Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) founded shelters in Seoul to provide temporary accommodations for the homeless. Three shelters are available for homeless men, whereas only one exists for women.
Didim Center, the only temporary shelter for homeless women in Seoul, is in need of donations. Located at Seodaemun-gu, the center can accommodate 35 homeless women a day, collaborating with rehabilitation centers to prevent re-displacement and promote employment. Displaced women can rest at the center for up to a month, with three meals offered a day.
There has been a change in the center maintenance following the pandemic crisis. Many institutions and centers prohibited accepting new people, so Didim prolonged the period of stay to 60 days. The center had more than 160 volunteers every year, but as SMG restricted visitors to the centers, Didim could not accept any volunteers this year.
Regarding the status of homeless women, Oh So-young, a counselor at Didim Center, stated the number of identified homeless women are far less compared to men. Oh explained some statistics suggest only six percent of the homeless population are women.
“Due to low numbers identified in research, many organizations undermine the importance of supporting homeless women,” Oh said. “Despite Didim’s short history, however, there have been more than 150 homeless women visiting our center every year. This is a number that Didim Center cannot manage, so it is urgent to establish more temporary shelters for women as soon as possible.”
Kim Jin-mi, the director of Didim Center, demonstrated the living conditions of homeless women.
“According to research, displaced women have four times the risk of being victims of assaults and sexual crimes than men,” Kim said. “They have great fear in meeting male strangers and end up avoiding homeless facilities. This is why we need more womenonly shelters.”
Homeless women in Korea need more than physical protection. Counselor Oh explained approximately 50 percent of them are either diagnosed with or have symptoms of mental disorders.
“Homeless men also have a high percentage of mental disease of 30, but it differs greatly regarding the type of the disorder,” Oh said. “When the majority of those men are diagnosed with drinking problems, an overwhelming number of homeless women have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.”
These two disorders make it harder for displaced women to find a workplace or live a daily life. Furthermore, Oh explained most of them were either housewives or freeloads. This makes them harder to find competence in the labor market. She insisted on providing institutional support on recovery of mental health and social rehabilitation.
There are ways to support homeless women other than institutional help. Although Didim had enough donation on winter clothes and sanitary pads, the center needed more shoes and underwear, especially bras.
She explained donation on towels, shampoos, and basic skincare products is also desperately needed.
“In situations of displacement, a behavior as simple as cleaning oneself up contributes greatly to improvement in health. And because it is winter soon, donation of basic skincare products to hydrate the skin is also helpful,” Oh said.
Oh lastly demonstrated homeless women cannot afford the money to ride a bus. They often receive free health checkup at the hospital due to severe health conditions. But as they do not have the money, they have to walk long distances to see the doctor. In this sense, she explained that support on the transportation fees is a great help as well.
People who want to donate can either visit the center and drop the donations off, or send a parcel to the address specified above.