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This article was published 5/4/2011 (2182 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
ONE out of every five homeless women said she's been sexually assaulted in the past year, according to a first-of-its-kind report looking into the lives of 300 of Winnipeg's homeless people.
The Winnipeg Street Health Report, which was released Tuesday, contains insight based on interviews with 90 homeless women and 210 men.
Interviews for the 48-page report took place last summer, after researchers contacted people through the city's social-service organizations.
The study explores different problems homeless people deal with on a daily basis, from bedbugs in shelters to difficulties for some women to afford sanitary pads and tampons.
Forty-three per cent of people who were interviewed had trouble getting their clothes washed and 23 per cent had a tough time finding somewhere to bathe, the report found
The report also looks at the level of violence affecting homeless people, with 20 per cent of women reporting sexual assaults in the past year.
"When you read the media often, it's talking about how homeless people are perpetrators of crime, but I think anyone who works with homeless people knows that homeless people are way more often victims of crime," said Christina Maes, a University of Manitoba graduate student in city planning and the report's lead researcher.
"Women who are homeless don't have a safe place to go... sometimes they're working in the sex trade or sometimes they just don't have a safe place.
"They're victimized in shelters, they're victimized on the street, they're victimized by people who are offering them a safe place to stay. Not having the resources to have a safe home puts them at risk of violence," she added.
The threat of injury and violence isn't limited to sexual assaults.
The report says: "Violence and assault are a regular part of life when you're homeless," with 40 per cent of the survey's respondents saying they were physically assaulted in the past year.
About 76 per cent of them didn't report violence to police, the report said.
Paula Hendrickson, the Main Street Project's director of programs, said the report highlights different aspects of being homeless, such as the result of showing up for a job interview wearing dirty clothes.
"We don't think we've really ever had an answer to what's the motivator behind people not getting employment, because many of our guys do say that they want to work," she said.
The interviews were conducted at the Main Street Project, the Salvation Army Booth Centre, Agape Table, Sunshine House, Siloam Mission and Resource Assistance for Youth.
The report received about $50,000 in funding from the federal government and was done for the Main Street Project, a shelter on Martha Street for homeless people.
Homeless people: health and violence risks
According to the survey, homeless Winnipeggers are:
Twenty times as likely to have hepatitis C
Eight times as likely to have epilepsy
Six times as likely to have angina
Five times as likely to have migraine headaches
Three times as likely to have a heart attack
46 per cent said they were physically assaulted in the past year
40 per cent felt unsafe in emergency shelters
15 per cent reported having a baby while homeless
-- source: Winnipeg Street Health Report, 2011