According to the Ontario Campaign 2000, 2015 Report card entitled “Let’s Do this: Let’s End Child Poverty For Good,” the majority of single parent families are headed by women. Furthermore, 32.4 % of lone parent families with children (or 181,000 lone-parent families) are living in poverty.
According to The State of Homelessness in Canada 2016, women make up 27.3% of the overall homeless population. The National Shelter Study from 2005-2009 found that 26.7% of all shelter users were female. The difference between female and male populations increases with age, so while females make up 50.1% of the under 16 population and 36.9% of those 16-24, they only represent 24.2% of the 25-54 population and 20.7% of those 55 and over. These numbers do not include Violence Against Women (VAW) shelters which are obviously predominantly female. Out of the 30,000 people who are homeless on any single night in Canada, just under 1/4 (7,350) were staying VAW shelters. Women's homelessness is often hidden. A woman may be temporarily staying with friends or family or living in a household where she is subject to family violence. Women at risk of eviction or living in illegal, overcrowded or unsafe buildings are also part of the hidden homelessness problem. Often a woman has very few choices when looking to access safe, appropriate and affordable housing. Various economic, political and social issues further hamper a single woman's hope of finding housing. There is a need for research that takes into account the gender-specific experiences of trauma faced by women, such as family violence, separation and divorce which disproportionately affect women and existas root causes of homelessness.
While 9.4% of people living in Canada fall below the low-income cut-off, some groups are much more likely to be poor than others:
- First Nations women (living off reserve) – 37%
- Visible minority women – 28%
- Women with disabilities – 33%
- Singe parent mothers – 21% (compared to 7% of single parent fathers)
- Single senior women – 16%.
In addition to women’s experiences of intimate partner and family violence, immigration issues, lack of social supports and other barriers to stability also play a role in the pathways to homelessness for women.
For example, some female Canadian immigrants reported that leaving their abusive partner has caused sponsorship issues.Women have reported instances where their abusive partners have withheld their papers, thus preventing them from completing their sponsorship process and obtaining visas and citizenship if they were to leave the relationship.
Women with fewer social supports are also at an increased risk of experiencing homelessness. Sometimes these limited social networks are a result of an abusive relationship where ties were severed with family and friends.
Furthermore, women reported that a lack of affordable housing, limited options for employment and a lack of education were all barriers for obtaining a sufficient wage and overcoming their experiences of homelessness. Some women would like to go back to school, but their inability to afford tuition and childcare prevents this from happening.
Based on the experiences of single women who continue to experience homelessness at high rates, it is clear that prevention efforts and solutions to address homelessness need to be targeted to specific sub-populations.