Some forced to trade sex for a place to sleep, study shows

Women easily plunged into homelessness: report


Sudden illness, job loss, theft of rent money, domestic violence and injuries are among the unexpected hardships that plunge many Nunavut women into homelessness, says a new report.

"Little Voices of Nunavut," from the Qulliit Status of Women Council, offers no figures about exactly how many women in Nunavut are homeless.

Instead, every woman in Nunavut is at risk of homelessness due to the high cost of living, overcrowded housing and high rates of addictions and violence, suggests the report.

"Every woman residing in Nunavut continually lives with the threat of one day having to survive without shelter," it says.

Abused, at the mercy of their partners and subject to addictions, Nunavut women may lose their jobs, be evicted from staff or social housing, and be forced to sleep outside, sofa surf at relatives' homes or have sex in exchange for a place to sleep.

"You go with this man even though you don't want to, you don't love him, you don't like him, but he has a bed to sleep on," says a woman interviewed for the report.

Many homeless women comfort themselves with alcohol or drugs to ward off their pain in cold weather.

"I've thought about hiring someone to beat me up just so I can stay at the women's shelter," says a homeless woman.

"Little Voices of Nunavut" complements a broader report on homelessness in the three territories – "You just blink and it can happen"- which was released last week in Ottawa.

The YWCA hopes this report will back their application for funding from the federal government for a pan-northern project to tackle homelessness in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

The YWCA wants to work on providing more resources, such as more soup kitchens and food banks and emergency shelters, as well as programs to prevent poverty.

As it stands now, frustration, confusion, despair and anger are often directed against the shortfalls in government assistance and housing policies which favour non-Inuit and men, according to the women interviewed for "Little Voices of Nunavut."

"Our own Inuit organizations are the ones protecting the non-Inuit. I know my children aren't happy with their alcoholic father, he's just laughing at Nunavut justice because he slipped though the cracks," says a woman.

The report also looked at how homelessness affects children: "My kids turned out to be criminals. They never felt safe where they were staying. It was hard on them," says a woman.

More than 70 Inuit women from 14 communities contributed to the report. Most had children, received income support and had little education.

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