Who are we?
The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness is a non-profit, non-partisan research institute that is committed to conducting and mobilizing research so as to contribute to solutions to homelessness. We work together as a group of researchers, service providers, policy and decision makers, people with lived experience of homelessness as well as graduate and undergraduate students from across Canada with a passion for social justice issues and a desire to solve homelessness in our communities.
How did we get started?
Back in 2005 at the first ever research conference on homelessness in Canada (York University), we consulted with those who attended and decided there was a need to address the gap between research, policy and practice. In 2008, the Canadian Homelessness Research Network (CHRN) was established. Its goal was to formally bring together researchers, governments, communities and people with lived experience of homelessness from across Canada in order to better mobilize research and increase its impact on policy and practice. In other words, this group wanted to take research about homelessness out of the ivory tower and put it into the hands of decision makers, service providers, communities, and the general public. Research can and should have an impact on solutions to homelessness.
The CHRN quickly established a national (and international) reputation for our networking and knowledge mobilization work. The Homeless Hub, the world’s largest repository of homelessness research, put us on the map!
Over the past several years, the CHRN has contributed to the Canadian dialogue and enhanced solutions to homelessness. Our MO is to take evidence-based research, present it in clear language and with practical applications and recommendations.
In 2012, CHRN members knew that still more was needed. The group decided to establish the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH).
What do we do?
The COH takes the work of the CHRN an important step further with an ambitious program of research that includes local, provincial and national monitoring activities, as well as original research that not only contributes to the scholarship on homelessness, but enhances the impact of research on solutions to homelessness by establishing an evidence base and knowledge mobilization strategy.
Some of our seminal pieces of work over the years include:
- The Canadian Definition of Homelessness and typology are intended to improve understanding, measurement and responses to homelessness in Canada by providing a common ‘language’ for addressing this complex problem;
- A framework and toolkit reflecting on the possibilities of adapting and improving on the Foyer model for Canada;
- The first book to examine how Housing First has been applied in Canada;
- A book comprised of the best Canadian research and policy analysis to better inform the efforts of those working to address youth homelessness;
- The first extensive Canadian report card on homelessness, done in partnership with the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.
- A Housing First framework adapted to the needs of youth who experience, or are at risk of, homelessness;
- A report that documents the criminalization of homelessness in Toronto by exploring the relationship between homeless persons – in particular, street youth - and law enforcement officials.
- Solutions-focused content that highlight evidence-based interventions and initiatives that can contribute to ending homelessness.
What are our current areas of focus?
- Exploring Effective “Systems Responses” to Homelessness
- Understanding and Facilitating the Implementation of Effective Models of Housing and Support
- Addressing Aboriginal Homelessness in Canada
- Developing a Framework for Homelessness Prevention
- Identifying Effective Responses to Youth Homelessness
- Understanding the Legal and Justice Issues Experienced by People who are Homeless
- Measuring Progress towards Ending Homelessness
- Advancing Knowledge Mobilization and Research Impact strategies in the Homelessness Sector
As the project evolves, Research Priority Areas may be added or removed based on changing policy/practice climates.
How can you get involved?
The COH is open to individuals, researchers, advocates, service providers, community organizations and government officials interested in and/or involved in issues related to homelessness, and who agree to support our principles and mission.
You can become a Member of the COH by signing up at this link.
If you’re interested in becoming one of the COH’s Partner Organizations, apply in writing (email) to the Project Manager of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, identifying your organization’s name, full contact information, what your mandate is and a justification for affiliation with the COH.
If you’re interested in becoming an affiliated researcher, apply in writing (email) to the Project Manager of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, identifying who you are, your organizational affiliation, full contact information, and justification for affiliation with the COH.
 The COH is composed of 28 academics (emerging and senior scholars) from universities across Canada, 28 partner organizations (including, service providers, national organizations, municipal and provincial governments, and international players), people with lived experience of homelessness, as well as one or two handfuls of students at any given time.