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

Prison: A Homelessness Factory

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by C.L. Michel

Cultivating Curiosity 

Talking about prison is taboo—Canadian society deals with it far less than is common in other jurisdictions (eg., the United States). Most people in Canada don’t know anything about how the prison system works or what conditions in it are like if they or a loved one haven’t experienced it. 

One reason for this is that prison produces silence. The voices of prisoners are cut off from the world, and what happens inside prisons only makes the news in the most extreme cases. This lack of attention is problematic because the prison system is central to how many different forms of oppression reproduce themselves. For instance, it maintains class society and economic exploitation. It is a tool of racist and colonial violence that keeps whole communities down, and it produces gendered forms of trauma on a mass scale.  

Prison functions like a black box. We can see what happens prior to entering the prison system in terms of crime, policing, and the justice system, and we can see the negative outcomes of the prison system once people leave, such as poverty, homelessness, and social exclusion, but the space in between is opaque—we can’t see the conditions inside prisons that produce these outcomes. 

If we want to find solutions to complex problems like homelessness, we need to cultivate some curiosity about people’s experiences with systems we might not normally think about, like prison. 

Types of Prisons in Canada 

The various prisons in Canada are separated into two types: federal and provincial. Federal prisons, also known as penitentiaries, are where prisoners who are sentenced to over two years are sent. Although only about a third of all prisoners are in federal prison, it is what people think of on the rare occasions that they think about prison in Canada. 

The remaining two thirds of prisoners are in provincial prisons. People sentenced to less than two years, those who have been denied bail, and an increasing number of immigration detainees are in provincial prisons. All federal prisoners have also spent time in a provincial prison, and the majority of prisoners will do all their time there. Despite this, they receive far less attention than federal prisons. In provincial prisons there is less programming, less oversight, and fewer organizations that provide support. The conditions inside these prisons are far, far worse. 

In Ontario, the Ministry of the Solicitor General operates 25 adult prisons that hold around 7,500 prisoners on any given day, with an average period of incarceration of 45 days (almost 150,000 people are admitted into provincial prisons across Canada in any given year).  

Many provinces subdivide provincial prisons into other administrative categories. For the purpose of this blog, we will be focusing on adult prisons in Ontario, but there are also youth prisons and mental health prisons. There are two kinds of adult provincial prisons in Ontario: detention centres (DCs), for those who have been denied bail or sentenced to less than three months, and correctional centres, for those who have been sentenced to between three months and two years.  

In many provinces (eg., Ontario, Alberta, and Nova Scotia), about 70% of prisoners in provincial prisons are on “remand,” meaning they are only locked up because they were denied bail. This means that about half of all prisoners in Canada are on remand. This is   a significantly higher proportion than in the United States, and it has been getting worse with time.  

Since most of Canada’s prisoners are in remand, the conditions they face are crucial to understanding the prison system as a whole and the way it contributes to homelessness.  

Conditions for Remand Prisoners in Ontario 

Prisoners who have been denied bail are held in the harshest conditions in the prison system. All of Ontario’s DCs are considered maximum security, meaning they face the most restrictions on their movements, what they can have access to, and possibilities for programming.  

Detention centres are very crowded. Cells built for one or two prisoners routinely hold three, with one person sleeping on a mattress on the floor. There are frequent lockdowns, which is when prisoners are confined to their cells except for half an hour every second day. Combine these two factors and you have three prisoners held together in a space the size of a bathroom stall for days at a time without even enough room to stand up and move around. This obviously aggravates physical and mental health conditions.  

There are almost no programs in DCs, and there is very limited access to books. Visits are short (two 20-minute visits a week) and are frequently cancelled without notice. Although prisoners are entitled to 20 minutes of fresh air every day, they may only get “yard time” a couple of times a month.  

Detention centres are also very violent. Since everyone in a DC is in pre-trial and the average stay is short, there is a high turnover with lots of coming and going, making hierarchies unstable. The needs of those living in a DC for short periods may conflict with those of prisoners there for years, and the overcrowded conditions with no privacy result in high stress levels.  

Guards are also able to brutalize prisoners with near impunity. While a report from the Ontario ombudsman denounced the use of force by guards and the guards’ code of silence that interferes with investigations, this report was not enough to stop this violence from continuing. 

