This post is part of our Friday "Ask the Hub" blog series. Have a homeless-related question you want answered? E-mail us at thehub@edu.yorku.ca, contact us through Facebook or even Tweet us your questions and we will provide a research-based answer.

Does sexualized violence contribute to homelessness?

Absolutely! In fact, many studies have found violence generally — including sexualized violence — to be a leading factor contributing to homelessness.

The National Center on Family Homelessness makes a strong claim about this in “A Long Journey Home: A Guide for Creating Trauma–Informed Services for Mothers and Children Experiencing Homelessness,” stating “Violence is a critical ingredient in the recipe for homelessness.” They add:

There is no reason to assume that the experience of Canadian women experiencing homelessness is any different.

A 2006 study of immigrant women experiencing family violence in Halifax, Calgary and Winnipeg showed that most of the women “were abused by an intimate partner, usually a spouse. Several women were abused by other members of their family or their partner’s family. Women reported physical abuse (i.e., slapping, kicking, punching, choking, physical abuse while pregnant, use of weapons), sexual abuse (i.e., sexual control, sexual assault), verbal abuse (i.e., insults, namecalling, swearing), emotional or psychological abuse (i.e., harassment, manipulation, stalking, threats of violence or death threats towards the woman and/or the children), social abuse (i.e., social isolation, control of social contact), spiritual abuse (i.e., restricting access to religious services), and financial abuse (i.e., abuser controlling all finances).”

Sexual violence — or violence generally — is both a contributor to homelessness and a factor resulting from homelessness.

The research from “Surviving Crime and Violence” found that street youth are very vulnerable to crime and violence and are victimized frequently. Almost three quarters (72.8%) street youth interviewed in Toronto reported multiple incidents of victimization and only 16% reported telling social workers or counsellors about their worst recent experience. Many of these young people are fleeing family backgrounds characterized by abuse, violence and addictions.

A 2003 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine looking at people in San Francisco who were homeless or marginally housed found that “Overall, 32.3% of women, 27.1% of men, and 38.1% of transgendered persons reported a history of either sexual or physical assault in the previous year; 9.4% of women, 1.4% of men, and 11.9% of transgendered persons reported sexual assault…”

In reflecting on the death of Bly Markis in 2007, Michael Shapcott of the Wellesley Institute published “Physical and sexual violence rates for homeless many times higher than housed” Backgrounder. He writes about several different studies in various countries that have identified the increased risk of violence people experiencing homelessness face.

A great resource is the Runaway & Homeless Youth and Relationship Violence Tool-Kit developed by the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence. They also report that, “Another study found that 60% of homeless female youth and 25% of males had reported being sexually assaulted prior to leaving home.”

The National Center on Family Homelessness also has a valuable tool-kit Closing the Gap: Integrating Services for Survivors of Domestic Violence Experiencing Homelessness: A Toolkit for Transitional Housing Programs.

We’ve shared this infographic before but I’m ending with it today because it again is extremely relevant to this topic.

Homeless Mother history of trauma

Tanya Gulliver-GarciaResearch CoordinatorCanadian Observatory on Homelessness/Homeless Hub; York University