Kingston leaves homeless women in the cold

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A person sleeping on a bench or asking for change doesn’t capture the full scope of homelessness. It’s largely an invisible issue, spread over rural and urban areas alike and often masked by persistent stereotypes. 
 
But this vulnerability persists for a variety of reasons, especially for women in Kingston. 
 
A recent survey in Kingston revealed that the percentage of women among homeless people in the city is more than twice the national average. Canada’s homeless populations is, on average, 27 per cent women. In Kingston, that number spikes to 55 per cent. When dependent children are included, it’s 60 per cent. 
 
The doubling points to a systemic problem: there’s a gap in services and this issue isn’t being sufficiently addressed. 
 
Despite its widespread impacts, homeless women can keep their precarious living situations private. In other cases, they stay in abusive or treacherous situations for fear of insufficient resources if they do become homeless.
 
To break the overall stigma and provide a solution, Kingston approved a 10-Year Municipal Housing & Homelessness Plan in 2013. The plan was meant to provide 80 per cent of chronically homeless Kingstonians with stable housing by 2023. 
 
The Homelessness Plan argues Kingston is over-served by shelter beds and recommends decreasing shelter sizes. However, this assumes a housing access increase, which isn’t the case in a city with a large and growing student population. 
 
Given that it’s already 2018, the Homelessness Plan has fallen short of its aims. Homeless people in Kingston are increasingly vulnerable, and they deserve better resources and understanding from the city and its community.
 
If Kingston wants to reduce homelessness, it needs to offer more widespread support. 
 
With resources for those without homes centralized in urban areas, it’sdifficult for rural homeless people to access food, shelter and hygiene.
 
All-gender shelters might deter some women from seeking refuge, and the city should address that. More women-only emergency shelters wouldn’t only consider the specific needs of homeless women, but it’d also open up otherwise unavailable space for homeless men.  
 
Additional resources for homeless people—especially disproportionately vulnerable women and families—would do more than keep them safe and healthy. Their increased presence in Kingston would further decrease the stigma of invisibility around homelessness. 
 
Homeless people are Kingstonians and it’s imperative we understand that nobody wants to be homeless. 
 
The City must increase its range of homeless supports to alleviate homeless people’s shame and provide them with resources they can use to achieve the safety and shelter they fundamentally deserve.

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