The Forgotten Women project started with a few phone calls which I happened to pick up at work, from women desperate to find a roof over their head. The Salvation Army office I worked at the time as their research and policy analyst happened to come first in the Army’s listings in the white pages as it the “addictions and supportive accommodation services”. That means that we get a lot of calls from people seeking emergency accommodation, even though the office doesn’t directly provide it. In December 2007 a lot of these calls were from women. The Salvation Army however has pulled out of providing emergency and transitional accommodation for women, they have a small stock of flats which has be used to house families in need of a roof over their head but that was it. The rest of the effort goes into housing men, 90 beds at Epsom Lodge in Akld, 70 beds at Addington in Christchurch and 35 beds in Invercargill but none for women. And so the Forgotten Women project was born.
The aim of Forgotten Women was to: -Take a snapshot of what was happening with homeless women in New Zealand. -To find out what the women wanted using participatory action research - And to inform The Salvation Army about possible directions they could take… as well as a wider policy audience. The research was three pronged. First a questionnaire was distributed around New Zealand to a range of services...refuges, Salvation Army community Ministires, the Prostitute’s collective, the Taylor Centre’s homeless team and soup kitchens…services who were working with women who were not in permanent, safe or secure accommodation. The aim was to get 120 questionnaires…we ended up getting 191 which was great. The criteria was that respondents had to be over 16 years of age and have been homeless in the previous 12 months. I then did five focus groups around Auckland with women who had been homeless in the last year. I interviewed women in a De Paul House refuge, women accessing the Auckland Prostitutes’ Collective, The Salvation Army’s Manukau community ministry, Day Spring care centre and Methodist Mission’s Lifewise.
Between February and April I ran Photovoice project in central Auckland with a group of female streeties who were accessing Lifewise.
My choice to use qualitative research was due to the desire to start to understand the structural causes of female homelessness in New Zealand through the explanations of the women themselves. I wanted to engage a group of women in the city I live in, Auckland, to answer the following questions: what caused you to become without permanent, safe and secure accommodation, how has homelessness affected your health and what could be done to secure you permanent and safe accommodation? In the focus groups, my ability to do this was limited due to time and the fact it was a dissertation. If it had been a PhD I would have done more. Hence I extended this project out into a PV study as well. PhotoVoice aims to empower research participants to drive the policy agenda by giving them a camera and getting them to take photos. Photography as a tool for empowerment was first explored by Freire in an attempt to find a method for education for a critical consciousness, the ‘pedagogy of the oppressed’ . Freire argued that photography could be used to reflect the community back at itself and to reveal social and political issues that that affect their lives . The added dimension of research participants taking the photographs was developed by Wang [5, 7-9]. Wang’s incorporated a feminist dimension to the methodology. Wang stressed that women’s subjective experiences of alienation and oppression are political . Giving women a camera was a way of facilitating women’s participation and action in the research (PAR)  and change process. PhotoVoice is powerful. Through photography ill people can establish a role for themselves . Photos can be a way of research participants pointing out what is missing. Photography can be a way of people having congruence with what is happening to them. It also challenges the viewer in what they expect to see versus what is show. Like that, what is shown maybe quite different from what is seen. Recently hybrids of PhotoVoice have emerged as community groups, city councils and researchers start to adapt the technique. This shows how versatile PhotoVoice is as a method.
The PhotoVoice project was born out of : - My interest in participatory action research - My wish to do something creative with the research participants - Wanting to make sure that the women got their voices heard. I recruited 6 women to take photos of their experience of being homeless and being part of streetie culture in Auckland central…it was a fascinating project, exhausting at times with the amount of follow-up and waiting for the cameras to be returned…but a wonderful result. The participants were given a disposable camera and took photos of their lives. I then did an interview with them about the photos to help me understand why the decided to take photos of what the did…and the significance of it.
At the start of the research project I also set up an advisory group to help inform the research and keep the project grassroots and Make sure the report was useful This group was helpful to me…as it let me check out things that I wasn’t sure of such as how housing and welfare agencies worked for homeless people, what services were out there. The group also was an excellent forum for people who came along to talk about what they saw as important issues, to inform one another of things which were happening such as new services for homeless people, and to get to know one another so they could work effectively together. The women’s housing forum has decided to keep on going, even though my research project is now complete. You can check out what they are up to on their wiki space www.homelesswomenactionnz.wikispaces.com.
