How does homelessness look through the lens of gender?
The Victorian Government is developing a gender equality strategy, which is a timely and formal recognition of the gender imbalance in our society.
CHP spoke with four women who had experienced homelessness to get a sense of their experiences. Their stories confirmed what the research shows us, namely that women are more vulnerable to homelessness because of:
- economic inequality resulting in lower incomes
- domestic violence
- caring responsibilities
- discrimination and inflexibility in workplaces around caring responsibilities and crises in women’s lives
Family violence was the main trigger for three of the four women falling into homelessness. Forced to flee home they didn’t have sufficient resources to establish or sustain a new tenancy.
For many their lower incomes were the consequence of inflexible workplaces, that didn’t accommodate mental health crises or caring responsibilities; pushing women into unemployment and poverty. After working in the public service for 20 years, Jodie’s mental health deteriorated, and she lost her job. Chris’ contract was not renewed after she took large amounts of time off to care for her parents.
Women also raised challenges navigating the Centrelink and homelessness system, “Most people are having a really tough time, but they’re being asked to do 10 times more things in a day than you would when you’re feeling great.”
Each of the women with children struggled to meet their children’s needs while homeless, and moving around between temporary accommodation options exacerbated these difficulties.
The discussions highlighted many women’s centrality to webs of care and responsibility. Service responses that treated them as isolated individuals failed to meet their needs. Skye returned to violence because refuges couldn’t accommodate her responsibility for children from her extended family.
Overall, the discussions made clear the urgent need for governments to address the cultural and structural issues that underpin domestic violence and attitudes towards women. CHP looks forward to the outcomes of the Victorian Gender Equality Strategy being realised so we can keep moving towards a society where true equality exists.
You can read CHP's submission to the Victorian Gender Equity Strategy here.
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