It’s not often that you get to be part of something historic, but last week a team of three from our YW were with YWCA Canada as we made history.
It was the first time that 32 member associations (other YWCA’s in Canada) have come together as “the movement” to advocate on a national level for the women, girls & families served in our respective communities.
It was the first time that we used the power of one voice representing nine provinces, two territories and 260 communities to affect change in Canada and make our country better for some of the most vulnerable individuals.
On Thursday November 2, 2017, more than 120 team members and volunteers zipped up their boots and went a-marching on Parliament Hill to advocate for a gendered lens on the soon-to-be-released National Housing Strategy. This much-anticipated strategy is supposed to address critical issues Canadian’s face in our housing system: from affordable housing, access to emergency shelters to supportive programs critical to providing safe refuge. Women are more likely to live on low incomes, lead single-parent homes and are the majority of survivors fleeing domestic abuse. A safe home is a right: women and their families need to be taken into account in to any strategy tabled.
The National Ask: 25 per cent of the National Housing Strategy dedicated specifically to programs and services for women and girls. Why 25 per cent? A gender-neutral housing policy renders very real exclusions women and their families face when trying to access safe affordable housing and emergency shelter/supportive programs.
Women are virtually guaranteed to experience some form of violence without access to affordable housing and we have the power to change that. Women experiencing homelessness are at an increased vulnerability without a safe place to call home. We know women’s experience with homelessness is often invisible because women will couch surf, trade sex for a place to stay or remain in abusive relationships rather than enter into a cycle of homelessness.
YWCA Canada has strength in ‘The Ask’ as the only national organization providing housing and shelter for women, girls and families across the country. Some, like YW Calgary, have been providing shelter for more than 100 years. We also know the statistics, we hear the stories and we support women who have been traumatized by their experience with homelessness.
It was an incredible experience to be part of that collective voice and use the power YWCA has to be advocates and warriors for our clients. As an organization that provides more than 2,800 housing spaces across the country, we have power in our numbers and in our experiences as frontline advocates.
Stay tuned Canada, this is just the beginning.