate the provision of transitional apartments and rooms in area motels. Margie was involved in a program that provided her with a small transitional apartment in which she ended up dying. Examples of these programs, projects, and services include:
- Downtown Women’s Center: Provides safe and supportive housing, as well as job training and health services, for women who are experiencing homelessness in the Skid Row area.
- Alexandria House: Offers transitional housing and support services for women and children who are experiencing homelessness due to a variety of reasons, including domestic violence, economic hardship, and medical crises.
- Elizabeth House: Provides transitional housing for pregnant women and their children who are experiencing homelessness. The organization also offers a variety of support services to help families transition to permanent housing.
- Good Shepherd Center for Homeless Women & Children: Offers temporary housing and support services to women and children who are experiencing homelessness. The center also provides job training, case management, and mental health services to help residents achieve self-sufficiency.
- Union Rescue Mission: Provides temporary housing and support services to women and children who are experiencing homelessness. The organization also offers a variety of programs to help residents find employment and secure permanent housing.
Drug Use, Abuse, and Addiction Among Los Angeles Homeless Women
Homelessness and drug use are interconnected issues that often go hand in hand, and Los Angeles is no exception. Homeless women in Los Angeles are particularly vulnerable to drug use and its associated harms. There are some key statistics that shed light on the magnitude of drug use among homeless women in Los Angeles:
- 42 percent of homeless women in Los Angeles report using drugs. This means that nearly half of the homeless women in the city struggle with drug use, which puts them at risk of health problems, legal troubles, and social isolation.
- Over half of homeless women in Los Angeles report using methamphetamines. Meth is a highly addictive and dangerous drug that can cause severe physical and mental health problems, including psychosis, heart disease, and tooth decay.
- In 2019, there were 2,867 reported drug overdose deaths in Los Angeles, many of which were among homeless individuals. Homeless women are particularly vulnerable to overdoses due to factors such as lack of access to healthcare, social isolation, and the use of drugs of unknown potency.
- Homeless women in Los Angeles are more likely to have a substance use disorder than homeless men. This finding suggests that homeless women face unique challenges related to drug use, such as trauma, domestic violence, and poverty, that require specialized interventions.
- In one study, 80 percent of homeless women in Los Angeles reported using drugs as a way to cope with past traumas. This finding highlights the importance of trauma-informed care for homeless women with drug use disorders.
- A survey of homeless women in Los Angeles found that 23 percent had used heroin in the past year. Heroin is a highly addictive opioid that can cause overdose, infectious diseases, and other health problems.
- Homeless women in Los Angeles are at a higher risk for contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections due to drug use. This is because drug use can impair judgment, increase risky behaviors, and lower inhibitions, which can lead to unprotected sex and other high-risk activities.
- In Los Angeles, drug use is a leading cause of homelessness among women. This finding underscores the complex and cyclical relationship between drug use and homelessness, where drug use can contribute to homelessness, and homelessness can exacerbate drug use.
- Substance abuse treatment programs that cater specifically to homeless women in Los Angeles have been shown to be effective in reducing drug use and improving overall health outcomes. These programs provide a range of services, such as medication-assisted treatment, mental health counseling, and case management, that address the unique needs of homeless women with drug use disorders.
Hopefully, the day will come when unattended deaths of homeless women in Los Angeles will be virtually nonexistent. Unfortunately, this is not the time. As a result, it is important to understand what is involved in regard to the sad reality of this type of unattended death in the greater Los Angeles area.