The purpose of this study is to highlight the experiences of women who are often hidden in what we know and understand about homelessness, and to make policy and practice recommendations for women-centred services including adaptations to current housing interventions.
Three hundred survey interviews were conducted with people experiencing homelessness in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The survey instrument measured socio-demographics, adverse childhood experiences, mental and physical health, and perceived accessibility to resources. Eighty-one women participants were identified as a subsample to be examined in greater depth. Descriptive statistics and logistic regressions were calculated to provide insight into women respondents’ characteristics and experiences of homelessness and how they differed from men’s experiences.
Women’s experiences of homelessness are different from their male counterparts. Women have greater mental health concerns, higher rates of diagnosed mental health issues, suicidal thoughts and attempts, and adverse childhood trauma. The results should not be considered in isolation, as the literature suggests, because they are highly interconnected.
In order to ensure that women who are less visible in their experiences of homelessness are able to access appropriate services, it is important that service provision is both gender specific and trauma-informed. Current Housing First interventions should be adapted to ensure women’s safety is protected and their unique needs are addressed.