Poverty is a hot button issue in our city. Mayor Matt Brown has recently established an Advisory Panel lead by several community leaders who have been asked to bring forth recommendations on how to solve the issue of poverty. It is our hope those leading understand the impact poverty has on women and recognize their needs often differ from those of men.
A girl born in London is ten times more likely to grow up to be a poor adult. Why? Because of her gender. Poverty is not gender neutral.
Poverty is more than a shortage of income. As the United Nations describes, poverty is “the denial of opportunities and choices most basic to human development – to lead long, healthy, creative lives and to enjoy a decent standard of living, freedom, dignity, self-esteem and respect of others.” In 2014 in Canada, more than 1 in 7 women lived in poverty. The stat itself is problematic because we can quantify 1 in 7 but must use the words “more than” since we know women who live in poverty often live in silence, which makes it near impossible to calculate an accurate number.
The percentage of females living in shelters is far lower than males: 73.6% male to 26.2% female (Sagaert, 2012:14), but this figure does not accurately reflect the number of women who are homeless. Many women will choose to move in to a home with other families or live in dangerous relationships, often abusive, because they are fearful of living in violence and exploitation on the streets. These women are also known as the Hidden Homeless because we know the number is significant but have no way of capturing it.
For many of our Hidden Homeless living with an abuser, regardless if it is the same one day to day, is deemed a safer and better choice than not having a pillow to lay your head on at night. Sadly, many of the women have lived with violence much of their lives and have resigned to a life this way, and often, violence in childhood and adulthood is the root cause of the original homelessness. Post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance abuse, learning difficulties and other mental health issues are all consequences of the violence many of these women have suffered throughout their lives. Once homeless, this is compounded on the streets and often becomes a barrier to regaining a foothold back to a safe and healthy life.
As much as we appreciate our municipal government’s focus on poverty we must demand ALL levels of government follow suit, and we must continue to reinforce that any solutions must be reached using a gender lens.