Canadian Homelessness Will End If All Levels of Government Collaborate

The following video presents The State of Homelessness in Canada, 2013:

The State of Homelessness in Canada: 2013 is the first extensive Canadian report card on homelessness. This report examines what we know about homelessness, the historical, social and economic context in which it has emerged, demographic features of the problem, and potential solutions. The State of Homelessness provides a starting point to inform the development of a consistent, evidence-based approach towards ending homelessness.

Our goal in developing this report was to both assess the breadth of the problem and to develop a methodology for national measurement. We believe that homelessness is not a given and that not just reducing, but ending, the crisis is achievable.

The information for the State of Homelessness in Canada report has been compiled by the Canadian Homelessness Research Network (Homeless Hub) and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness from the best available research to date. Because we lack strong data on homelessness in Canada, our estimates of the scale of the problem are just that: an estimate, but they represent an important starting point. As the first national report card on homelessness, the evaluation of the response to homelessness by Canada’s homeless sector provides an important means of benchmarking progress toward ending homelessness.

For more on this, see:

The Canadian Homelessness Research Network, led by York University, created the Canadian Definition of Homelessness as follows.

The definition includes, but is not limited to, the following:

Homelessness describes the situation of an individual or family without stable, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it. It is the result of systemic or societal barriers, a lack of affordable and appropriate housing, the individual/household’s financial, mental, cognitive, behavioural or physical challenges, and/or racism and discrimination. Most people do not choose to be homeless, and the experience is generally negative, unpleasant, stressful and distressing.

Homelessness describes a range of housing and shelter circumstances, with people being without any shelter at one end, and being insecurely housed at the other. That is, homelessness encompasses a range of physical living situations, organized here in a typology that includes 1) Unsheltered, or absolutely homeless and living on the streets or in places not intended for human habitation; 2) Emergency Sheltered, including those staying in overnight shelters for people who are homeless, as well as shelters for those impacted by family violence; 3) Provisionally Accommodated, referring to those whose accommodation is temporary or lacks security of tenure, and finally, 4) At Risk of Homelessness, referring to people who are not homeless, but whose current economic and/or housing situation is precarious or does not meet public health and safety standards. It should be noted that for many people homelessness is not a static state but rather a fluid experience, where one’s shelter circumstances and options may shift and change quite dramatically and with frequency.

The problem of homelessness and housing exclusion refers to the failure of society to ensure that adequate systems, funding and support are in place so that all people, even in crisis situations, have access to housing. The goal of ending homelessness is to ensure housing stability, which means people have a fixed address and housing that is appropriate (affordable, safe, adequately maintained, accessible and suitable in size), and includes required services as needed (supportive), in addition to income and supports.

Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (2012) Canadian Definition of Homelessness.
Homeless Hub:  (pdf)

Here is another definition of Canadian homelessnes.

Homelessness is an extreme form of poverty and social exclusion. Simply put, people who are homeless do not have safe, affordable, appropriate, permanent housing to which they can return whenever they choose. This includes people who are absolutely homeless and are living on the streets or in shelters, the ‘hidden homeless’ who are staying with friends, relatives or in institutional settings, and those ‘at risk’ of homelessness, whose current economic and housing situation is precarious.

Homelessness can result from a combination of individual and structural factors. Individual factors that can contribute to homelessness include: deep poverty, mental or physical illness, addiction, trauma, abuse, lack of education and a lack of supportive relationships.

Structural causes of homelessness are social and economic in nature, and are often outside the control of the individual or family concerned. These may include:

  • poverty;
  • a lack of affordable housing;
  • housing policies;
  • the structure and administration of government support; and
  • wider policy developments, such as the closure of  psychiatric hospitals.

The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness

Dignity for All, a campaign between Citizens for Public Justice and Canada Without Poverty, reveals that homelessness will end if all levels of government (including First Nations, Métis governments, and Inuit Land Claim Organizations) collaborate to prevent homelessness.

