Reporting from the East Coast, it's cold outside. Which makes it an especially dangerous time to be homeless. There simply aren't enough beds in many regions to provide every person in need with a safe place to sleep. And "safe" is definitely the operative word when it comes to those fleeing domestic violence.
At any time of year, the availability of emergency shelter can be a matter of life or death for women and children fleeing abusive situations. But when it's cold outside, and there's an uptick in shelter demand, victims of domestic violence have ever fewer safe places to go in an emergency.
The Mary Kay Foundation, which has awarded more than $37 million in grants to combat domestic violence, gets this problem. The philanthropic arm of the multinational cosmetic company has an ongoing program whereby homeless shelters serving victims of domestic violence apply for funding and, in October—because it's Domestic Violence Awareness Month—the foundation cuts $20,000 checks to dozens of recipients around the country. In 2014, the Mary Kay Foundation spent about $3 million on what it calls its Shelter Grants program, the money allocated among more than 150 domestic violence shelters, which in turn provide services to about 400,000 women and children.
The size of Mary Kay's anti-homelessness grants might be uniform, but their end uses are as unique as the needs of the shelters they support. Last year, more than 700 emergency housing providers applied to Mary Kay, citing a range of funding needs, including basic operating expenses, utility bills, meal provision costs, repairs and renovations, and programming.
So, for example, The Shelter in Gastonia, North Carolina used its Mary Kay Foundation grant to hire a driver. A reasonably modest expense, but a crucial one for women fleeing abusive situations. In the car-dependent region, lack of reliable transportation makes it nearly impossible for people without personal vehicles to get job interviews and other appointments, creating barriers to economic opportunity and financial self-sufficiency. But now, thanks to Mary Kay, residents at The Shelter have more freedom to choose where they want to be and actually get there.
As long as there are shortcomings in shelter for the homeless, there will continue to be women and children forced to choose between domestic violence and a warm place to sleep at night. Not many foundations focus on this nexus, so it's good to know what Mary Kay is up to.