Homelessness: How does it happen?

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Having a safe and stable place to call home is central to leading a healthy and prosperous life. In 2021, we asked Canadian households if they had ever experienced some form of homelessness in their lifetime. Over one in ten (11.2%) Canadians or 1,690,000 people reported that they had.

Homelessness is often thought of as living in a shelter, or completely unhoused in an encampment or public space. This kind of homelessness in Canada is referred to as absolute homelessness, an experience shared by 2.2% of households at some point in their lives. There are, however, many more Canadians (10.5%) who have experienced hidden homelessness, like couch surfing, because they had nowhere else to live.

Inequities and pathways of homelessness

This lack of stable housing can result in disparities between groups of people, with some more or less likely to have faced homelessness than others. For example, Indigenous households (29.5%) were almost three times as likely to have experienced some form of homelessness when compared with the total population, while racialized (9.5%) and immigrant (8.3%) households were below the national average. Similarly, recent point-in-time counts of homeless shelters nation-wide have found that 35% of respondents identify as Indigenous.

What drives people into homelessness in Canada and why have so many Canadians found themselves without a home? We asked Canadians to tell us what happened leading up to their homelessness episode, and for those who experienced hidden homelessness, we asked those who had been homeless for more than a month. Here’s what they told us…

Financial challenges are the leading cause of homelessness

Deteriorating housing affordability following the onset of the pandemic, combined with higher unemployment and fewer job vacancies in recent months, along with a surge in inflation throughout 2021 and 2022, has led to higher costs for essential goods and services. These factors continue to place financial pressures on many households across Canada.

In the fall of 2022, almost half (44.0%) of Canadians were very concerned with their household’s ability to afford housing or rent. So, it comes as no surprise that the most reported reason leading to homelessness was financial issues (41.8%).

Victims of abuse may have nowhere to go

The link between abusive home situations and homelessness is an ongoing concern as the incidence of  family violence in Canada rose for the fifth consecutive year in 2021, with women and girls accounting for two-thirds of the victims.

Relationship issues (36.9%) was the second leading factor driving Canadians into homelessness. A related driver was fleeing abuse (13.3%)—a common pathway into homelessness for many, but four times more likely for women than for men (20.9% vs 5.2%).

When looking at absolute homelessness exclusively, these figures double—with just over two in five women (40.4%) reporting absolute homelessness at some point as a result of fleeing abuse, compared with 12.1% of men.

Health issues can interrupt housing stability

While financial and relationship issues are the most common causes of homelessness, health-related issues can also lead to homelessness episodes.

Canadians who have experienced any form of homelessness were more likely to report fair or poor mental health (38.0% versus 17.3%) than the overall population. More respondents listed health issues as a major factor contributing to absolute homelessness (16.5%) than to hidden homelessness (8.9%).

Canadians experiencing homelessness and underlying mental health conditions have also been highly represented in recent opioid hospitalizations.

Moving doesn’t always lead to finding a home

Canadians move for a variety of reasons, including changing household size, employment, better housing or neighbourhoods, and evictions, leading to many diverse experiences of hidden homelessness.

Other notable drivers of hidden homelessness are relocation (20.9%) and waiting to move into a new home (16.0%). Over one in three households relocating at some point in the past reported waiting over six months in a state of hidden homelessness.

Becoming housed may not be the end of housing need

Households experiencing homelessness in the past were more likely to be living in dwellings in need of major repairs or in core housing need. No matter how someone becomes homeless, housing (or the lack thereof) has been shown to have a significant effect on one’s future—for better or for worse.

Originally Published on a Federal Canadian Site; StatsCan December 06th, 2023

Cost Effectiveness of Ending Homelessness

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An adequate supply of safe, affordable and appropriate housing is a prerequisite to truly ending homelessness in the long term. This includes ensuring that people who are chronically and episodically homeless are prioritized and that systems are in place to enable such persons to receive housing and supports through Housing First programs. In a tight housing market, implementing a Housing First agenda becomes that much more challenging. It is also important to address the supply of affordable housing, in order to broaden access for other priority populations, including women fleeing violence, Indigenous Peoples, families, seniors and youth, for instance.

Ultimately, addressing Canada’s housing crisis comes down to money, which then begs the question about our national priorities.

Canadian homeowners enjoy over $8.6 billion in annual tax and other benefits. This kind of investment in home ownership is important because it benefits millions of middle-income households.

Spending on affordable housing for Canada’s poorest households, however, is less than one quarter of that invested in homeownership at approximately $2.1 billion per year and has declined quite dramatically over the past 25 years.

Ironically, it costs more to ignore our housing problem than it would to fix it. Consider the estimate that homelessness alone costs the Canadian economy over $7 billion per year. While the Government of Canada invests $119 million annually to address homelessness through the Homelessness Partnering Strategy (provinces and municipalities also invest), this is not sufficient to address the problem and as a result has not led to a noticeable reduction in homelessness.

By not investing adequately in housing for the poorest Canadians, health care, justice and other taxpayer-funded costs increase.

