'I've thought about hiring someone to beat me up just so I can stay at the shelter.'

All women at risk of homelessness, study says


Every woman in Nunavut is at risk of becoming homeless, says the Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women Council.

Some women are locked out by abusive spouses. Others fall sick, lose their jobs and can't pay rent. Still others are unfairly evicted, the council says.

But it can happen to everyone, Qulliit's acting executive director, Stephanie Williams, told mayors gathered in Iqaluit recently. That's why a homeless shelter for women in Iqaluit is desperately needed, Williams said.

Interviews with more than 70 homeless women in Iqaluit, done by Qulliit for a new study, confirm this.

"I've thought about hiring someone to beat me up just so I can stay at the women's safe shelter," one woman told researchers, referring to Iqaluit's Qimaavik shelter, which houses women fleeing abusive relationships. "I know it sounds crazy, but that's what desperation does to your mind when you have no place to go."

Currently, about 150 women in Iqaluit are homeless, Williams said. Some sleep in cars and doorways. Some "couch surf" in the homes of family and friends. Others trade sex for a warm bed at night.

"So many women get in fast relationships just to get out of their situation," another woman told researchers. "I've gone back to abuse just to have a home and I'm sure lots of women are in that same situation. You wait forever for a house in Iqaluit, years even, and lots of bad things can happen to a woman in a year."

Qulliit's study recommends the creation of transitional housing for women leaving shelters so they don't have return to abusive situations, more money for social services, poverty reduction and public housing.

"The Salvation Army in Iqaluit currently operates a 20-bed emergency shelter for men, and while this is hardly sufficient to meet the demands, there are currently no similar services for women," Williams told delegates to the recent Nunavut Association of Municipalities conference held in Iqaluit.

Qulliit hopes to publish its study in June, but it's still looking for funding to get the study printed, Williams said.

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