Today, October 10, people around the world will observe World Homeless Day. This international moment of advocacy focuses on working to prevent and end homelessness, as well as alleviating the suffering of those experiencing it. It’s also an opportunity to reflect on the systemic factors that contribute to homelessness, including structural inequities, limited access to affordable housing, and a lack of government investment.
Last week, along with YWCA representatives from across Canada, YWCA Hamilton was on the forefront of this crucial discussion. Seven representatives from YWCA Hamilton, including CEO Medora Uppal, travelled to Ottawa to meet with Federal representatives and as part of YWCA Canada’s Day in the Hill. Together, we made a specific ask for increased investments in transitional housing and shelters for women and gender-diverse people.
Our teams from YWCA Hamilton met with politicians, senators, and bureaucrats, including MP Filomena Tassi, MP Lisa Hepfner, MP Matthew Green, MP Chad Collins, MP Anita Anand, Senator Lucie Moncion, Sebastian Clarke, Director of Operations for the Ministry of Housing, and Assistant Deputy Minister (Community Policy & Programs Branch) Janet Goulding of Infrastructure Canada.
Our specific request was to increase funding for the Women and Children Shelter and Transitional Housing Initiative, which provides funding to renovate and repair supportive housing for women and their children. This fund had previously granted $250 million to organizations across Canada through two rounds of applications – however, there were many more applications than available funding. As a movement, YWCA Canada requested an additional $600 million for this successful and oversubscribed fund, allowing organizations across Canada to increase the amount of available shelter space and transitional housing for women across Canada.
The need for more gender-supportive housing in Canada is urgent. Across the country, domestic violence shelters are turning away almost 1000 women and children every night due to lack of space. One quarter of women-led single-parent households live in housing that is unsuitable, inadequate, or unaffordable, while woman and gender diverse people are experiencing the most significant housing need in Canada. In some cases, women have to choose between fleeing abuse and keeping their children due to lack of housing options.
YWCAs across Canada are experts at creating affordable, safe, and supportive housing for women and gender-diverse people – including our newly renovated Carole Anne’s Place at YWCA Hamilton, which provides 22 emergency overnight beds. We provide not only a safe place to sleep, but also the wraparound supports that women and gender-diverse people need to get back on their feet.
However, there is simply not enough funding being distributed to allow us to put our expertise into action. Across the country, YWCAs are ready to expand shelters and build more housing, but are struggling to get enough funding to make these projects a reality. With the proper investments, we can ensure that women and gender-diverse people in Canada are properly and adequately housed.
As we mark World Homeless Day, we are calling on the government to commit to funding housing dedicated to meeting the needs of women, gender-diverse people, and their families.