Research Matters Blog

University of Toronto, OISE
November 20, 2014

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) held annually on November 20, is a day that is meant to memorialize transgender people who were killed or have died due to anti-transgender hatred and violence. It also raises public awareness of the violent reality that so many trans and gender non-conforming people face on a daily basis.

Every year, new names are added to the memorial list of trans people who have been killed due to transphobia. This year, on November 20, 2014 at 3pm, the City of Toronto will recognize TDOR for the first time by raising the trans flag at Toronto City Hall.

Transphobia destroys people's lives. It is dangerous, toxic, violent, and leads to suicide. Transphobia kills, period.Transphobia destroys people’s lives.

It is dangerous, toxic, violent, and leads to suicide.

Transphobia kills, period.

Discrimination and violence against transgender individuals is rampant.

Trans people face disproportionately high rates of victimization, unemployment, health inequities, and suicidality. Trans people of colour, especially trans women of colour face the highest rates of violence and discrimination.

The Trans PULSE project, a large Canadian study that investigated health and trans people in Ontario, found that 77% of trans people had seriously considered suicide, and that 45% had attempted suicide. Trans youth were found to be at the greatest risk of suicidality. The high rates of suicide are extremely alarming, especially during the early stages of gender transition, which is when trans people are at greatest risk of suicide. The early stages of transition are also when young people are often kicked out of the house or forced to leave home.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and 2-Spirit (LGBTQ2S) youth are overrepresented in the homeless youth population: 25-40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ2S. Although there are disproportionately high rates of LGBTQ2S youth experiencing homelessness, there is minimal support available, and support services and shelters often further marginalize this population of young people.

Trans and gender non-conforming youth are frequently rejected by shelters based on their gender identity and are regularly not permitted to access the shelter that matches the gender with which they identify because shelters frequently do not feel equipped to support trans youth. This forces trans youth to stay in a shelter that is not consistent with their gender identity, or to avoid the shelter system altogether.

Regardless of shelter standards and shelter policies, frontline workers struggle most with issues regarding access to services and support for trans people, and shelter staff tend to receive minimal training regarding trans-related issues, needs, and terminology. Staff often do not have an understanding of the importance of asking youth what pronoun and name they prefer, or that trans people can also identify as heterosexual and do not always fit under the umbrella term “queer”.

There is a type of normalization of trans oppression that occurs in the shelter system. Even though major emphasis is placed on access and the ability to access shelters with as few barriers as possible, regardless of people’s gender and sexual identities, it has somehow come to be accepted that not all shelters can accommodate trans and gender non-conforming individuals.

Institutional rules and policies that do not consider trans people often end up erasing trans people from existence.Shelters are often segregated by female and male floors, which have female and male bathrooms and showers. The floor that a person will be placed on has more to do with the staff’s perception of a person’s sex and less to do with how an individual actually identifies, which is highly problematic because not all individuals’ gender identity is congruent with the sex assigned to them at birth. For example, if someone presents as more gender ambiguous, then whatever the staff member perceives their sex to be, is what floor they will be placed on. This increases the risk for gender discrimination and gender violence to occur within shelters. It also creates significant barriers to access for genderqueer and gender non-conforming individuals, and individuals who are in the early stages of their transition.

The need for transgender youth to have access to health care professionals who have a comprehensive understanding of trans-related issues and transition-related health care is crucial. The health care needs of trans youth differ from those of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth, whether they are experiencing homelessness or not. For example, trans youth may need transition related health care, including access to hormones or surgery, or help getting ID and legal name change sorted out. The lack of specialized health care services for trans youth often results in youth turning to unmonitored street suppliers for transition-related treatment, which can have severe health complications (Quintana et al., 2010). The complexity of these needs intensifies when one is homeless and does not have money, a health card, or a support network.

Being a young person is scary, regardless of your sexual or gender identity. Being a young person who deviates from the norm is terrifying because our culture pathologizes almost every feeling and behaviour that human beings are capable of expressing. The extreme pathologization of gender makes it even more difficult for people to bring their full authentic selves to programs and support services, and to come out as transgender.

