Migrant Women’s Health and Housing Insecurity: An Intersectional Analysis

Hanley, J., Ives, N., Lenet, J., Hordyk, S.-R., Walsh, C., Ben Soltane, S., & Este, D. (2019)

International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care



This paper presents an analysis of how health intersects with the experience of housing insecurity and homelessness, specifically for migrant women. The authors argue that it is important to understand the specificities of the interplay of these different factors to continue the advancement of our understanding and practice as advocates for health and housing security.


An exploratory, qualitative, methodological approach was adopted, using a broad definition of housing insecurity: from absolute homelessness (e.g. residing rough) to invisible homelessness (e.g. couch surfing) to those at risk of homelessness. In total, 26 newcomer (foreign-born women who came to live in Canada during the previous ten years, regardless of their immigration status) women were recruited in Montreal, Canada. Participants were recruited directly through advertisements in public places and in collaboration with community organizations (women’s centers, homeless shelters, crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, immigrant settlement agencies and ethnic associations) and they self-identified as having experienced housing insecurity. Efforts were made to include a diversity of immigrant statuses as well as diversity in ethnicity, race, country of origin, family composition, sexual orientation, age and range of physical and mental ability. Women were engaged in semi-structured, open-ended interviews lasting approximately 1 h. Interviews were conducted in English or French in a location and time of participants’ choosing.


The findings are presented around three themes: how health problems instigate and maintain migrant women’s housing insecurity and homelessness; ways in which women’s immigration trajectories and legal status may influence their health experiences; and particular coping strategies that migrant women employ in efforts to maintain or manage their health. The authors conclude with implications of these findings for both policy and practice in relation to migrant women who experience or are at risk of housing insecurity and homelessness.


Intersections of women experiencing migration and housing insecurity in Canadian contexts have rarely been examined. This paper addresses a gap in the literature in terms of topic and context, but also in terms of sharing the voices of migrant women with direct experience with housing insecurity.