We know first-hand that the stereotypical profile of a person experiencing homelessness as a single older male is far from the norm. In fact, the majority of people supported by specialist homelessness services are women.
As Juno works specifically with women and gender diverse people experiencing homelessness, we also understand that their experiences of homelessness are fundamentally different from men’s for a lot of reasons. Yes, there is a shortage of affordable housing (and this is a critical issue), but women are especially at risk of homelessness due to gender-based social and economic inequalities.
The main reasons women become homeless are related to gendered poverty and family violence. Overall women earn less than men and are more likely to be victim survivors of family and domestic violence.
Unfortunately, embedded attitudes and perceptions around homelessness ignore the diverse reality of women’s experiences and continue to influence support delivery and policy in the homelessness sector.
Drivers of homelessness for women: Overall women earn less than men and are more likely to be victim survivors of family and domestic violence
Through our long history of partnering with women experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness, we know that supporting women also means understanding the various complex issues that may act as a barrier to them securing safe, long-term housing.
The link between structural gender inequality and homelessness for women is clear – unequal pay and family and domestic violence, among other factors, all affect women’s access to suitable housing.
Despite this, many women continue to be seen through generalist homelessness services who may struggle to respond to the complex needs of them and their children.
Prior to coming to Juno, many of our clients have presented to mainstream homelessness services who have been unable to support their family violence issues or high risk safety concerns and referred them to family violence services. Meanwhile, family violence services refer women to a homelessness service if they see homelessness as the primary concern, leading women to bounce between two systems.
We know from experience that women will remain vulnerable to future housing crisis without a holistic, trauma informed response that targets the drivers of homelessness for women.
Groups of women at increased risk
People of all ages and backgrounds can be at risk of experiencing homelessness, but according to the stats and our own experience, some groups of women are at even greater risk.
Where gender inequality, poverty, and a lack of affordable housing intersect with other forms of discrimination and marginalisation, some groups of women are made particularly vulnerable to experiences of homelessness and family violence. These experiences can be understood through the framework of intersectionality.
Groups at higher risk among women and gender diverse individuals:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
- LGBTQIA+ communities;
- People with disability;
- People from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities;
- People with mental health and/or substance misuse problems;
- Criminalised women;
- Older women (currently the fastest-growing cohort of homeless Australians);
- And women from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Intersectionality considers an individual’s unique experience through the intersect of various dimensions, such as their lived experience or identity. Someone recovering from the impacts of the trauma associated with family or domestic violence, living with a disability, or a mother, for example, faces discrimination or oppression that is unique. This means that their response needs are also unique.
We know that for women to have the best possible chance of maintaining a permanent and safe home, policy, housing, and service delivery requires consideration and understanding of the specific needs of these distinct populations.
- Find out more about the LGBTQA+ experiences of homelessness at Rainbow Health.
- Homelessness and Women Factsheet created by the Council to Homeless Persons.
- WIRE provides free information, support and referral information for women, non-binary and gender-diverse people across Victoria experiencing family or domestic violence.
- Every Victorian Should Have a Home: resources, media articles and research.
- Homelessness Australia: Homelessness and Women Factsheet
- Women’s Health East: Homelessness and Women Factsheet