Trans and gender non-conforming youth are frequently rejected by shelters based on their gender identity.Solutions to these issues include practice and policy changes, but first and foremost, people must be respected and treated in their self-identified gender. For example, if someone says that they identify as male, then address them with male pronouns. If someone says that they identify as female, then address them with female pronouns. If someone says that they identify as genderqueer and prefer gender-neutral pronouns, such as they, then address them using they.

Shelters and support services need to be equipped with gender-neutral washrooms. Single occupancy washrooms can be easily converted into a gender-neutral washroom by replacing the female and male silhouette signs with an all gender inclusive sign.

Taking the time to listen to trans youths’ perspectives and needs will help service providers create services that are safe, accessible, and supportive of trans and gender non-conforming youth.

On this day, the Transgender Day of Remembrance, take the time to honour the lives of those who have been killed as a result of anti-trans violence and hatred. Do your part to help end transphobia, not only on November 20, but every day.

Transphobia is an everyday reality for too many individuals.

Transphobia destroys people’s lives.

It is dangerous, toxic, violent, and leads to suicide.

Transphobia kills, period.

Photos credits: Flickr/cuppojoe_trips, hollylay, jkunz

York University; The Homeless Hub
November 19, 2014

Year after year, Canadian cities are ranked as some of the best cities in the world to live in. We’re proud to state that we have well-funded public school systems, universal healthcare coverage for citizens and permanent residents, and supports that see children through from birth to adulthood. However, when it comes to child poverty, Canada places 24th out of 35 industrialized countries*. Countries that have lower child poverty rates than Canada include France, Australia, and the United Kingdom. The below infographic, published by UNICEF Canada, illustrates that too many Canadian children live in poverty.

There are many barriers and care gaps that children living in poverty face compared to children from a financially secure household. Children living in poverty are more likely to face barriers to education, have difficulty obtaining safe and healthy nutritious foods, and live in poor housing conditions. 

Access to education and educational supports are a critical component of any strategy that looks to address child poverty. Education is one of the primary means through which upward social mobility can be achieved, breaking the cycle of poverty that may exist in many families.  By providing, and investing in children today, we lay the groundwork for their success in adulthood. Few of the factors associated with child poverty can be targeted in isolation without considering other holes in our social safety net. Barriers in accessing nutritious food translate into poor mental health outcomes. Poor mental health outcomes in turn can hinder a child’s ability to be successful over the course of their academic career.

These gaps are also filled by many organizations, including: recreational centers, educational initiatives and food banks. Research shows that government programs, like investments in child benefits, have been effective in addressing child poverty. UNICEF reports that Canada’s child poverty rate drops from 26% to 14%*after taxes and transfers. This is not to suggest in anyway that there is enough being done, but instead to commend existing programs and encourage support for expanding and building on these programs.

Canada needs to invest more into preventing child poverty. Allowing children to grow up in poverty, and failing to assist them in their goals and dreams for the future results in increases in social costs for the country. These costs can include increased social assistance provisions, more funds to be spent on courts and social protection, as well a need for more health and hospital services in the long-term. In many ways, preventing child poverty can be viewed as a prevention-focused means to bypass negative health and living outcomes in adulthood. Children living in poverty have the same right to safety and security, access to healthy foods, and well-being as any of their counterparts. Today’s children are tomorrow’s future; let’s work towards ending child poverty. 

Poverty - the one line we want our kids to cross.

*Updated numbers from the most recent UNICEF Report Card 12 find that Canada ranks 20th out of 41 nations on child poverty and child poverty rates fell from 23% in 2008 to 21% in 2011.

York University
November 17, 2014
Categories: Solutions

Intensive Case Management (ICM) teams are a team-based approach that supports individuals through a case management approach , the goal of which is to help clients maintain their housing and achieve an optimum quality of life through developing plans, enhancing life skills, addressing health and mental health needs, engaging in meaningful activities and building social and community relations. It has a moderately strong evidence base. It is designed for clients with lower acuity, but who are identified as needing intensive support for a shorter and time-delineated period.

The At Home/Chez Soi project has identified that for many clients, the first three months can be most challenging, and providing appropriate levels of support may be crucial for recovery and retention of housing.

