Impact of Homelessness on Gender-Based Violence in Toronto

Impact of Homelessness on Gender-Based Violence in Toronto

3 min. read | By Rubina Chowdhury

Homelessness is a situation in which an individual, family or community lacks safe, proper, and stable housing. The reasons behind homelessness are: systematic or societal barriers, financial instability, lack of employment opportunities, lack of affordable housing, mental health and addiction, physical and cognitive disabilities, sexism, racism, and classism.

Impact of Homelessness on Gender-Based Violence
Impact of Homelessness on Gender-based Violence | © Kiri Vadivelu

According to Statistics Canada (June 1, 2023), on any given night in Canada between 25,000 and 35,000 are houseless. The houseless population is increasing daily in the largest cities in the country - in the post-pandemic situation more than ever. Toronto has largest number of homeless people in Canada. As of June 2023, there are 10,811 people in this situation. The municipality of Toronto declared houselessness an emergency. In 2022, 187 homeless people died living rough. The number of women who died this way in 2022 is unknown. Among the homeless, 62% are male, 27.3% female, and 20% youths aged 13 to 24. Women in this situation are less visible than men because of hidden homelessness. Women often take shelter in other people’s residences, such as those of friends, siblings, or parents - instead of resorting to shelters or living on the street. Some live in a car, in a deserted cabin, or in a storage locker, unlike those who are visible on park benches, in a subway station, on the street, or in marketplaces and shelters. 71% women experienced homelessness because of domestic violence. Young women and men end up on the street following family conflict, foster care, or neglect. 29.5% youth who experienced homelessness identified as LGBTQS2. (, 2023)

Overall, the root cause of homelessness is poverty. Other reasons include family conflict or domestic violence. Young men and women often experience human and sex trafficking, sexual assault, and survival sex.

16% of Canadians are categorized as “financially struggling.” That means this population struggles to cover basic needs, some of them depend on pay day loans and food banks. 60% of this struggling category are women, while 40% are men (Canadian, 2018).

House-less women experience more violence than housed women, especially indigenous women are over-represented in the homeless women population; they experienced three time more violence than non-indigenous women. Society should acknowledge that systematic violence exists in women’s lives. Homeless women may have had a violent childhood. They may experience assault throughout their life. These issues of violence against women are common and intense. (Homeless Hub, 2014)

In addition to sex trafficking, labour trafficking is also significant re: Gender-Based Violence. One study shows that 19.4% of homeless youth were victims of human trafficking, 15% were trafficked for sex, 7.4% for labour and 3% for both. (Eva’s Initiative for Homeless Youth).

There are five risk factors for sex trafficking: being female and young, being poor, a history of violence and/or neglect, a history of child sexual abuse, and a low level of education. (Canadian Women’s Foundation, 2014).

Homeless youth are pressured to exchange sex for money, or drugs, or other commodities for survival. Houseless youths are vulnerable to traffickers and engagement in the unwanted sex trade. (Covenant House, 2017).

Notwithstanding Toronto City Council’s declared emergency, every night 40 people (men and women) are turned away from shelters. Not all shelters are accessible for homeless women. Only appropriate coordination in city services can help people experiencing homelessness. The situation cries out for massive changes in employment, housing, shelters, warming centers, and tenancy policies.

The Municipal Socialist Alliance demands immediate action to support the homeless community. It is unacceptable that more and more people end up on the street to die, to be trafficked or find themselves in greater danger. Federal, provincial, and municipal governments should increase funding for the community.

Being poor is not a crime. To eradicate poverty, we demand systemic change. Houselessness will not be combated by increasing spending on the police. To the contrary, the MSA calls for de-funding the police and a shift of resources to meet community health and housing needs. Steps forward must include city construction of deeply affordable housing, establishing more shelters, providing access to basic health and food needs, well-funded mental health services, and harm reduction policies. By hiking taxes on properties assessed at over $3 million the working class will find the necessary resources without pinching low-and-modest-income residents.

For more information, please contact
Municipal Socialist Alliance
Call: 647-986-1917
[email protected]


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