Despite unique differences in particular population’s experiences of homelessness and housing, the following are common considerations for all women and girls: the hidden nature of homelessness, trauma and violence, challenges to mental health, substance use/addiction, and poverty. These characteristics influence pathways into homelessness and create barriers to exiting it. Poor social capitol, inadequate social services, and constraining and oppressive social policies similarly influence one’s experience of homelessness. There is no consensus on the specific types of independent accommodations women and girls require in successfully exiting homelessness, but for all women housing is the only true, long-term solution. Substance use and addiction are serious health concerns amongst women and girls experiencing homelessness. For women and girls who are experiencing homelessness and use substances, the most common stated cause is to manage the impact of past and current trauma. In other circumstances, and especially amongst younger women, substances are forced upon them for the purpose of exploitation. Concurrent disorders (i.e. mental illness and addiction) are common for women and girls experiencing homelessness, coinciding with high rates of poor physical and mental health. The prevalence of substance use, although overestimated in this study due to counting lifetime occurrence and sampling from urban Vancouver, speaks to its importance: A growing body of research has illuminated the gendered differences in substance use for the homeless population. Although men report more substance use, women and girls are far more likely to experience PTSD-related substance use. Compounding substance use with homelessness and being a woman creates a harrowing experience of stigmatization:
Yep, we are people too. We have a disease. It is not our fault. We don’t want to be doing this. We didn’t choose this. We didn’t say OK I’m going to be homeless today
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