On June 12, 2020, the Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network sent recommendations to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development, and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. The recommendations focus on COVID-19, its unique impact on women and gender diverse peoples, and solutions out of the crisis.
Read more about the submission below.
COVID-19 is a gendered crisis. While the virus itself does not discriminate, systemic inequities faced by women and gender diverse peoples, particularly Black, Indigenous, and women of colour, means that our experience of this pandemic is unique. Working with members across Canada, the Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network (WNHHN) is deeply aware of the intersecting marginalization caused by COVID-‐19 and experiences of homelessness and housing insecurity. Without taking experiences of gendered marginalization due to homelessness and COVID‐19 into account, responses to the pandemic cannot lead to a path of equitable recovery and resilience for all.
Women’s homelessness in Canada was already a crisis prior to the arrival of COVID-19. Making up approximately half of the homeless population in Canada, our experience of homelessness is uniquely gendered. Women are more likely to experience poverty and work minimum wage jobs, meaning that many of us face layoffs with limited savings. We disproportionately live in core housing need, head single-‐parent households, and bear the burden of childcare, putting us at risk of eviction when we face the impossible choice of paying the rent or feeding our kids.
For many women and gender diverse peoples, the directive to “stay at home” means we are trapped with partners or others who are abusive to us and our children. On the streets we fear not only exposure to COVID-‐19, but profound sexual, psychological, and physical violence. Many of these challenges are magnified for those who face multiple and intersecting forms of marginalization, including Indigenous women, transwomen, newcomer women, 2SLGBTQ2+ people, women of colour, and women with disabilities.
In the context of this pandemic, access to adequate and safe housing is the difference between life and death for many of us –whether we contract the virus or not. As we see increases in poverty, eviction, and domestic violence, we fear that our communities will face profound suffering and loss of life.