OTTAWA, Nov. 14 /CNW/ - A pan-territorial study on homelessness paints a
disturbing picture of the despair many women in the North are facing on a
daily basis. "You Just Blink and It Can Happen: A Study of Women's
Homelessness North of 60" is the first research of its kind to document the
realities of women who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless living in
Canada's Northern Territories.
Separate studies were carried out in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories
and the Yukon by research teams using the same methodology. The studies were
integrated into one pan-territorial report. In addition to focus groups,
service providers and 205 women of diverse backgrounds were interviewed in
small communities and capital cities, from across all three Territories. They
shared their stories and insights, and called for action to end what is
clearly an intolerable situation.
"In winter, lots of women move from place to place, couch surfing. It's
not really safe but we can't sleep outside and there's no place else to go,"
reports one of the participants of the Study.
The study concludes that most women in the North are only a step away
from being homeless. The reasons are complex and include factors and
determinants that go well beyond a critical shortage of affordable housing;
and the consequences are devastating.
The report found that women in the North face multiple challenges
including isolation, harsh weather conditions, extreme levels of violence and
family breakdown associated with colonization and loss of traditional culture,
a higher cost of living, inadequate income support payments, inadequate
services for women, and alcohol and drug addiction.
"Many life circumstances can result in homelessness for women in the
North," notes Stephanie Williams of the Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women
Council. "As one woman so poignantly put it, 'You just blink, and it can
"Too many women end up cycling between absolute homelessness (where they
are sleeping outdoors or in abandoned buildings or cars), some type of
emergency shelter, and living with someone who will give them shelter (often
in an abusive or exploitative situation)," adds lead researcher Judie Bopp.
"You Just Blink and It Can Happen: A Study of Women's Homelessness North
of 60" describes a critical path to addressing what has become one of the
North's, and indeed Canada's, most pressing social concerns.
The report sets out 16 recommendations for all levels of government to
implement. These include:
- The creation of a national housing policy that takes into account the
special circumstances and needs of vulnerable women;
- Increasing the supply of decent, safe, low-income housing;
- Implementing poverty reduction strategies;
- Implementing housing authority policies that remove barriers to women
living with violence and those who are homeless or at risk of
"The situation described in this Study is urgent and incompatible with
Canada's commitment to basic human wellbeing," says Charlotte Hrenchuk of the
Yukon Status of Women Council. "It may seem like it is intractable, but a few
well-designed measures could make a huge difference."
"Northern communities and agencies are anxious to address the immediate
needs of this homeless population, and to work collaboratively on the
underlying causes," emphasizes Lyda Fuller, Executive Director of YWCA
Yellowknife. "This will and commitment needs to be met by appropriate
initiatives on the part of government."
The study will be released at a press conference in Ottawa this morning
in the Charles Lynch Room in the Centre Block of Parliament Hill at 11.00 am.
- Pan-Territorial Report - "You Just Blink and It Can Happen: A Study
of Women's Homelessness North of 60 / Executive Summary in
English, in French
- Q & A
- Organizational Backgrounders
For further information:
For further information: and to arrange interviews, call: in Ottawa,
Virginia Bawlf: cell (416) 708-6879; YWCA contact in Ottawa: (613) 789-5555