A Christian-run Kentucky homeless shelter, Emergency Christian Ministries, just wished homeless women and children a Merry Christmas by booting them back onto the streets, claiming that it decided to ban all women (and their children) in an attempt to stop the “sex problem.” The misguided effort has left dozens of women and children on the streets with nowhere to go, and the situation is bleak — as the closest shelter that is accepting women is a forty minute drive from the town where Emergency Christian Ministries is located.
Billy Woodward, the coldhearted Emergency Christian Ministries Director, defended the ban and justified it by saying it is based on teachings in the Bible. Furthermore, Woodward claims that his actions were not “biased or prejudiced whatsoever.” He reasoned that homeless women were utilizing the shelter as an impromptu dating or hookup service that he was not having any part of, “They say, ‘We’re homeless, maybe we can find somebody, a mate or something.’ They want to meet or slip in a room occasionally and we can’t have that.”
The group has set a dangerous precedent for what behaviors are allowed or scolded in spaces that provide co-ed services to the underserved. To villainize women as the “sex problem,” not only denies men’s culpability, but perpetuates damaging myths about men’s inability to control themselves in the face of physical temptation. Woodward’s statements about women utilizing the shelters as a “dating service” marginalizes the real reasons women turn to shelters—domestic abuse, deep poverty, and glass ceilings in the workplace.
Unfortunately, places like Emergency Christian Ministries are turning away homeless women at the time when they need these services the most. Kentucky has the fifth-highest percentage of residents living in poverty, behind only Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana and Arkansas. A little more than 823,000 Kentuckians or about 20% of the state’s population live in poverty. Statewide, there are a total of 6 non-profit service providers who specifically target the homeless.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.