I will now spend some time discussing the findings of the Forgotten Women study, focusing on the questionnaire data. The study was based in Chamberlain and MacKenzie’s definition of homelessness. So to start with I asked what type of accommodation the women had lived in in the last 12 months. Less than a quarter of the women had lived on the street or slept rough. All of the respondents who had been primarily homeless also lived in situations of secondary homelessness. So basically this means that none of the women had slept rough for the whole 12 months. Thus is representative of the reality for homeless women. Most of the women had been living in boarding houses, caravan parks, crashing with friends or families or just moved from place to place. This means that the women were much more invisible than male homeless populations. The questionnaire also found that women had become homeless due to overcrowding, this was often because they were pregnant or had children in their custody. Sometime is was just because when they came home at the end of the day, there were no beds left.
One woman said: ‘I stayed with family, but it became over-crowded - that was what caused me not to have a house. I didn't really want to leave my family behind and I didn't know how to start looking for a house ’
Nearly half of the women became homeless due to violence, this meant for some women had to move suburb or even city to escape an abusive partner or family member… This meant that they were without the usual supports they would have in their home town… and often meant that they were more isolated than they would have been. A group of women also saw violence in their neighborhoods from gangs as a reason why they left their homes. One woman in a focus group told her story to me of moving to Auckland three weeks before with her children in an effort to get away from a violent ex partner and to start a fresh in a new city. She found a place to rent and paid the bond. However, the day after, the landlord refused to give them the house or refund the bond (they found out later he was a methamphetamine addict). With all of her money gone, they resorted to sleeping in their car and at friends’ houses. They came to The Salvation Army, which helped them get a bond from Work and Income. She has now moved into a private three- bedroom house along with her four children; she is also housing two other people who had nowhere to live. It could be asked why this woman had not opted to stay in a refuge….This was a common occurance in the findings…only 14% of questionnaire respondents had stayed in a refuge in the last 12 months - L ess than one in three women escaping violence in their home accessed a refuge.
This poses the questions: 1) Are there enough refuges (as there was comment in the questionnaires and focus groups that refuges were often full) 2) Are refuges always appropriate? 3) What is happening to the women with addiction or mental health issues who can’t get into refuges? 4) Is the refuge model still working for women?
29% of women discussed discrimination as a reason for them having difficulty getting accommodation. This was often because: -Of being a solo mother and being on the DPB… One focus group participant was told by a landlord he was looking for a ‘professional working couple’. Her response was: ‘ Just because I am not out working eight hours a day, do they think I am going to make more wear on their carpets?’ -But when women tried to get accommodation without children through Housing New Zealand, they found they were way down the priority list. So this was a double bind. Transgender women also noticed that if they had a male partner with them when they viewed potential rental properties they were more likely to get the place. There is still a lot of discrimination out there.
One way to decrease the amount of discrimination out there could possibly be by having housing advocates. They could be there to assist and advocate for people at risk of becoming homeless. This was one thing that the women were adamant about….they wanted support, assistance and advocacy to assist them to gain housing. Women did not talk about wanting more emergency or transitional accommodation. However something is needed to fill the gap which is currently present...so women have somewhere to go in their time of need. A housing first approach is probably the most beneficial approach to take and this has been shown in the literature to be effective. The Housing First model for example advocates this. A person (or family) is given a home (probably a Housing New Zealand home) and then they are provided with the services they need once they are housed. If this was able to be done it would mean that these women would not become entrenched in the homeless world and would get the support and assistance needed to sustain their accommodation.
The women described: - The difficulty they had getting a bond together - Difficulty affording rent - Long Housing New Zealand waitlists - The houses they could afford in unsafe neighborhoods or were on warm or dry. As big issues for them
Creating affordable housing for people at risk of homeless may be an achievable goal. Bond banks could also be a way to eliminate the barrier women are experiencing getting bonds together. These have worked in the past and could work again.
