Being a single parent means twice the work, twice the tears, and twice the stress. Single parents are faced with challenges on a daily basis and must push through life with a smile on their face so as to ensure their child is able to live a happy life. While single parenting has been glorified by the media, we fail to recognize how single parents, especially single mothers, fear the idea of homelessness. Women are disproportionately represented in the low-income bracket in Canada, and the costs of a child add an additional burden that makes it more difficult to be able to afford basic necessities such as food and shelter.1 In fact, 70% of Canadian women work only part-time and represent two-thirds of the workforce earning minimum wage.1 Furthermore, 36% of families led by single mothers are living below the poverty line.1 While we fail to acknowledge this, there is a reason why women are clustered in low-paying jobs. Canada’s lack of affordable childcare and the inability of workplaces to provide adequate flex-time and caregiver leave push women into career options that severely limit earning power.1 Single parenting on its own is a big struggle, and the added stress of low wages, especially for women, not only has a mental impact on the mother but also the child.
There are several signs and risk factors at play for family homelessness; primarily, unaffordable rental housing, families below the poverty threshold or living under the low-income cut-off, experiencing food insecurity, and stagnant or declining wages even during economic growth.2 For single-parent families, one illness, job loss, or loss of childcare can put the entire family over the edge. Without a national homelessness strategy or comprehensive federal action to combat these system flaws, the number of single-parent families being exposed to homelessness will continue to rise.
Families tend to stay at homeless shelters for twice as long as individual youth or adults. On average, an individual would spend up to 10 days at a shelter, while families tend to stay for as long as 20 days.3 However, due to capacity limits, emergency shelters have to turn away 1000 families on average every night.3 With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this problem exacerbated and put a bigger strain on the existing lack of homelessness resources. Some shelters had to reduce services or even shut down due to public health policies and physical distancing rules.3 It is imperative that we put more funds towards helping the homeless, not only by providing more emergency resources but also by addressing root causes such as low wages and the unaffordable housing market.
Assisting single-parent families in combating homelessness is important as it tends to also have a negative impact on the children. Those that grow up without stable housing are at a higher risk of doing poorly in school or being exposed to abuse and trauma.4 In fact, studies have shown that these children are more likely to end up homeless themselves later in life.4 The system is built in a way such that the cycle of homelessness within a family is extremely difficult to change and systemic changes are needed. It is crucial to tackle the problem from the root and find solutions that will have long-lasting effects.
Do single parents contribute to homelessness? Do single parents contribute to homelessness? | The Homeless Hub. (2014, November 14). Retrieved from https://www.homelesshub.ca/blog/do-single-parents-contribute-homelessness
Families with Children. Families with Children | The Homeless Hub. Retrieved from https://www.homelesshub.ca/about-homelessness/population-specific/families-children
Press, T. C. (2020, June 26). Covid-19 increases risk for Canada's 'invisible' homeless women: Study. Peace Arch News. Retrieved from https://www.peacearchnews.com/news/covid-19-increases-risk-for-canadas-invisible-homeless-women-study/
CBC/Radio Canada. (2016, February 15). Homelessness also hits families, not just 'older, single man sitting on a street corner' | CBC news. CBCnews. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/families-homelessness-1.3448832