Blur Projects, in partnership with Women Electoral Lobby NSW, has created the UNSEEN multimedia arts project which gives voice to the faces behind the statistics of women’s homelessness and housing insecurity. The visibility of women experiencing homelessness in our community is hidden. As a result, while some women do approach homeless support services, many stay under the radar and have little or no involvement with services. Unless the women who have or who are experiencing homelessness have the opportunity to stand up and speak out, the community cannot be afforded the opportunity to understand the nature and scale of this problem. UNSEEN offers an innovative opportunity to empower artists to bring women from diverse backgrounds together. UNSEEN is a multimedia project sharing the hidden experiences of women and homelessness. Some women experiencing homelessness sleep rough, however, many others remain UNSEEN, hidden from view through fear of stigmatisation. The UNSEEN Chrome Car reflects the hidden nature of their experiences of homelessness and housing insecurity and how, for others a car is the only safe place to live with their children. Too often these women are told to ‘move on’ by people living in nearby houses. The UNSEEN Chrome Tiny House highlights how the Australian housing market lacks affordable rental housing and the tightly targeted social housing with long waiting lists. UNSEEN offers women who have, or are experiencing homelessness, an opportunity to engage with artists and advocates to generate greater public awareness of the impact homelessness has had or is having on their lives. By sharing their stories, the women provide a first-hand insight into the diversity of who finds themselves homeless and why. Some women have chosen to remain anonymous and translate their stories in private, while others have chosen to disclose all or part of their identities through creative expressions of song, theatre, poetry, sculpture, writing or weaving.
Across Australia, there are over 50,000 women experiencing homelessness and a further 400,000 women over 45 at risk of homelessness (Australia Bureau of Statistics [ABS] 2016). With domestic violence and financial abuse being the biggest causes, and older women being the fastest growing cohort experiencing homelessness, it is paramount the fundamental rights of women to access safe and adequate housing be recognised in the public sphere and addressed in policy. As COVID-19 has exacerbated underlying gender inequalities, there is an increased urgency to raise public consciousness of the scale and structural causes of women’s homelessness. Without systemic change, the future for young women appears increasingly bleak (Parsell et al. 2020, p. 5). Australian service providers’ prediction that the social and economic impact of COVID-19 will accelerate homelessness rates, highlights the increasingly urgent need to re-examine why women’s rights to adequate housing has remained ‘unseen’ (Wallace 2021, p. 182).’