The following are characteristics of ICM:

  • Participants’ needs will vary considerably with some individuals requiring minimum supports while others might require intensive supports for the rest of their lives.One-on-one case manager to client relationship using a recovery-oriented approach (the team of case managers many include Housing and Complementary Support Workers).
  • The case manager brokers access to mainstream services that the client identifies as needed to attain his or her goals.
  • The case manager often accompanies clients to meetings and appointments in support of their goals/needs.
  • Case managers are available on a regular schedule; caseloads are often shared to assure coverage of 7 days per week/12 hours a day.
  • The staff to client ratio is generally 1 case manager per 20 clients.
  • The duration of the service is determined by the needs of the client, with the goal of transitioning to mainstream services as soon as possible.

In the At Home/Chez Soi project, the average annual program costs (for housing and support) was $14,000 for ICM participants.

Based on the work of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Excerpted from Housing First in Canada: Supporting Communities to End Homelessness.

Canadian Observatory on Homelessness/Homeless Hub: York University
November 14, 2014
Categories: Ask the Hub

While it’s true that many single-parent families (overwhelmingly led by women) are at risk of becoming homeless, the family structure itself isn’t to blame.

Homelessness, as we’ve covered in Homelessness 101, has many causes. These include structural issues (such as lack of affordable housing), systems failure (such as lack of support for newcomers and refugees), and individual factors (traumatic events, break-ups, etc.). Most often, it’s a combination of some or all of these that lead to all types of homelessness, and poverty is almost  always a major contributor.

Causes of family homelessness

Image of a mother hugging a child.When it comes to family homelessness, a report by the Social Planning and Research Council of B.C found that the main causes of family homelessness were: “a lack of affordable housing, poverty, family violence and inadequate funding for social programs.”

Single mothers are particularly at risk for many reasons, including:  

Mothers are more likely to be poor

A 2009 YWCA report discusses the fact that women are disproportionately represented in the low-income bracket. 70% of Canadian women work part-time and women make up two thirds of the workforce earning minimum wage. The report also stated: “With the highest levels of working mothers in our history, 36% of mother-led families still have incomes below the poverty line and 43% of children living in a low-income family live with a single, female parent. The median income for single moms is more than a third lower than for single dads.” As a result, women are more vulnerable to changes in social service provision and the economy.

Similarly, the Women in Canada: A Gender-Based Statistical Report showed that:

  • Women are more likely to work part-time than men
  • 67% of employed women are concentrated in traditionally “feminine” occupations, which tend to pay less than masculine occupations
  • Unemployed women are more likely than unemployed men to leave their jobs for personal or family responsibilities

There are many reasons why women are clustered in low-paying jobs. As noted by the Canadian Women’s Foundation: “Canada’s lack of affordable childcare—and the lack of workplace policies such as flex-time and caregiver leave—often forces women into career choices that severely limit their earning power.”

This is especially true for racialized, immigrant and Aboriginal women, who face additional discrimination. Emily Paradis’s report on housing issues in Toronto’s aging high rises found that racialized, immigrant and single-parent families (almost all with a single mother) were most at risk of major housing problems. These families are also more likely to face discrimination in looking for new housing and employment.

Violence remains a large contributor to homelessness

According to Statistics Canada, police-reported family violence was estimated to affect 2 million Canadians in 2011. Of this population, 69% of the victims were women and girls. For spousal violence, women represent 80% of victims.

Research on Canadian women’s shelters found that as many as three quarters of women visiting the shelters have been the victims of abuse. A large majority, 2 out of 3 women, were fleeing current spouses or partners.” Back in March, Issac covered this subject extensively in a post about women and shelter use:

“While 100,000 women and children use shelters, this is estimated to only account for 10% of women who leave their homes due to abuse. The lack of affordable housing and other accommodations is one of the chief reasons that women and their children return to abusive relationships, exposing themselves to further violence. Almost half of the women admitted to emergency shelters were with their children. The women wanted to protect their children from witnessing the abuse they were experiencing, and protect them from psychologically or physically abusive situations. Despite these high numbers, only 25% had reported the abuse to police, and 16% had laid charges.”

