The causes and conditions of homelessness for women, girls and gender-diverse people are not well understood. They also are not addressed by solutions designed primarily for men. There are significant gaps in the current literature on homelessness among these groups, leading to policy failures and funding inequities. Meaningful engagement with Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit persons has been particularly absent. This means existing services often fail to meet their needs.
The Understanding Women’s Homelessness among Women, Girls and Gender-Diverse People project will attempt to fill these knowledge gaps. It will investigate the key drivers of housing need and homelessness among women, girls and gender-diverse people in Canada. Building on this evidence and consultations with lived experts, the project will then propose policy and practice changes. These changes will better support women, girls and gender-diverse individuals in the Canadian housing system and beyond.
3 Key Goals
Synthesize and assess current knowledge about housing need and homelessness for women, girls and gender-diverse people in Canada.
Mobilize the knowledge, experience and insights of women, girls and gender-diverse people with lived experiences of housing need and homelessness.
Improve understanding of the unique housing needs and experiences of homelessness of Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people.
Project scope and expected outcomes
Women are more likely to experience hidden homelessness
There has been a significant increase in women’s homelessness in Canada since the 1980s. As many as 1,000 women and children are turned away from violence against women shelters every day. Women’s homelessness shelters are frequently operating over capacity. Service shortages are particularly acute for certain groups. This includes Indigenous women, Two-Spirit people, LGBTQ2+ women, newcomer and immigrant women, women with disabilities and gender-diverse people.
Women, however, are more likely to experience hidden homelessness and are less likely to appear in the shelter system. As a result, women’s homelessness is frequently not observed or counted. There also are significant gaps in the current literature on homelessness for women, girls and gender-diverse people in Canada. Without comprehensive data and guidance from lived experts, it is challenging for policy-makers and communities to implement effective policies and practices.
A comprehensive analysis of housing need and homelessness
This project will explore the experiences of homelessness and housing need faced by women, girls and gender-diverse people in Canada. In particular, it will partner with lived experts to develop meaningful methods and strategies for collecting data. This will ensure that what is collected reflects the lived experience of women, girls and gender-diverse people.
The project will also conduct a pan-Canadian survey and an extensive scoping review. This will help develop a comprehensive analysis and understanding of the complex causes and consequences of housing need among these groups.
With support from the National Housing Strategy Research and Planning Fund, the project will investigate the following key research questions:
- What are the key system drivers of housing need and homelessness for women, girls and gender-diverse people in Canada?
- How can Canada’s housing system best support the unique needs of diverse women, girls and gender-diverse people through their lives?
- What policy and practice changes are needed to prevent housing need and homelessness for women, girls and gender-diverse people in Canada?
The project will create a national knowledge base on housing need and homelessness among women, girls and gender-diverse people in Canada.
Listening to lived experience
Existing research on women’s housing need and homelessness often neglects the voices of those most affected. This project, however, is based on deep partnership with lived experts. It uses feminist and gender based analysis plus approaches to engage meaningfully with those living the reality of homelessness. All stages of this engagement are guided by the Steering Committee of the Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network.
The research will take place over 3 phases:
- An extensive literature review of existing scholarship on experiences of housing need and homelessness among women, girls and gender-diverse people. This will include a review of scholarly literature, government reports, policy briefs, fact sheets, statistical data and parliamentary committee proceedings. The review will be presented in a report on knowledge about homelessness among women, girls and gender-diverse people in Canada.
- A national survey with women, girls and gender-diverse people with lived experience of housing need and homelessness. The survey will collect data on the causes, conditions and state of housing need among these groups. This will be the largest pan-Canadian survey to date that is specifically focused on this population.
- An Indigenous-led consultation with Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people on their unique experiences of housing need and homelessness. This phase will be designed, led and controlled by Indigenous stakeholders.
The result will be one of the most comprehensive syntheses of scholarship on housing need and homelessness in Canada.
Conversation and collaboration on policy and practice
The project will improve knowledge on a range of topics, including:
- homelessness prevention strategies
- intersectional, gender-based barriers to housing supports and services
- system drivers of housing need and homelessness for women, girls and gender-diverse people throughout their lives
- experiences and understanding of housing need and homelessness among Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people
- connections between gender-based violence and housing needs
- gaps in housing systems, supports and services for women, girls and gender-diverse people across Canada
The project’s findings and literature review, pan-Canadian survey and national consultation results will be published in a series of reports. A policy brief on key findings and themes will focus on policy and practice change in particular sectors and systems. It will also provide recommendations for policy change within relevant government ministries and departments.
The Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network and its key partners will co-host a webinar series on the results and findings. A roundtable and panel discussion also will be held at Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness conferences.
The project’s findings have implications for many audiences. This includes policy-makers at all levels of government, the homelessness and domestic violence sectors, and Indigenous communities and leaders. The project will produce a series of coordinated resources for each of these audiences. It will also work to promote cross-sectoral conversation and collaboration on policy and practice solutions.
Lead organization: Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness
- Canadian Observatory on Homelessness
- Temiskaming Native Women's Support
- Wilfred Laurier University
- A Way Home Kamloops Society
- University of British Columbia
Activity stream: Program of Research