“The Special Rapporteur calls for Canada to adopt a comprehensive and coordinated national housing policy based on indivisibility of human rights and the protection of the most vulnerable. This national strategy should include measurable goals and timetables, consultation and collaboration with affected communities, complaints procedures, and transparent accountability mechanisms.30
Miloon Kothari, Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Report: Mission to Canada October 2007. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

This growing crisis, Housing and Homelessness (March 2011), is delineated in Dignity for All’s recently released report, A National Anti-Poverty Plan for Canada, as follows.

Access to safe, affordable, and adequate housing is fundamental for survival, health, social inclusion, and participation in society. For too many people in Canada, it is a scramble every night to find a safe place to spend the night. Many more people are at serious risk of homelessness because of the high cost of housing, meagre stock of affordable units, inadequate incomes, discrimination, and family violence and illness. Support services such as mental health facilities or child welfare agencies can actually create homelessness when programs discharge people with no place to go.

Homelessness and inadequate housing are strongly linked to a range of negative health outcomes, stress, family breakdown, and increased mortality. These negative outcomes contribute to the costs of healthcare and social services as well as economic participation, productivity, and competitiveness.

The people most at risk of living on the streets, in shelters, or in inadequate housing are those most at risk of living in poverty: First Nation, Métis, and Inuit, recent immigrants, persons with disabilities and chronic illnesses, lone-parent families and single seniors, families on social assistance, and the working poor. Housing on many First Nations, Inuit, and Métis reserves, for instance, is in deplorable condition, characterized by the presence of mould, poor heating, contaminated water, and overcrowding. Housing conditions are not much better off-reserve with 20% or more Aboriginal people living in core housing need.31

Since the 1980s, the erosion of access to affordable housing, combined with the erosion of income support programs and inadequate supports for housing, particularly for those with psycho-social and physical disabilities, has created high levels of homelessness and housing insecurity in many Canadian communities.

Federal investment in affordable and social housing has fallen considerably short of demand. Indeed, taking inflation and population growth into account, funding levels have been on the decline for more than two decades. And funding is scheduled to continue to drop sharply as the federal government ‘steps out’ of its remaining affordable housing commitments. The $1.7 billion in annual federal funding for Canada’s 600,000 social housing units “has already started to expire” putting more than 200,000 units – or one-third of Canada’s stock of social housing – at risk.33

The government has just renewed the Homeless Partnering Strategy (at $113 million per year) and Investment in Affordable Housing program (at $253 million per year) – until 2019. The latter is cost-shared with the provinces and territories, bringing the potential value of this funding stream up to $506 million, still only about one-quarter of what is needed annually, according to housing experts, to expand and upgrade the stock of affordable housing in Canada.34

An investment of nearly $1 billion dollars is needed to expand and repair housing on reserves. According to an evaluation for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, by 2034, there will be a housing shortfall of 130,197 units. An additional 11,855 units will be required to replace existing units, and approximately 10,000 units will need major repairs.35

The hodgepodge of programmatic, policy, and funding decisions related to housing, taken without regard for the intersections between income support programs and housing, has created and sustained homelessness and resulted in an insecure housing sector for the most vulnerable populations.

The Dignity for All Campaign Calls on the Federal Government:

  1. To develop, in collaboration with all levels of government (including First Nations, Métis governments, and Inuit Land Claim Organizations), key community stakeholders, and individuals living in precarious housing situations, a comprehensive National Strategy on Housing and Homelessness. In keeping with the United Nations recommendations to Canada on a number of occasions, the strategy should include:
    • a. Recognition of the right to adequate housing as found in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
    • b. Measureable goals and timelines for implementing a new national housing and homelessness strategy and provisions for public monitoring and reporting on the strategy’s performance and impact;
    • c. Measures to address the needs of specific marginalized populations;
    • d. Appropriate supporting policies, programs, and legislation; and
    • e. Dedicated federal funding of not less than $2 billion per year in new money (to be matched by the provinces and territories) to implement housing solutions that meet the national strategy targets.
  2. To develop, adopt, and implement national legislation that clearly establishes the right to secure, adequate, and affordable housing (similar to the 2013 proposed legislation, Bill C-400) and the federal mandate to move forward in collaboration with its partners to implement, monitor, and evaluate a national housing and homeless strategy.
  3. To collaborate with Inuit Land Claim Organizations, First Nations, and Métis governments to develop a comprehensive Aboriginal Housing Strategy, setting out measureable goals and timelines as well as mechanisms to coordinate implementation and to track and evaluate progress. The new strategy should cover all aspects of established housing programming (on and off-reserve) as well as investments in new social housing, more affordable housing, and options for individual home ownership.