Youth homelessness

Some people think single-parent homes contribute to youth homelessness, but this isn’t the case either. As noted in our State of Homelessness in Canada 2013 report: “They typically come from homes characterized by family conflict of some kind (including in some cases physical, sexual and emotional abuse), disruptions to school and family life, neglect and poverty.”

LGBTQ2 youth are overrepresented among the homeless population in Canada, many fleeing homes or environments that are discriminatory. 1 in 5 youth in Toronto's shelter system identify as being LGBTQ2— more than twice as many identified LGBTQ2 as in the city’s general population. This speaks to intolerance and family conflict more than the family structure itself.

Moving forward

Though it may be tempting to blame single parents for their circumstances, there are many structural problems that put them at risk of poverty and homelessness. No one solution or family structure can prevent it, but as Tanya wrote a few weeks ago in her post about prevention: “Poverty reduction strategies, anti-violence campaigns, early childhood supports and anti-discrimination work all can contribute to a reduction in homelessness down the road.”

This post is part of our Friday "Ask the Hub" blog series. Have a homeless-related question you want answered? E-mail us at thehub@edu.yorku.ca and we will provide a research-based answer.

Photo credit: mattwi1s0n on Flickr

- See more at: http://homelesshub.ca/researchmatters#sthash.i8IWLuCH.dpuf

This post is part of our Friday "Ask the Hub" blog series. Have a homeless-related question you want answered? E-mail us at thehub@edu.yorku.ca and we will provide a research-based answer.

Photo credit: Sandrine Derselle on Flickr

York University; The Homeless Hub
November 12, 2014

There is a difference between having a place to sleep at night and place to call home. While many people who are homeless live on the streets and in shelters (although a growing trend that criminalizes homelessness may prevent homeless people from even sleeping on the streets), do these areas meet the definition of what a home is really supposed to be? Homeless Link, a UK based national charity representing organizations serving homeless people surveyed individuals living in critical housing situations to find out what the word home means to them.

Homeless Link asked people who have been homeless, what having a home means to them.  Being homeless is often associated with not having a roof, but it is much more than that.

At first glance, the answers may not appear to reveal all that much. Most would agree that a home should be a secure and private location. It should be a place where an individual can afford to live. It should be a safe place to live, where individuals feel a sense of belonging and have the ability to manage and overcome their problems. However, when we compare the services and supports currently in place, it’s clear that our social safety net has gaps through which adults, youth, and families with children are falling through.

The paths to homelessness are incredibly varied. Homelessness may be caused by spiking rental costs, or the inability to afford housing. These causes can be faced head on through rent subsidies and increasing the availability of affordable housing. There are many other pathways that individuals take to homelessness. For instance, a single mother may flee from an abusive relationship with her children. A youth who identifies himself as LGBTQ2 is kicked out of their home and has all their supports, emotional and financial, cut off from them. These are not examples that represent outliers of the homeless population; they are representative of whole subsets of Canada’s homeless population. These are not situations that can be remedied without well thought-out, experience-informed policy and practice. These are situations that require additional research, services, and situation-specific solutions. To date, despite an extremely disproportionate representation of LGBTQ2 youth among Canada’s homeless population, there still does not exist a single specialized shelter service targeting their specific needs anywhere Canada. It’s essential that the circumstances that caused homelessness and impact the psychosocial well-being of homeless populations be taken into consideration when drafting potential housing solutions. For LGBTQ2 youth, a home means a place where they feel like they can grow and experience healthy interpersonal relationships and be free from continued stigma and discrimination.

Even though Homeless Link represents charities across England working to end homelessness, a lot of their findings are directly applicable to the issue of homelessness in Canada today. Though there can be differences in laws and policies between countries, the evidence of similarities in homelessness means the impact of research conducted often extends beyond national boundaries. Research done abroad can have important implications for Canada’s approach to homelessness and vice versa. Solutions should address the problem of homelessness, rather than just ‘houselessness’. After all, home is much more than a place to sleep.

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The analysis and interpretations contained in the blog posts are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness.