Women’s Services & Faith Leaders call on Toronto City Council to act immediately to ensure adequate and safe shelter space for vulnerable women
On the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, front-line service workers from shelters and homeless drop-in centres serving women were joined by faith leaders to call attention to the realities facing homeless women and trans people.
“Many women, for very good reasons, do not want to go to co-ed shelters or drop-ins, and most avoid the Out of the Cold programs. There's not enough shelter space for everyone, but safe shelter space for women is especially scarce. This space can't be created unless there is a very major expansion of the shelter system overall.” said Reverend Maggie Helwig, Priest of the St. Stephens in the Fields.
It is widely known in the violence against women sector that homeless women face much higher rates of violence than women that are housed. This is confirmed in a 2007 report by Sistering and Street Health on the impacts of homelessness on women’s health and well-being revealed that 37% of the homeless women interviewed reported being physically assaulted in the past year, and 21% reported being sexually assaulted.
"We must remember that Black, Indigenous and racialized trans women and gender diverse folks like Alloura Wells are particularly vulnerable to violence of all kinds - at the hands of individual perpetrators and by institutions that are supposed to serve and protect them. These communities need trans positive and affirming spaces and services, prompt and caring responses when people go missing no matter what their work or housing status, and we need City Council to make sure that these individuals are not forgotten as new shelter space is created." said Anna Willats, Social Justice Activist and Educator
Leila Sarangi, Program Manager Women’s Habitat of Etobicoke, a Violence Against Women’s Shelter, shared stories of the realities of women facing violence and the struggle to find beds for clients, “It is becoming harder and harder to find safe emergency shelter...It is unacceptable that in a city such as ours, women who are experiencing violence, who are struggling with poverty, cannot find safe shelter.”
“We need adequate shelter beds for all homeless women and hope to never add another woman's name to the growing list of homeless deaths.”, said Sistering front-line worker, Myriam Frausto.
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam who hosted the news conference spoke about the responsibilities of City Council, “We have an obligation to our most vulnerable and marginalized shelter users. Women and trans people face incredible risks on our streets and we cannot ignore the role we play in ensuring they have a safe place to sleep at night. It was these front-line workers, not city staff, who pushed Council to establish a 90% occupancy standard and to open the 24-hour women’s drop-ins. These are the additional experts that we need to listen to who experience the realities of our shelter system daily”.
City Council will vote on the motion at today’s meeting.
Media Contacts: Melissa Wong, Office of Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam; 416-873-4372; firstname.lastname@example.org