On March 20 and 21, 2012, 200 participants representing 88 organizations came together for a public forum on the subject of how women experience homelessness. The proceedings from this memorable event were released on April 30, 2013.
Their content serves as a reminder that, one year later, the conclusions are the same: the number of women experiencing homelessness is increasing and their experiences are becoming more complex and diverse. Homelessness among women has many faces. Different sources discuss how the populations experiencing homelessness are changing: more young women, more senior women, more women with children, more immigrant and Indigenous women, and more women living with a disability or with mental and/or physical health problems. These different faces of homelessness create and affect the specificities of the phenomenon of homelessness among women.
Women experiencing homeless often face a kind of social invisibilization due to a lack of awareness. They still have rights and need protection and social recognition. For that reason, it is crucial to learn about their experiences and to continue to work to improve their living conditions.
Support organizations have demonstrated the importance and complexity of supporting the many women who are suffering. They must develop multiple tools for interventions to support and accompany these women in rebuilding their self-esteem and improving their living conditions. Violence and its effects on women are a critical issue in the fight against women's homelessness.
Women's homelessness is a political issue and must be included in a broader vision of the fight against poverty and social exclusion in Quebec. This requires significant changes in the tools for social protection: universal basic income, access to social housing, free and accessible health care and social services, etc. It is urgent that we revisit our ways of thinking and intervening in this social phenomenon.
We must open our eyes to their lived experiences, listen to their stories and try to understand their multiple needs. Let's work to build a more egalitarian society where women are no longer prey to unequal social dynamics and social policies that are neither effective nor coherent. We must see better to do better, and say NO to women's homelessness!
* This statement was inspired in large part by a text written by Marie-Christine Plante, PhD student in sociology at the Université du Québec à Montréal, student member of the Collectif de recherche sur l'itinérance, la pauvreté et l'exclusion sociale (CRI).