When you add in the overdose crisis and an inadequate medical system to the previously mentioned factors, the result is that 29 people died inside of Ontario’s provincial prisons in 2021. From previous years’ statistics compiled by Reuters, 85% of all deaths in Ontario’s provincial prison are people in remand custody, meaning those in detention centres are dying at a disproportionate rate.  

Although prison harms everyone it touches, it does not do this in the same way to everyone. Prison functions on the basis of separation, firstly by cutting people off from society, then by sorting them to expose them to different forms of harm. The administrative differences described above are one way of sorting people. Another important way the prison system does this is by gender or sex. 

Gendered Harm

All prisoners are labelled as either male or female depending on the institution’s best guess of their sex at birth, and so there are two gendered forms of incarceration known as men’s and women’s prison. There is a lot to say about how the Ontario prison system deals with trans identity, but for the purposes of this blog, it is enough to know that almost all trans people go to women’s prison. Women’s prison can be thought of as a prison for people who would be at risk of sexual violence if all prisoners were just lumped together. 

Officially, there should be little difference between men’s and women’s prisons, and the conditions are generally the same. However, it is worth reflecting on how identical treatment within an unequal society produces drastically different results.  

To give a quick example, the food in men and women’s prison is exactly the same. In men’s prison, this is mostly felt to be insufficient, in part because working out is a big part of prisoner culture. Men prisoners are often released stronger and fitter than when they went in. In women’s prisons, exercise is discouraged both by prisoner culture and by the guards. Women prisoners often experience rapid weight gain and a general decrease in fitness due to the enforced immobility. 

In this example and in so many others, sorting people by gender means the prison system is involved in reproducing negative gender dynamics. Many conditions faced by women prisoners compound common forms of gender-based trauma, such as: 

  • Frequent strip searches 
  • Round the clock surveillance by male guards 
  • The absence of privacy 
  • Losing custody over children  
  • Losing housing 

After release, feminized professions tend to care more about criminal records than many male-dominated ones: consider customer service vs. construction or childcare vs. trucking. This results in women experiencing more exclusion from the job market upon release, contributing to cycles of dependence and victimization. 

Similarly, the intense violence of men’s prison is tied to a macho prisoner culture steeped in homophobia and misogyny. This culture is then exported back out into communities by former prisoners. Both gendered experiences leave people more likely to commit future criminalized acts and end up back in prison.  

Why Does this Matter to the Homelessness Sector? 

The prison and justice systems leave a lot of people homeless and undermine the housing stability of everyone who interacts with them. Prisons also compound problems with physical and mental health, addiction, and trauma (common risk factors for homelessness). Even short stays in prison can be enough to make someone lose their job and housing, making it a clear issue for the homelessness sector. As well, people who are homeless are disproportionately represented in prison—across Canada, over 16% of prisoners are homeless, up from 6% in 2009.  

There are also major issues of social justice around prison that can only be addressed when we understand how people move through the system and what conditions they face. The awful conditions in provincial prisons amplify other forms of systemic oppression. For instance, it is nothing new to say that Black and Indigenous people are disproportionately represented among prisoners—but it feels different to say that Black and Indigenous people are more likely to be held in an overcrowded prison cell with no privacy or room to move around for weeks at a time.  

The experiences of prisoners are not well understood within the homelessness sector, which can create barriers to accessing services. There are very few services available that specifically help people being discharged from prison, leaving them to seek out services that are not tailored to their needs.  

By looking more closely at what prisoners go through inside the black box, we can work towards better outcomes for them and remove some of the added barriers they face to obtaining safe, stable, and affordable housing. 

Originally Published @ Homeless Hub

October 11th, 2023

What Causes Homelessness ?

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People who experience homelessness are not distinct and separate from the rest of the population. In fact, the line between being housed and unhoused is quite fluid. In general, the pathways into and out of homelessness are neither linear nor uniform. Individuals and families who experience homelessness may not share much in common with each other, aside from the fact that they are extremely vulnerable, and lack adequate housing and income and the necessary supports to ensure they stay housed. The causes of homelessness reflect an intricate interplay between structural factors, systems failures and individual circumstances. Homelessness is usually the result of the cumulative impact of a number of factors, rather than a single cause.

Structural factors

Structural factors are economic and societal issues that affect opportunities and social environments for individuals. Key factors can include the lack of adequate income, access to affordable housing and health supports and/or the experience of discrimination. Shifts in the economy both nationally and locally can create challenges for people to earn an adequate income, pay for food and for housing.

