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Friday, April 20, 2018

Women’s Voices Showcase Need for Permanent Housing Options

A new video features the stories of Hamilton women experiencing chronic homelessness and the type of housing they would like to see

Tishia Morrish wants a place to call home where single women can come together to cook and share bills, but still enjoy their own space.

The 49-year-old Hamilton woman, who has been at the YWCA for the past two years as part of their transitional program, said she loves the supports she can access there, as well as her ability to dine with other women three times a week.

"I feel at home there," said Morrish, who was previously homeless for 15 years. "I'm safe there."

But as the time draws near for Morrish to find a place of her own, she's terrified.

Being in an apartment means being alone and the cost of rent is just "crazy," she said.

Morrish is one of several Hamilton women experiencing chronic homelessness whose voice is showcased in a newly-released video — a partnership involving the Women's Housing Planning Collaborative and the Women's College Hospital Xchange Program.

The three-minute clip — the product of a community-based research project involving 70 women called the [in]visible project — highlights the stories of these single homeless women and how they imagine their ideal permanent housing using their own words.

But as the time draws near for Morrish to find a place of her own, she's terrified.

Being in an apartment means being alone and the cost of rent is just "crazy," she said.

Morrish is one of several Hamilton women experiencing chronic homelessness whose voice is showcased in a newly-released video — a partnership involving the Women's Housing Planning Collaborative and the Women's College Hospital Xchange Program.

The three-minute clip — the product of a community-based research project involving 70 women called the [in]visible project — highlights the stories of these single homeless women and how they imagine their ideal permanent housing using their own words.

"What we were seeing is that women are homeless for a really long time in Hamilton and that there's not enough supportive housing," she said.

Artist Sylvia Nickerson's Hamilton-based graphics illustrate the video, which was put together by Powerline Films' Luke Mistruzzi.

The research, which included interviews and art projects that are featured in the video, revealed that what these women want is permanent, women-only housing that includes formal and informal support networks.

That could mean having staff on-site, a front desk where people must check in and the opportunity for shared meals.

All of the women involved in the study described how violence, exploitation, mental health and substance abuse had in some way impacted their lives. They want housing that is safe and secure and is designed to improve their well-being, Vaccaro said.

The goal of the project is to use the data collected to help drive change for these women.

"We need to use this research to really advocate for permanent supportive housing for single women," Vaccaro said.

For Morrish, taking part in the project made her feel like she has a purpose.

When she turned to the Y two years ago, she was feeling lost after the death of her roommate and having to undergo a heart operation.

"What we were seeing is that women are homeless for a really long time in Hamilton and that there's not enough supportive housing," she said.

Artist Sylvia Nickerson's Hamilton-based graphics illustrate the video, which was put together by Powerline Films' Luke Mistruzzi.

The research, which included interviews and art projects that are featured in the video, revealed that what these women want is permanent, women-only housing that includes formal and informal support networks.

That could mean having staff on-site, a front desk where people must check in and the opportunity for shared meals.

All of the women involved in the study described how violence, exploitation, mental health and substance abuse had in some way impacted their lives. They want housing that is safe and secure and is designed to improve their well-being, Vaccaro said.

The goal of the project is to use the data collected to help drive change for these women.

"We need to use this research to really advocate for permanent supportive housing for single women," Vaccaro said.

For Morrish, taking part in the project made her feel like she has a purpose.

When she turned to the Y two years ago, she was feeling lost after the death of her roommate and having to undergo a heart operation.

By sharing her story, she hopes she can help drive change.

"Before that I was grieving over my roommate," she said. "I felt like I had nothing to live for and nothing to do.

"(Taking part) makes me feel like I'm helping change something for the good and it feels really good."

To view the video, visit thespec.com/reports.

By sharing her story, she hopes she can help drive change.

"Before that I was grieving over my roommate," she said. "I felt like I had nothing to live for and nothing to do.

"(Taking part) makes me feel like I'm helping change something for the good and it feels really good."

To view the video, visit thespec.com/reports.

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