Homeless Women In Limbo

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City has only one shelter; hundreds in need turned away each month


By Susan Clairmont, The Hamilton Spectator

It has been three years since she last slept in a proper bed.

Three years since her family photos and winter coat and bits and pieces of her paused life were packed into boxes and locked in a storage unit.

Since she had privacy. Dignity. A home.

Glenna Harris has never slept on a park bench or spent a night in a shelter. She does not fit the common image of a homeless person.

Instead, the 51-year-old grandmother has couch-surfed so long, she finds it hard to imagine a better life.

“I stopped looking at tomorrow a long time ago,” she says, sitting in a sunny, quiet room at Mary’s Place, Hamilton’s only shelter for homeless women.

There are too many homeless women in our city and too few resources to help them. Each month, 200 homeless women are turned away from shelters because there are no beds. (Include abused women “turn-aways” and the number rises to 300.) Even if a woman finds space in an emergency shelter, barriers to moving into transitional housing and sustainable housing after that loom large.

Finding shelter is hard. Finding a home is harder.

Thursday — National Housing Day — a coalition of housing service providers called the Women’s Housing Planning Collaborative is launching an awareness and fundraising campaign. There is no provincial or municipal funding specifically earmarked to address homeless women.

Hamilton’s shelters depend largely on fundraising to keep their doors open. They are asking that this Christmas you consider making a donation to one of their agencies, including: Good Shepherd Women’s Services (which operates Mary’s Place); Mission Services Inasmuch House; Native Women’s Centre and Honouring the Circle; Phoenix Place, YWCA Hamilton and Womankind.

The campaign is called “How’s the weather?” a question that for most of us brings a fleeting thought of an umbrella or sweater. But for a woman with no roof, weather can be something to survive.

A homeless woman is likely more “vulnerable” than a homeless man, says Katherine Kalinowski, chair of the collaborative. Mental health and addiction issues are frequent among homeless women, and homelessness invites violence and sexual exploitation in a way men are not as likely to experience.

Article & Image Source: The Hamilton Spectator

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