The finding from the questionnaire were reiterated in the focus group findings which found that
From these finding these six recommendations have been drafted. They fall into the categories of: Housing provision – [Enter 1] Getting more emergency and transitional accommodation for women so that women have somewhere safe to go if they don’t want or can’t get into a refuge. [Enter 2] There being enough state houses so that there are not 1-2 year waitlists for Housing New Zealand houses [Enter 3] Warm, dry and energy efficient houses being the standard for state housing Service provision – in the form of: [Enter4 ] Social housing, for both women with children as well as women on their own. [Enter 5] Establishing housing advocates who can support people vulnerable to homelessness find a home And possibly a Housing First model [Enter 6] The re-establishment of bond banks In the workshop at 2:15 we will have more time to explore these issues and possible ways forward.
Forgotten Women project overview
Forgotten Women A picture of women and homelessness in New Zealand Kate Bukowski
<ul><li>“ Homelessness and hunger are the two most palpable indications of poverty, as well as society’s clearest indications of society’s inability to care even minimally for its most vulnerable members.” </li></ul><ul><li>(Glasser 1994) </li></ul>
Aims and Methods <ul><li>Why are women without permanent, safe and secure accommodation in New Zealand? </li></ul><ul><li>2. What can be done to decrease female homelessness in vulnerable populations? </li></ul><ul><li>Questionnaires (n191) </li></ul><ul><li>Focus groups (n22) </li></ul><ul><li>Photovoice project (n6) </li></ul>
PhotoVoice <ul><li>Select a topic and audience </li></ul><ul><li>Consider ethical implications </li></ul><ul><li>Recruit participants </li></ul><ul><li>First meeting with recruits </li></ul><ul><li>Discuss aims of the exercise with photographers </li></ul><ul><li>Distribute camera to photographers </li></ul><ul><li>Meet to discuss and analysis photographs </li></ul><ul><li>Group meeting to plan dissemination and advocacy exercises </li></ul>
The women’s housing forum <ul><li>A group set up to: </li></ul><ul><li>Inform the research. </li></ul><ul><li>Get people together to talk about issues for homeless women. </li></ul><ul><li>Work the principles of the Ottawa Charter of building healthy public policy through collective action. </li></ul><ul><li>http://homelesswomenactionnz.wikispaces.com </li></ul>
Questionnaire findings: Defining women’s homelessness <ul><li>Less than a quarter of the women had lived on the street in the last year. </li></ul><ul><li>Overcrowding was also a reason why women were without a home; this was often when they became pregnant. </li></ul>
Domestic violence and refuge utilisation <ul><li>43% of questionnaire respondents identified violence as the cause of homelessness. </li></ul><ul><li>30% of women identified violence as a barrier to getting permanent, safe and secure accommodation. </li></ul><ul><li>Only 14% of respondents reported having stayed in a refuge in the previous 12 months. </li></ul>
Discrimination <ul><li>Landlords not wanting women on the DPB or women on their own. </li></ul><ul><li>Housing New Zealand’s criteria of giving preference to women with children. </li></ul><ul><li>Transgender noticed that when they had a male partner it was easier to secure rental accommodation. </li></ul>
Advocacy and support <ul><li>The women were adamant that they wanted support, assistance and advocacy to assist them to gain housing. </li></ul><ul><li>The fact that women wanted advocacy and support can be seen to be tied in with the discrimination and powerlessness they often faced. </li></ul>
Affordability <ul><li>Nearly one third of participants also reported high rent being a cause of their homelessness. </li></ul>
Recommendations <ul><li>Policy changes </li></ul><ul><li>1. Agencies providing accommodation to ensure that accommodation for single women is equitable to that of men. </li></ul><ul><li>2. Encourage the availability of single occupancy housing for women on their own in the private and public rental sectors. </li></ul><ul><li>3. Housing New Zealand housing stock to reach standards of warmth, energy efficiency and dryness. </li></ul><ul><li>4. Add to the Housing New Zealand stock of affordable housing. </li></ul><ul><li>Service provision </li></ul><ul><li>1. Bond bank run by non governmental organisations or a government agency </li></ul><ul><li>2. Services providing social housing to cater for single women and solo mothers. </li></ul><ul><li>3. Support and advocacy for women seeking accommodation by housing support workers. </li></ul><ul><li>Priority recommendation </li></ul><ul><li>The Housing First model </li></ul>