Homelessness Glossary

Homelessness Glossary

Aboriginal Peoples - A blanket term to encompass the diversity of Canada’s Aboriginal population including First Nations, Metis and Inuit.

First Nations – refers to persons who identify as such and who may or may not be registered under that title in the Indian Act. According to the Assembly of First Nations , the First Nations population represents over 50 distinct nations and language groups and is made up of 634 First Nations communities (or ‘reserves’).

Métis – people are descendants of mixed Aboriginal and European ancestry have their own culture, language (Michif), traditional homeland (the Métis Nation Homeland includes Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, parts of Ontario, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and the Northern United States) and sense of nationhood (Métis National Council 201- 3).

Inuit - are descended from the ancient Thule people and have occupied parts of Canada’s northernmost regions thousands of years before European arrival.

ACT Teams (Assertive Community Team) – is a client-centered, recovery-oriented mental health service delivery model that has received substantial empirical support for facilitating community living, psychosocial rehabilitation, and recovery for persons who have the most serious mental illnesses, have severe symptoms and impairments, and have not benefited from traditional out-patient programs. (Reference)

Acuity Scale – best practices approach to right matching of services. The scale can be used by case managers to assess numbers, and severity of issues, for their clients. Alternatively, the scale can be used by management for balancing the time commitment and caseload of an organization overall. (Reference)

Adequate housing – housing that is reported by residents as not requiring any major repairs. Housing that is inadequate may have excessive mold, inadequate heating or water supply, significant damage, etc.

Addictions programs – programs that consists of self-help residential or outpatient treatment facilities, harm reduction programs, individual or group counselling, abstinence-only housing and support from community programs.

Affordable Housing – Any type of housing (rental/home ownership, permanent/temporary, for-profit/non-profit) that costs less than 30% of a household’s pre-tax income.

At-Risk of Homelessness – people who are not homeless, but whose current economic and/or housing situation is precarious or does not meet public health and safety standards. (Reference)

Asset based approaches - include a wide-range of projects and initiatives that promote savings and the acquisition of assets among people with low incomes, including welfare recipient.

Best practice – an intervention, method or technique that has consistently been proven effective through the most rigorous scientific research and has been replicated across several cases or examples.

Busking – a subsistence strategy that refers providing entertainment for money. The activity is considered to be part of informal economy and is commonly associated with homelessness.

Canadian Homelessness Research Network (CHRN) - a coordinating body that brings together researchers to help them coordinate, share and distribute their work and also conducts research of its own.

Capacity – According to a report published by OECD, capacity refers to the ability of people, organizations and society to manage their affairs successfully.

Capacity development - According to a report published by OECD the process to unleash, strengthen, adapt, create, and maintain capacity overtime.

Case Management – a collaborative and client centered approach to service provision for persons experiencing homelessness. In this approach, a case worker assesses the needs of the client (and potentially their families) and when appropriate, arranges coordinates and advocates for delivery and access to a range of programs and services to address the individual’s needs.

Case studies – Detailed examples of particular agencies, programs, systems or activities that highlight success or failure of their implementation, as well as lessons learned.

Child Poverty – According to The Conference Board of Canada, child poverty refers to the proportion of children 17 years and under living in households where disposable income is less than half of the median in a given country.

Chronic disease – a long lasting medical condition that inscan be controlled (but in many instances cannot be cured).

Collaborative - is the term used to describe loosely affiliated networks as well as more formal partnerships between people working across departments, organizations, or sectors. Unlike integration, collaboration does not require formal infrastructure to merge work processes across organizational sites.

Co-location - refers to the practice of housing services in a single location to improve service access and communication/collaboration between service providers.

Community services - any programs delivered through non-profit or faith-based community organizations to assist people experiencing homelessness.

Community based mental health care - encompasses a wide variety of programs and services designed to meet local needs that are delivered primarily by community agencies and sometimes through hospitals or health clinics.

Concurrent Disorders (Dual Diagnosis) - describes a condition in which a person has both a mental illness and a substance use problem.

Coordinated assessment - a standardized approach to assessing a person’s current situation, the acuity of their needs and the services they currently receive and may require in the future, and takes into account the background factors that contribute to risk and resilience, changes in acuity, and the role friends, family, caregivers, community and environmental factors.

Cooperation - refers to expressions of interest and support between organizations.

