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ID: 706

Type of submission: Oral

Conference track: Research

Topics: Homelessness, Housing and Harm Reduction; Women, Drug Use and Harm Reduction

Presenting author: Alexandra B. Collins

Presenting author biography:

Alexandra Collins is a PhD student in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University and a qualitative research coordinator at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. Ms. Collins’ research interests interrogate socio-structural factors impacting structurally vulnerable populations affected by HIV/AIDS, substance use, and housing instability.

The structural and everyday violence of evictions among women who use drugs in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

Alexandra B. Collins, William Damon, Jules Chapman, Andrea Krüsi, Ryan McNeil

Background: Single room occupancy hotels (SROs) exist as housing of last resort for structurally vulnerable urban populations, including women who use drugs. Largely unregulated, SROs are shaped by gendered power relations and have the potential to perpetuate social violence towards women. While health and drug-related harms associated with SROs have been well documented, there is a need to understand how gendered contexts of SROs increase housing vulnerability for women who use drugs. We examine gendered vulnerabilities to, and harms stemming from, evictions from SROs in Vancouver, Canada.

Methods: As part of a community-based participatory research project, 19 women who use drugs (trans inclusive) who had been recently evicted (past 60 days) in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside were recruited for qualitative interviews by trained Peer Research Assistants (PRA). Participants were interviewed at baseline and three to six months later. Data were analyzed thematically in collaboration with PRAs and interpreted by drawing on concepts of social violence.

Findings: Many participants repeatedly cycle through evictions due to structural (e.g. building policy infractions) and everyday gendered violence (e.g. no control over physical space) in SROs. Symbolic and structural violence (e.g. lack of tenancy rights, intimidation) were enacted within SROs to restrict women’s abilities to contest evictions. Post-eviction, women faced pronounced vulnerabilities to gendered norms within a drug scene setting (e.g. increased drug use, sexual assault), and often had to rely on others for support, highlighting problematic survival strategies (e.g. short-term partnering with violent partners) participants engaged with due to their structural vulnerability.

Conclusion: Experiences of evictions amongst women who use drugs were associated with increased vulnerabilities to physical and sexual harm, drug-related risks, and cycles of eviction. Ensuring the provision of adequate housing by national and provincial governments has potential to reduce health disparities and structural violence for this population.