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  • Homelessness Now a "Women's Issue," Says YWCA Canada

Homelessness Now a "Women's Issue," Says YWCA Canada

International Women's Day Bulletin documents women's homelessness in Canada

13 March 2012

Warning that women and girls will face increased risk of homelessness if governments cut services and spending, today YWCA Canada, the country's single largest provider of shelter for women, launches When There's No Place Like Home: A Snapshot of Women's Homelessness in Canada. The International Women's Day Bulletin paints a devastating portrait of the rise of women's homelessness in Canada and the reasons why women and girls find themselves without a safe place to live.

"More than a century after the first International Women's Day we are shocked to report that homelessness is undeniably a women's issue," says YWCA Canada CEO Paulette Senior. "It's an issue for single women, for teenage girls, for women with children, for First Nation women. In large Canadian cities, 25 to 30% of people living on the streets and in shelters are women. It's time to sound the alarm.  When women and girls are homeless, they are not safe."

Teenage girls make up one-third to half of homeless youth in urban centres. "As many as 60% of homeless girls have been sexually abused," says Ann Decter, Director of Advocacy at YWCA Canada. "Young women leave home to escape abuse, only to find it waiting in the street, where predatory older men expose them to addiction and the sex industry in exchange for a place to sleep. Low social assistance rates and lack of access to housing can push girls into a long, harsh cycle of homelessness."

"First Nation, Métis and Inuit women are homeless in alarming rates, especially women with a history of trauma and abuse and resulting mental health and addiction issues," says Marlene Gorman, Executive Director of YWCA Sudbury. "Sudbury agencies are working together to reduce and reverse the impacts of long-term homelessness. Budget and service cuts would be a big step in the wrong direction."

"Prisons are not an appropriate response to women's homelessness," says Kim Pate, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, "yet criminal justice and correctional systems are increasingly the only response to women, as depleted social service and health systems no longer provide adequate accommodation."

YWCA Canada and the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies continue to focus on women's homelessness today, co-hosting Expanding the Space, a Parliament Hill forum to discuss opportunities for change in the current climate.

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