Coordinated intake - a standardized approach to assessing a person’s current situation, the acuity of their needs and the services they currently receive and may require in the future, and takes into account the background factors that contribute to risk and resilience, changes in acuity, and the role friends, family, caregivers, community and environmental factors.

Core housing need – when a household spends more than 30% of its pre-tax income on housing costs.

Discharge planning - preparing someone to move from an institutional setting (child welfare system, criminal justice system, hospital etc) into a non-institutional setting either independently or with certain supports in place.

Discrimination - refers to intentional or unintentional actions that negatively affect people, based on biases and prejudices.

Early intervention strategies – refers to strategies designed to work quickly to support individuals and families to either retain their housing, or to use rapid rehousing strategies.

Emergency Response – providing emergency supports like shelter, food and day programs while someone is homeless.

Emergency Sheltered – staying in overnight emergency shelters designed for people who are homeless.

Emerging practice – interventions that are new, innovative and hold promise based on some level of evidence of effectiveness or change that is not research-based and/or sufficient to be deemed a ‘promising’ or ‘best’ practice.

Empowerment evaluation – refers to the application of evaluation techniques in facilitating self-determination.

Enforcement - interventions that seek to strengthen community safety by responding to the crimes and community disorder issues associated with the importing, manufacturing, cultivating, distributing, possessing and using legal and illegal substances.

Eviction prevention – refers to any strategy or program, usually geared at renters that is designed to keep individuals and families in their home and that helps them avoid entering into homelessness.

Executive Director (ED) – also known as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in larger organizations, this title refers to the most senior staff position within an organization.

Family reconnection (and reunification) - client-driven case-management approach that seeks to identify and nurture opportunities to strengthen relationships and resolve conflicts between young people who leave home and their caregivers.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) - is an umbrella term used to describe the range of disabilities and diagnoses that result from drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

Follow-Up Support Workers (FSW) – this position refers to an individual who helps an already housed client maintain their housing and connects the client with resources and services in the community.

Grey literature - refers to research or reports produced and published by government and by community-based agencies (as opposed to those published in an academic journal).

Hard skills – refers to the learning of marketable skills (such as carpentry, computer repair, restaurant work) that increase the employability of people wanting to get jobs.

Harm Reduction – referrers to policies, programs and practices aimed at reducing the risks and negative effects associated with substance use and addictive behaviors for the individual, the community and society as a whole.

HART (Homelessness Assets and Risk Tools) – a tool used to measure risk of homelessness.

Health Promotion – According to World Health Organization, health promotion is defined as the process of enabling people to increase control over and to improve their health.

Hidden homelessness – refers specifically to persons who live temporarily with others without the guarantee of continued residency or immediate prospects for accessing permanent housing.

Homelessness – Homelessness describes the situation of an individual or family without stable, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it. Most people do not choose to be homeless, and the experience is generally negative, unpleasant, stressful and distressing.

Homecare and continuing care - refers to a wide range of inpatient and outpatient services that may be offered in the home, in the community or in a hospital or medical setting.

Horizontal Integration – describes a centralized approach to planning, management and service delivery across a network of organizations/institutions within a sector or between sectors.

Housing accommodation and supports – refers to the provision of housing and ongoing supports as a means of moving people out of homelessness.

Housing First – a recovery-oriented approach to ending homelessness that centers on quickly moving people experiencing homelessness into independent and permanent housing followed by provision of additional supports and services as needed.

Housing exclusion - 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.

Housing Managers (General Managers) – refers to the individual in charge of the a housing project or building(s).

Housing policy - refers to the actions of government, including legislation and program delivery, which have a direct or indirect impact on housing supply and availability, housing standards and urban planning.

Housing workers - individuals employed – usually by community agencies/non-profits but sometimes working directly for a specific level of government – who are able to assist individuals in finding housing and supporting them with the related services that are part of that process.

ICM (Integrated Case Management) Teams – “refers to a team approach taken to co-ordinate various services for a specific child and/or families through a cohesive and sensible plan. The team should include all service providers who have a role in implementing the plan, and whenever possible, the child or youth's family” (Reference).

Individual and Relational Factors – apply to the personal circumstances of a homeless person, and may include: traumatic events, personal crisis, mental health and addictions challenges which can be both a cause and consequence of homelessness and physical health problems or disabilities. Relational problems can include family violence and abuse, addictions, and mental health problems of other family members and extreme poverty.

