Prying Open The Doors To Housing For Gender-Diverse People

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The Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network (WNHHN) is drawing attention to the issue of how gender-diverse people1 experience housing and homelessness. Two reports have just been published.

One report draws deeply on the responses to the WNHHN’s own survey2 of 500 people. It begins to lay bare experiences that are largely missing from the public record.

For example, surveys such as the Census and homelessness point in time counts suppress data when it is not possible to report results with statistical confidence. The WNHHN survey has 500 records, which include responses from 64 people who identified as gender-diverse.

The report’s authors are careful to point out that the results are not statistically significant. However, they also say that the frequency with which gender-diverse people experienced homelessness and housing discrimination was so high that it deserves further investigation. The authors also point out that there are accepted methods to avoid solutions to data suppression3.

The second WNHHN report draws on other studies and includes three interviews with service providers who have personal experience of homelessness. The second report amplifies that even though gender-diverse peoples’ experiences of housing and homelessness have been studied, little has changed. An Ontario Human Rights Commission investigation in 2008 reported:

“People who are transgendered may be exposed to stereotypes, harassment or demeaning comments. These can affect their experience in accessing housing and may result in the outright denial of a rental application. . . . Transgendered people may be exposed to comments or conduct that poison their environment and undermine their dignity during tenancy.”

Both of the WNHHN’s reports emphasize that gender-diverse people must be included to understand their experiences of housing and homelessness and to plan what needs to change. The report is well timed to coincide with an upcoming Social Housing and Human Rights conference. The conference will be an opportunity for people with experience to meet and plan. Financial assistance is being offered to attend the conference, which is being held in Winnipeg. Read more at the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association: Social Housing and Human Rights

The WNHHN’s reports are important reading for anyone who is working to improve the housing situations of people who are homeless or struggling to hang on to their housing. The reports help to understand how the existing systems and service responses are organized around the assumption that people are either male or female. It also illuminates how people who are gender-diverse have struggled to use the existing systems and why those need to change. You can access reports at this link in the Homeless Hub: A Portrait of Homelessness Amongst Gender-Diverse People in Canada


  1. The research discussed in this post uses the term “gender-diverse” as a shorthand umbrella to refer to a wide array of different gender identities, expressions, and experiences. 
  2. For more on the survey, try: New Survey Shines Light On Homelessness And Housing Need In Canada
  3. One way to do this is collecting data from a larger proportion of people who identify as gender-diverse. The larger number of records raises the confidence level in the results.