Choose To Challenge: Women and Homelessness

Posted Mar 8th, 2021 in News & Updates

Choose To Challenge

Since it is International Women’s Day, #IWD2021, and the theme is #ChooseToChallenge, we must take today to begin to have a dialogue around the state of women’s housing needs and homelessness in Canada.

From The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) website, “the number of women experiencing homelessness in Canada is dramatically underestimated. It is made invisible by how we define, measure, and respond to housing needs and homelessness. It is uniquely dangerous for women and gender-diverse peoples.” CAEH goes on, “and the more we fail to address it, the longer we ensure repeated cycles of violence and housing precarity, as well as homelessness.”

  • IN 2020, WOMEN’S NATIONAL HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS NETWORK (WNHHN) PUBLISHED A COMPREHENSIVE REPORT OUTLINING HOMELESSNESS AMONGST WOMEN, GIRLS, AND GENDER DIVERSE PEOPLES IN CANADA – HIGHLIGHTING THEIR STRUGGLES AND HOW THESE WOMEN AND GIRLS ARE HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT. SOME OF THEIR FINDINGS ARE QUITE TROUBLING, AND WE HOPE THAT THOSE THAT WILL READ THIS WILL REACH OUT TO THEIR LOCAL POLICYMAKERS AND PUSH FOR ACTION TO MITIGATE THIS GROWING PROBLEM FACING WOMEN IN OUR COMMUNITY.

Through analyzing the data, Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network (WNHHN) found that homelessness is far more prevalent than most believe or that the data would suggest. “In Canada, government-based data indicates that a large section of the Canadian population has experienced hidden homelessness. According to Statistic Canada’s 2014 General Social Survey on Canadian Safety (Victimization), 2.3 million Canadians (nearly 1 in 10 Canadians) experienced hidden homelessness at one point in their lives (Rodrigue, 2016, p. 2). Compared to the estimated 235,000 people experiencing homelessness each year (Gaetz et al., 2016), this data underscores the prevalence of hidden homelessness in Canada. Some reports have indicated that hidden homelessness is “estimated as three and a half times the amount counted” (Klassen & Spring, 2015, p. 1), but the empirical evidence supporting these estimates is scarce.”

Some of Their Key Findings: Challenges and Opportunities

  • There is a profound lack of safe, affordable, adequate, and appropriate housing for women, girls, and gender-diverse peoples in communities across Canada.
  • Lack of women-specific housing and supports drive women into emergency shelters and services that may not recognize them as homeless, are not designed to respond to their needs, and are often underfunded and overwhelmed. As a result, many women remain trapped in traumatizing situations of homelessness and violence.
  • Gaps, silos, policies, and practices within the Violence Against Women (VAW) and homelessness sectors can inadvertently create hardship for some women and gender diverse peoples, in some cases contributing to housing instability and exposure to violence.
  • Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse peoples experience the most egregious housing conditions throughout Canada and remain the most underserved in both the VAW and homelessness sectors.
  • Mothers’ experiences of housing instability and violence create the conditions for intergenerational homelessness. Addressing women’s housing needs – particularly those of mothers and their children – is critical to solving chronic and intergenerational homelessness.

The Real Scale of Women’s Homelessness

  • 21% of single mothers in Canada raise their children in poverty.
  • 7% of women-identifying Canadians have experienced hidden homelessness at some point in their lives.
  • In 2017/2018, over 68,000 women and children were admitted to domestic violence shelters in Canada.
  • 42% of women living on reserves live in houses that need significant repairs.
  • On a single day, April 18th, 2018, 699 women and 236 accompanying children were turned away from domestic violence shelters across Canada.
SINCE THE THEME THIS YEAR IS ABOUT CHALLENGING GENDER BIAS AND TAKING RESPONSIBILITY TO CREATING EQUALITY AND FAIRNESS, HOW WILL YOU HELP FORGE A GENDER EQUAL WORLD? WE CAN ALL CHOOSE TO CHALLENGE; WE CAN ALL CHOOSE TO SEEK OUT AND CELEBRATE WOMEN’S ACHIEVEMENTS. COLLECTIVELY, WE CAN ALL HELP CREATE AN A BETTER COMMUNITY FOR OUR WOMEN, GIRLS, AND GENDER-DIVERSE PEOPLE TODAY.

This post could not have been written without the fantastic work done by the following; The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network, Statistics Canada, CBC/Radio Canada, and the International Women’s Day Organizing Committee.

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