Put another way, as Canadians, we are spending more money on people who do not need help compared to those in greatest need. And by not spending on those in greatest need, we are not only creating hardship for many Canadian families, we are creating a considerably larger expense for the Canadian economy.

We can do things differently. In the State of Homelessness in Canada 2014, we propose a robust housing investment strategy that would cost the economy much less than the current costs of homelessness. The key elements of our strategy include the following proposals:

What will this cost?

Our proposed investment in affordable housing represents an increase in annual federal spending, from the projected commitments of $2.019 billion to $3.752 billion in 2015/16 with a total investment of $44 billion over ten years. These proposals have been carefully costed, drawing from the work of Jane Londerville and Marion Steele and the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association.

While this significantly increases the current federal investment, we feel that in addition to it being the right thing to do, it is also something we can afford to do. Over the past 25 years, federal spending on low-income affordable housing (on a per capita basis) dropped from over $115 annually, to slightly more than $60 (adjusted to 2013 dollars). Our proposals would raise the per capita investment to approximately $106 per Canadian annually, or $2.04 a week (currently per capita spending amounts to $1.16/week). While this may seem like a significant increase over previous levels, it is still less than what we were paying in 1989. Additionally, it is necessary to address the accumulated affordable housing deficit built up over the past 25 years. Moreover, we propose that Canadians spend only an additional 88 cents per week to contribute to a realistic solution to homelessness and to the affordable housing crisis. To be clear, this proposal will not completely end homelessness in Canada, but it will dramatically reduce chronic and episodic homelessness.

What will be the outcome of this investment?

For years we have been investing in a response to homelessness that, while meeting the immediate needs of people in crisis, has arguably had no impact in reducing the scale and scope of the problem. Our proposal will contribute to an end to chronic homelessness and reduce the likelihood that many others will fall into homelessness in the future.

Reproduced from: Stephen Gaetz, Tanya Gulliver, & Tim Richter: (2014) The State of Homelessness in Canada 2014. Toronto: The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Press.

COVID – 19 and Evictions

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In December 2019, the first case of COVID-19 was reported in China. Since then, the coronavirus has struck the entire world by surprise. The importance of physical touch and contact was bought into emphasis as the entire world went into lockdowns and people were made to isolate and quarantine within the walls of their homes. Since the novel coronavirus spreads at an exceedingly fast rate, it poses a huge threat to public health with its high mortality rate.

Black and white image of a house’s front door and window

Temporary Protection from Eviction

COVID-19 has affected almost all areas of our daily lives, be it financial, personal, educational or professional. Adjusting to the new normal has indeed been a challenge for people all around the globe. However, health care providers and people in authority are working round-the-clock to ensure the wellbeing of as many people as they can.

As a response to this global threat, state and local governments have taken drastic measures to ensure public health and safety. When it comes to housing, eviction laws in several countries, including the US, have been temporarily altered to not only prevent the spread of this disease but also facilitate people who are struggling with financial issues.

Providing stable housing is an effective measure because it allows people to abide by the stay-at-home and social distancing measures recommended by state and local authorities. It also reduces the number of homeless people residing in congregate settings or shelters. Improved living conditions are bound to reduce the spread of this virus.

The Final Word

The laws amended in the light of COVID 19 provide increased protection to tenants and renters. From March 1, 2020, to September 30, 2021, all landlords and property owners have been advised not to evict any residents if the sole reason for their eviction is their inability to provide housing payment. The state has developed a rental assistance program to reduce financial distress on both landowners and renters. All tenants that qualify for this program will be provided with financial assistance during and beyond this period to help reduce their struggles.

From Homelessness to Renting: How to Find Rental Housing without References

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There is no point in sugar-coating the fact that transitioning from homelessness to renting can be quite difficult for an individual, especially in cities like Toronto or Vancouver. From a landlord’s perspective, these markets are full of eligible and desirable tenants, so why would they lend their property to someone without any reference and an unstable (or non-existing) rental history.

This is a challenge most homeless people face, even when they have found a stable job and have enough money for a deposit. Finding rental housing without references can be tough but not impossible, and that’s why having friends is necessary as they may be able to help, and you can find new friends in sites like chatempanada.com. There are a few things you can do:

1. Seek out your regional Housing First* program. It’s designed to help homeless people find stable homes. You’d need to contribute a portion of your income (ideally 30% or more) while the rest would be covered by rent subsidies. It also helps you establish a rent history that can open up more rental housing options for you.

2. Provide potential landlord proof of stable income. If you’ve been working for a while, bring your last three payslips and, preferably, a letter from your employer stating your good behavior (and that they don’t have any plans to let you go in the foreseeable future).

3. If you have a stable income and money for monthly rent but not the deposit, charities like Canadian Red Cross and Salvation Army might assist you (financially). With a decent deposit amount (say three-months rent), you might be able to convince potential landlords to rent to you, even if you don’t have references.

4. Don’t fake a reference history. It is a huge red flag, and if you get caught, it might disrupt your chances of renting with other landlords as well.

