Advocates for homeless women hope forum sparks solutions
Advocates for women and housing hope they’ve opened the floodgates for solutions following a dialogue on the topic at Vancouver Island University.
The Oct. 14 Womyn and Homelessness Dialogue saw local leaders and women with lived experience talk about the problem.
“Women shared about the challenges of taking care of their children when homeless, dealing with violent partners, and struggling to find stability,” said Social Planning Cowichan’s Linden Collette. “Often the safety net that is meant to help has its own demands that a homeless woman cannot meet.”
Collette suspects the dialogue opened communication between people “who would not necessarily talk to one another” in ordinary circumstances.
“It helped to increase respect and understanding for women who are struggling with homelessness,” she said.
Patti Delisle, who founded the Red Willow Womyn’s Centre and pushed to host the dialogue during Homelessness Action Week, agreed.
“The emotions ran high as we moved through the reality of this situation,” she said. “Women are exposed to greater levels of violence and have less access to resources than other people facing homelessness. As we keep the word ‘womyn’ on the table we are able to put light onto their experience and the issues stay front and centre. When we lose the word ‘womyn’ there becomes a general blanket that folds around homelessness as a shared experience by all, which isn’t the case by a large degree.”
Panelists at the event included Helene Demers, who teaches about homelessness at VIU; Tina Schoen, the manager at Somenos Transition House; Chuck McCandless, an outreach worker for Canadian Mental Health Association, and community developer Pam Alcorn.
Also at the dialogue was homelessness advocate Rose Henry.
“Until homelessness no longer exists, we have a duty to step forward and contribute to the need of all of us shouldering this devastation together,” Delisle added.
“It is a simple task of looking into our own hearts and making people more important than profits and politics.”
For more information, contact www.redwillowwomyn.ca.