When it’s cold outside and you’ve nowhere to sleep, the night can seem unbearably long. For Susan Scott, an author who interviewed homeless women across Canada, that problem is not an abstraction.



"We don’t know how many homeless women there are," she said yesterday during a speech at Grant MacEwan College’s south campus.



The former journalist, based in Calgary, spoke at the south and city centre campuses yesterday to raise awareness of the number of homeless women — many, she said, with children in tow — who are trying to survive on the streets.

Scott’s book, All Our Sisters, highlights individual stories of women’s experiences, although she says there is a "universality amongst women.

"Homelessness affects everyone," she said, speaking to a full house of students, faculty and staff and community members. "It may be your neighbour who is living in fear because she can’t afford to leave an abusive relationship; it may be your grandmother who has been summarily evicted due to rent increases — it may even be people in this room," saying that at a recent talk in Calgary two students came to her separately to confess they were living in condemned homes because of Alberta’s affordable housing crisis.

The number of homeless people in Edmonton has risen to 2,618 in 2006 from 1,160 in 2000, according to the Edmonton Joint Planning Committee on Housing, though Scott said that it’s difficult to measure homeless women by traditional head counts.

"What we forget is that woman associate their home with their sense of identity; home is where we can be ourselves," she said.

"And for women who don’t have that, they’re up against an almost monolithic brick wall."