Housing and Homelessness (March 2011) in A National Anti-Poverty Plan for Canada.
Dignity for All:

Currently, there is no consistent definition of homelessness or methods for counting the number of people experiencing homelessness in the province of Ontario.

The Ontario government’s new Poverty Reduction Strategy is focused on achieving better outcomes for Ontarians living in poverty such as employment opportunities, income supports, education and housing.

On 26 January 2015, the Government of Ontario established an Expert Advisory Panel on Homelessness.

As part of this strategy, Ontario set a long-term goal to end homelessness. The province will work with this new panel to get practical advice on how to best approach this goal, beginning with ways to define and measure homelessness.

Here is a report of some social groups’ responses to Ontario taking steps to address homelessness at /03/liberals_promise_to_end_homelessness_some_day.html .

The State of Homelessness in Canada infographic: Image extracted from video above
The State of Homelessness in Canada infographic: Image extracted from video above


Ontario Appoints Panel to Look at Ending Long-term Homelessness

Province Taking Steps to Address Homelessness

Treasury Board Secretariat

Ontario is taking an important step to help break the cycle of poverty by establishing an Expert Advisory Panel on Homelessness.

The government’s new Poverty Reduction Strategy is focused on achieving better outcomes for Ontarians living in poverty such as employment opportunities, income supports, education and housing. As part of this strategy, Ontario set a bold long-term goal to end homelessness. The province will work with this new panel to get practical advice on how to best approach this goal, beginning with ways to define and measure homelessness.

The panel members have a wide range of expertise and backgrounds which will ensure the recommendations reflect the challenges of homelessness in different communities across the province. The province will develop a plan of action to end homelessness based on the panel’s recommendations and will report on progress annually.

Breaking the cycle of poverty and giving every Ontarian the tools they need to succeed is part of the government’s economic plan for Ontario. The four-part plan is building Ontario up by investing in people’s talents and skills, building new public infrastructure like roads and transit, creating a dynamic, supportive business climate on a foundation of fiscal responsibility, and building a secure savings plan so everyone can afford to retire.

Quick Facts

  • Currently, there is no consistent definition of homelessness or methods for counting the number of people experiencing homelessness in Ontario.
  • The new Expert Advisory Panel on Homelessness is composed of 13 members with diverse knowledge and expertise within the sector.
  • The panel will be jointly chaired by Ted McMeekin, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and Deb Matthews, Deputy Premier, President of Treasury Board and Minister Responsible for the Poverty Reduction Strategy.
  • Since 2003, Ontario’s funding commitment of over $4 billion is the largest affordable housing and homelessness program investment in the province’s history.

Background Information

Additional Resources


“This new panel will provide invaluable advice and expertise on tackling our bold long-term goal to reduce and ultimately end homelessness in this province. A home affords a stable foundation that can help people rise out of poverty.”
Ted McMeekin
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing

“Our goal to end homelessness will help us strengthen our province and our economy. When people have a place to call home, they are healthier, more ready for employment and better able to contribute to their communities. This panel will help us define the problem and determine how to improve the lives of vulnerable Ontarians.”
Deb Matthews
Deputy Premier, President of Treasury Board and Minister Responsible for the Poverty Reduction Strategy


L’Ontario constitue un comité pour mettre fin à l’itinérance à long terme

La province prend des mesures pour contrer l’itinérance

26 janvier 2015 15h23
Secrétariat du Conseil du Trésor

En mettant sur pied le Comité consultatif d’experts sur l’itinérance, l’Ontario a pris une mesure importante pour briser le cycle de la pauvreté.

