What is Homelessness?
Homelessness, simply defined, is the absence of a place to live.
Approximately 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness each year. The number of homeless people, and the length of time they spend homeless, continues to rise.
Homelessness is not a choice. In reality, anyone can become homeless. Although the root cause is poverty, underlying issues include:
- poor physical or mental health
- violence or abuse in the home
- lack of employment or income
- a shortage of affordable housing
Who Experiences Homelessness?
Canada’s homeless population is incredibly diverse. The individuals we see on the streets represent less than 20% of the homeless population. As many as 50,000 people make up the “hidden” homeless – individuals who temporarily stay with family or friends because they have nowhere else to go.
Families with children are the fastest growing homeless demographic. That number is only expected to grow, as over 10% of Canadian families currently live below the low income cut-off—unable to meet even the most basic needs.
Canada is also witnessing a staggering rise in homeless youth. In the past 25 years, there has been a 450% increase in the number of youth shelter beds in Toronto. Many of these young people are fleeing dangerous situations, with 61% of homeless youth reporting being either physically or sexually abused by an adult at some point in their lives. Studies show that youth who stay on the street for two years or more are less likely to leave—making an intervention within the first two years key to solving the problem.