New report says 200,000 Canadians experience homelessness each year

a homeless youth

The Canadian Homelessness Research Network (Homeless Hub) and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness released the first extensive Canadian report card on homelessness called State of Homelessness in Canada: 2013 today in Toronto.

Highlights of the report include:

  • 200,000 different Canadians experience homelessness each year, with as many as 1.3 million experiencing homelessness in the last five years;
  • 30,000 Canadians are homeless on any given night;
      • 2,880 unsheltered (outside in cars, parks, on the street)
      • 14,400 staying in Emergency Homelessness Shelters
      • 7,350 staying in Violence Against Women Shelters
      • 4,464 provisionally accommodated (homeless but in hospitals, prison or interim housing)
  • for most homelessness is a very short, one time experience but between 4,000 to 8,000 are chronically homeless (long-term homeless) and 6,000 to 22,000 are episodically homeless (experience repeated episodes of homelessness over a lifetime);
  • chronic and episodically homeless people (less than 15 per cent of the total) take up more than 50% of the emergency shelter space in Canada; and,
  • homelessness costs the Canadian economy $7.05 billion per year.

“The State of Homelessness provides a starting point to inform the development of a consistent, evidence-based approach towards ending homelessness.” says York University Professor Stephen Gaetz, director of the Canadian Homelessness Research Network. “Our goal in developing this report was to both assess the breadth of the problem and to develop a methodology for national measurement”.

“The State of Homelessness also highlights where there has been some meaningful progress in Canada that proves homelessness is not an intractable problem,” added Tim Richter, president & CEO of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. “Homelessness can be solved and we have some excellent Canadian examples to follow.”

Among the examples of progress cited in the report are:

  • Vancouver’s 66 per cent reduction in street homelessness since 2008
  • Edmonton’s 30 per cent reduction in overall homelessness since 2008
  • Toronto’s 51 per cent decrease in street homelessness since 2006
  • Alberta’s provincial plan to end homelessness and the 16 per cent province-wide reduction since 2008
  • Fredericton, New Brunswick’s 30 per cent reduction in emergency shelter use
  • The Mental Health Commission of Canada At Home/Chez Soi Housing First project in five Canadian cities
  • Renewal of the federal Homelessness Partnering Strategy, refocused on Housing First

The State of Homelessness also offers six recommendations including:

  1. Communities should develop and implement clear plans to end homelessness, supported by all levels of government.
  2. All levels of government must work to increase the supply of affordable housing.
  3. Communities – and all levels of government – should embrace Housing First.
  4. Eliminating chronic and episodic homelessness should be prioritized.
  5. Ending Aboriginal Homelessness should be prioritized as both a distinct category of action and part of the overall strategy to end homelessness.
  6. Introduce more comprehensive data collection, performance monitoring, analysis and research.

The Canadian Homelessness Research Network (Homeless Hub) at York University is dedicated to mobilizing research evidence to have a bigger impact on solutions to homelessness in Canada.

The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness has been formed to create a national movement to end homelessness in Canada from the community up.