La nouvelle Stratégie de réduction de la pauvreté du gouvernement se concentre sur l’amélioration de la situation des Ontariennes et Ontariens vivant dans la pauvreté en ce qui a trait aux possibilités d’emploi, à l’aide au revenu, à l’éducation et au logement. Dans le cadre de cette stratégie, l’Ontario s’est donné l’objectif à long terme audacieux de mettre fin à l’itinérance. La province collaborera avec ce nouveau comité pour obtenir des conseils pratiques sur la meilleure façon d’aborder cet objectif, la première étape étant la détermination de manières de définir et de mesurer l’itinérance.

Les membres du comité possèdent cumulativement une vaste expérience et proviennent d’horizons variés, ce qui garantira que les recommandations reflètent les difficultés que pose l’itinérance dans les différentes communautés ontariennes. La province élaborera un plan d’action pour mettre fin à l’itinérance à partir des recommandations du comité et produira annuellement des rapports sur les progrès.

La rupture du cycle de la pauvreté en donnant à chaque Ontarien les outils nécessaires pour réussir fait partie du plan économique mis en place par le gouvernement de l’Ontario. Ce plan à quatre volets vise à renforcer la province en investissant dans les talents et les compétences de la population, en construisant de nouvelles infrastructures publiques telles que des routes et des infrastructures de transport en commun, en créant un climat d’affaires dynamique et attrayant fondé sur la responsabilité financière, et en établissant un plan d’épargne sûr afin que chacun puisse se permettre de prendre sa retraite.

Faits en bref

  • Il n’existe pas pour l’instant de définition uniforme de l’itinérance ou de méthodologie permettant de quantifier le nombre de personnes sans abri en Ontario.
  • Le nouveau Comité consultatif d’experts sur l’itinérance est composé de 13 membres possédant des connaissances et des expertises diverses dans le domaine.
  • Le comité sera coprésidé par Ted McMeekin, ministre des Affaires municipales et du Logement, et Deb Matthews, vice-première ministre, présidente du Conseil du Trésor et ministre responsable de la Stratégie de réduction de la pauvreté.
  • Depuis 2003, l’investissement de plus de 4 milliards de dollars par le gouvernement de l’Ontario est le plus gros investissement pour des programmes de logement abordable et de lutte contre l’itinérance de l’histoire de la province.

Document d’information

Ressources additionnelles


« Ce nouveau comité nous fournira une expertise et des conseils précieux pour nous attaquer à notre audacieux objectif à long terme de réduire l’itinérance dans la province et ultimement d’y mettre fin. Un logement procure une fondation stable qui peut aider les gens à sortir de la pauvreté. »
Ted McMeekin
Ministre des Affaires municipales et du Logement

« Notre objectif de mettre fin à l’itinérance nous aidera à renforcer notre province et notre économie. Une personne qui a un domicile est en meilleure santé, plus prête à travailler et plus à même de contribuer à sa communauté. Ce comité nous aidera à définir le problème et à trouver des façons d’améliorer la vie des Ontariennes et Ontariens vulnérables. »
Deb Matthews
Vice-première ministre, présidente du Conseil du Trésor et ministre responsable de la Stratégie de réduction de la pauvreté

The following video presents Homelessness in Canada:

  • References:
    • J. David Hulchanski, Philippa Campsie, Shirley B.Y. Chau, Stephen W. Hwang, Emily Paradis.
    • Homelessness: What’s in a Word? In: Hulchanski, J. David; Campsie, Philippa; Chau, Shirley; Hwang, Stephen; Paradis, Emily (eds.) Finding Home: Policy Options for Addressing Homelessness in Canada (e-book), Introduction. Toronto: Cities Centre, University of Toronto.


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