Poverty

Homelessness and poverty are inextricably linked. People who are impoverished are frequently unable to pay for necessities such as housing, food, childcare, health care, and education. Poverty can mean a person is one illness, one accident, or one paycheque away from living on the streets.

Housing

A critical shortage of housing that is affordable, safe and stable directly contributes to homelessness. The millions of Canadian families and individuals living in “core need” (paying more than 50% of their income on housing) are at serious risk of homelessness, as are families and individuals spending more than 30% of their income on housing. Arguably, the most impactful factor is the lack of affordable housing nationwide; however, discrimination can impede access to employment, housing, justice and helpful services. Racial and sexual minorities are at greater risk of such discrimination.

System failures

Systems failures occur when other systems of care and support fail, requiring vulnerable people to turn to the homelessness sector, when other mainstream services could have prevented this need. Examples of systems failures include difficult transitions from child welfareinadequate discharge planning for people leaving hospitalscorrections and mental health and addictions facilities and a lack of support for immigrants and refugees.

Personal circumstances and relational problems

Individual and relational factors apply to the personal circumstances of a person experiencing homelessness, and may include: traumatic events (e.g. house fire or job loss), personal crisis (e.g. family break-up or domestic violence), mental health and addictions challenges (including brain injury and fetal alcohol syndrome), which can be both a cause and consequence of homelessness and physical health problems or disabilities. Relational problems can include family violence and abuse, and addictions, so looking for rehab centers is important, click here to learn more.

published by the homeless hub http://www.homelesshub.ca

Hello, Happy New Year !

The year started off on many lows, the loss of some notable celebrities,’ as well as millions of anon. not “known people” since we can’t mention them all, we’ll say rest in peace to the many whom have shed this mortal coil to ascend to a higher plane of existence where the body will no longer feel sensations that plaque the human mind, but a freedom, the kind that will never be found encased in this delicate shell of flesh and blood.

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

Exclusive Boggles Brown T-Shirts Online

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Browse and bedazzle when you wear the words of our talkative transient.

Greetings Readers,

Now, like never before, we have been waiting for a marketing breakthrough to gain that glimmer of interactivity on it’s way to your wardrobe. It’s here – Boggles Brown multi-colour T-Shirts where you get to write the dialogue for our lovable but lunatic street-sage.

https://www.slated.com/films/736655

Drop by and donate to give the My Name Is Brad docudrama the funding it needs and order a Boggles Brown exclusive hand drawn T-Shirt by local artist Brad James.

Stay Safe and Think of B. Brown When You’re Feeling Down.

– The Crew At The Urban Survivor and My Name Is Brad

Cheektowaga-Omni Launch Fundraiser for Debut Socio-Cultural Movie “My Name Is Brad”

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January 11, 2021: Cheektowaga-Omni, a production, media, and marketing company has today announced its foray into film making with the production of a socially conscious movie, “My Name is Brad”. The company hopes to engage the public and has started fundraising, soliciting support from keen donors and people who value movies with a cultural and socially significant theme.

The prevailing atmosphere in the USA makes it ripe for movies like My Name is Brad to be an eye-opener for a public swayed by bigotry and misinformation. Moreover, homelessness is a growing issue that is affecting many people.

“My Name is Brad” narrates the story of a young middle class suburban white man who struggles through University, only to end up deluded, and living on the streets. He watches his promise die, like so many North American youth today.

Cheektowaga-Omni is a production and media marketing company that was established as a tie up between Cheektowaga Music and Omni creative group Cheektowaga Music was formed by prolific musician, music, entertainment producer and, performer “Little” Herbert in 1986. Cheektowaga-Omni is in the process of reactivating a dormant Analogue TV station in Northern Washington State, with the collaboration of https://audiovisualhire.uk/.

The movie My Name is Brad being produced by Cheektowaga-Omni is in memory of Kelly Thomas, who was killed by members of the Fullerton police dept in 2011. Cheektowaga-Omni has launched fundraising efforts to support the movie and plans are afoot to launch a kick-starter and a web page in support of My name is Brad. Additionally, they are exploring event ticketing options to enhance the film’s reach and impact. For more – click here.

Cheektowaga – Omni media is based in Kelowna BC, with studios located in Abbotsford BC and Vancouver BC.

For more information: See our position on Slated.

Media contact

Dale Corrigan

Cheektowaga – Omni Creative Group

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