Developing National Rights-Based and Gender-Sensitive Shelter Standards

June 29, 2023

The Canadian Centre for Housing Rights (CCHR) is proud to be partnering with the Women’s National Housing and Homelessness Network (WNHHN) and the National Right to Housing Network (NRHN) on a project funded by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) Solutions Lab. The project aims to develop and prototype national shelter standards that adopt a rights-based and gender-sensitive approach that will help improve emergency shelter service delivery.

In Canada, women and gender-diverse people are more likely to have trouble finding a safe and secure place to live, and disproportionately live in core housing need. For those who experience homelessness, they are often denied access to emergency shelters that are operating over capacity and are struggling to meet demand due to chronic underfunding and an increase in housing need. Additionally, certain policies, rules and practices in emergency shelters may lead to people being turned away, separated from their children or unable to access supports.   

These issues can have devastating impacts on women and gender-diverse persons who are in need of shelter services, and present barriers to realizing the right to housing. It is critical that we change the way that emergency shelters are designed so that they align with a rights-based and gender-sensitive approach to housing. 

Project background 

To help address these challenges, this project seeks to identify what shelters in Canada could look like if they were gender-sensitive and aligned with the right to housing. Our goal is to transform emergency shelter service delivery for women and gender-diverse people, by developing and prototyping national shelter standards that use a rights-based and gender-sensitive approach. These standards can help to better meet the needs of women and gender-diverse people in accessing emergency shelter services.

The project to date

An Advisory Group has been formed to oversee implementation of the project and provide guidance on current shelter practices. The Advisory Group is made up of people with lived experience, frontline service providers, researchers, housing advocates, human rights experts and policymakers. 

The project team has worked with focus groups to explore common barriers in the shelter sector and in the coming months will be exploring rights-based and gender-sensitive solutions through design charettes. The first of these charettes will take place at the 2023 CAEH National Conference to End Homelessness in November 2023. Register to join this event.

These solutions and models will then be tested, and the results will be used to build prototypes and a roadmap for national implementation, through engagement and advocacy with policymakers and key stakeholders. 


This project is generously supported by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) Solutions Lab. 

Get the latest updates about the right to housing in Canada