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Scared, vulnerable, invisible: Affordable housing crisis exposes women to violence, trauma

Published on 02/11/2017 by YWCA Canada

Ottawa, November 2nd, 2017 – Today, 120 YWCA Canada staff & volunteers from across Canada will meet with Parliamentarians to advocate for a gender-lens on the National Housing Strategy.

Housing affordability in Canada has hit its worst level in 27 years.

Women are the majority of survivors fleeing situations of domestic violence, of seniors, of people with disabilities and of Indigenous people. Without a roof over their heads and a door to lock safely behind them, women are at great risk of physical, emotional and psychological harm. Women living on the streets of Canadian cities and in remote communities are highly vulnerable and are re-traumatized by their difficult everyday lives.

As the only national association providing housing and shelter for women and girls across the country, YWCA Canada’s message is: women and girls need safe affordable housing and emergency shelter and supportive programs.

By the numbers:

  • 55% of seniors in Canada are women, a figure that rises with age. Senior women live in poverty more often than men.
  • 7 in 10 people who experience family violence are women and girls. Virtually 100% of families in shelters serving survivors of violence are led by women. Gender non-conforming people experience disproportionate levels of violence.
  • Women are the majority of people with a disability: 14.9% of women and 12.5% of men report having one or more disability. This rises with age: among those 90+:  67.3% of women reported disabilities.
  • A slight majority of Indigenous people – 51% – are women and girls, but this young population increased 20% 2006-2011 compared to a 5% increase in non-Aboriginal women and girls. About 18% of Aboriginal women have children in their teens, less likely to graduate high school, and more likely to live in over-crowded conditions.
  • Up to 75% of women experiencing homelessness have significant mental health issues. Compared to low-income women with stable housing, they have disproportionately higher experiences of substance abuse, PTSD, and depression.
  • The number of women accessing services at Veteran Emergency Transition Services Canada – which helps veterans who are homeless or at risk of it – spiked from 6% in 2015 to 16% in 2016, and the number of women veterans in homelessness is expected to keep rising.

Without access to affordable housing, women sleep on the streets or camp in city parks of our major cities, rural communities, and remote towns. They are virtually guaranteed to experience some form of violence.

“Women struggle on the streets of our cities, in poverty and vulnerable to sexual assault, violence and murder,” says Maya Roy, CEO of YWCA Canada. “They need a path to a safe home, not one that leads to a lifelong cycle of abuse, trauma, poverty and homelessness. The affordable housing crisis that women and their families are facing should be of concern to all Canadians.”

YWCA Canada is asking for 25% of National Housing Strategy funds flow to projects and services for women, girls and their families. A gender-neutral housing policy renders the very real exclusions and barriers faced by women invisible and creates a barrier to accessing safe and affordable housing.

About YWCA Canada:

YWCA Canada is the country’s oldest and largest women’s multi-service organization. Our 32 Member Associations across the country serve women and girls in nine provinces and two territories. YWCA Canada is the nation’s single largest provider of shelter to women and children fleeing violence. For more information visit www.ywcacanada.ca, find us on Twitter @YWCA_Canada or at  www.facebook.com/ywcacanada.


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