5. Talk to the people who are running emergency shelters. They might be able to guide you to individuals who might be inclined to rent to you without references, just to pull you out of homelessness. If not, they might be able to put you in touch with local housing assistance programs you might not be aware of.

Be honest, talk to the people helping homeless individuals in your community, try to save as much money as you can for rent and deposit, find a co-signer if you can, and make sure your employer puts in a good word for you. You may find rental property without references if you read more. These might help you.

*https://www.bchousing.org/projects-partners/funding-opportunities/RHFP

Boggles Brown – The Blurb

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-From “Boggles Brown – My Cartoon Life in the Land Of Schizophrenia” inner sleeve. – 2010

Boggles Brown is broke, except for the “People With Disabilities Allowance” he gets once a month. This month, he lives in a run-down motel – he manages to buy an old beat-up Toyota which is unreliable but reliable if you know what I mean. Somtimes he thinks his car may be bi-polar.

He wonders whether he should be using one of those fancy-named gasoline additives like “Engine-X,” I imagine “Engine-X” to be somewhat like Olanzapine, only for cars.

Boggles Brown struggled through college. He graduated,worked for a while and then became bonkers. It was not worth the ecstacy or all the raves in the world to lose his mind – he knows that now. But it is his life, what to do?

Boggles Brown is not how I see myself so much, as how I think others see me. My mom has read some of my cartoons and scratched her head. I imagine a lot of people will do the same. But that’s not the point – is it? Am I Canada’s Andy Warhol? I think not.

I hope you like Boggles, and if you don’t, I hope you keep it to yourself because the point is that it gave me something to do.

These are all hand-drawn on whatever paper I could find.

– Boggles Brown; “BJAF” 2010

“Genes” – Boggles Brown; Urban Survival Media 2009

Homelessness During COVID – Disaster Amplified

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In any given year, there are about 235,000 Canadians that suffer from homelessness. That’s about 0.625% of the total population, a statistically “small” minority, which is, unfortunately, seeing its woes compounded due to winter and COVID.  

Homeless people rely on shelters to provide them a place to sleep and stay, especially during the cold winter nights when staying outside or in a makeshift shelter can be deadly disastrous. So it’s only logical that the shelters try to accommodate as many people as possible.

But that’s impossible due to COVID cases spreading. To mitigate the probability of transmission, shelters have reduced the number of people they take in. Needless to say, this is a significant blow to the homeless population of the country because during the second wave, more and more people are seeking shelter and less space is available. The lifting of the eviction ban has also added fuel to the fire.

To make matters worse, some shelter homes are being forced to close down or have been working at reduced capacity because the staff and residents have contracted the virus.

People are aware of the problem and are doing what little they can to remediate the situation like staging protests and urging the government to ramp up support. And shelters are using glass dividers in between beds to reduce the probability of transmission in close confines.

We can take lessons from international solutions to this problem, such as accommodating homeless populations in unused hotels (since the travel business is already suffering) or taking measures to contain homeless people to designated areas (by providing necessary amenities and shelter) to mitigate the possibility of transmission.

What Needs to be Done to End Homelessness?

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Noreen date of birth ? death was in 2012, she loved music any-kind of good music. She loved to party and that she did until the end.

An adequate supply of safe, affordable and appropriate housing is a prerequisite to truly ending homelessness in the long term. This includes ensuring that people who are chronically and episodically homeless are prioritized and that systems are in place to enable such persons to receive housing and supports through Housing First programs. In a tight housing market, implementing a Housing First agenda becomes that much more challenging. It is also important to address the supply of affordable housing, in order to broaden access for other priority populations, including women fleeing violence, Aboriginal Peoples, families, seniors and youth, for instance.

Ultimately, addressing Canada’s housing crisis comes down to money, which then begs the question about our national priorities.

Canadian homeowners enjoy over $8.6 billion in annual tax and other benefits. This kind of investment in home ownership is important because it benefits millions of middle-income households.

Spending on affordable housing for Canada’s poorest households however, is less than one quarter of that invested in homeownership, approximately $2.1 billion per year and has declined quite dramatically over the past 25 years.

Ironically, it costs more to ignore our housing problem than it would to fix it. Consider the estimate that homelessness alone costs the Canadian economy over $7 billion per year. While the Government of Canada invests $119 million annually to address homelessness through the Homelessness Partnering Strategy (provinces and municipalities also invest), this is not sufficient to address the problem and as a result has not led to a noticeable reduction in homelessness.

By not investing adequately in housing for the poorest Canadians, health care, justice and other taxpayer-funded costs increase.

Put another way, as Canadians, we are spending more money on people who do not need help compared to those in greatest need. And by not spending on those in greatest need, we are not only creating hardship for many Canadian families, we are creating a considerably larger expense for the Canadian economy.

We can do things differently. In the State of Homelessness in Canada 2014, we propose a robust housing investment strategy that would cost the economy much less than the current costs of homelessness. The key elements of our strategy include the following proposals:

 

 

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