Infectious disease - illnesses caused by viruses or bacteria that are spread between people or from animals to people. Researchers on homelessness and infectious disease often focus their investigation on Hepatitis A, B and C, tuberculosis, HIV/ AIDS and a range of sexually transmitted infections.

Informal Economy - economic activities that fall outside the formal labor market. Generally, refers to production, distribution and consumption of goods and services that are not accounted for in formal measurements of the economy.

Integration – Please see System integration.

Life skills – these are the skills that are essential for living independently and includes skills such as managing money, shopping, cooking, etc.

LGBTQ2 –The acronym stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, and 2-spirited persons.

Meaningful engagement - has a few different meanings for work with homeless persons. This type of engagement includes involving homeless persons in community-based research, creating participatory evaluations or providing supports and activities that foster growth, independence and full participation in society.

Measuring integration – refers to efforts in assessing the degree to which clients are receiving appropriately integrated services and/or used to improve coordination efforts.

Motivational Interviewing – an evidence based practice in working with clients that has proven to be successful. In this approach, the service provider allows the client to direct the change rather than telling the client what they need to do. This approach is about having a conversation about change.

NYIMBY (Not In My Backyard) – describes the phenomenon in which residents of a neighborhood designate a new development (e.g. shelter, affordable housing, group home) or change in occupancy of an existing development as inappropriate or unwanted for their local area.

Street outreach – an incredibly important work that involves moving outside the walls of the agency to engage people experiencing homelessness who may be disconnected and alienated not only from mainstream services and supports, but from the services targeting homeless persons as well.

Outreach programs – services and programs involved in bringing services directly to where people are rather that requiring someone to go into an agency.

Palliative care - services provided to those in the end stages of their life either from old age or serious illness.

Pandemic – a sudden and in most cases severe outbreak of a disease or virus that spreads across regions and around the globe.

Pandemic planning – a form of disaster management, pandemic planning is an attempt to prepare and coordinate systems, resources and communications in an effort to ameliorate the impact of the spread of virulent disease.

Panhandling – a subsistence strategy that refers to begging for money, food and other items. The activity is considered to be part of informal economy and is commonly associated with homelessness.

Participatory evaluation – refers to an evaluation process whereby the people who are being studied or who make up the users of the project are included in development, design and other stages of the evaluation.

Permanent Supportive/Supported Housing – combines rental or housing assistance with individualized flexible and voluntary support services for people with high needs related to physical or mental health, development disabilities and substance use. It is one option to house chronically homeless individuals with high acuity.

Point In Time (PIT) counts - provide a “snapshot” of the number of people experiencing homelessness on a specific date (usually one day, occasionally up to a week) in a community.

Poverty – Currently, there is a lack of international consensus on the definition of poverty. In Canada, there is no officially adopted and employed definition of poverty. Due to this shortcoming, Statistics Canada employs Low-Income Cut-Off (LIC) as a tool in identifying individuals and families who are substantially worse off than the average.

Prevalence counts - provide an alternative to the PIT counts and are often used in some small and rural communities. They determine how many people were homeless over a set period in time.

Prevention - refers to one of the main strategies in addressing homelessness that aims to stop people from becoming homeless in the first place.

Primary prevention – refers to working upstream to reduce risks of homelessness for individuals and families and typically involves universal interventions directed at whole communities.

Program fidelity evaluation - extent to which delivery of an intervention adheres to the protocols and program model originally developed.

Project coordinator – this position generally holds responsibility for a specific program, project, or series of programs and projects with an organization. The position is called Program Manager is some organizations.

Program manager – this position generally holds responsibility for a specific program, project, or series of programs and projects with an organization. Occasionally this position is of a more senior level than a Project Coordinator position. The two titles are used interchangeably in some organizations.

Promising practice – an intervention for which there is sufficient evidence to claim that the practice is proven effective at achieving a specific aim or outcome consistent with the goal and objectives of the activity or program, but is not yet strongly documented enough to become a best practice.

Provisionally Accommodated - referring to those whose accommodation is temporary or lacks security of tenure.

Racialized Communities (Visible Minority) – encompasses all people that are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour. Aboriginal peoples in Canada are sometimes excluded from this definition, but should not be.

Rapid Re-Housing – an approach to housing that is similar to Housing First as it has no “readiness requirement”, however, this approach is best suited for people experiencing episodic and transitional homelessness.

Rental supplement program – refers to rent-geared-to-income housing with private landlord. Rent supplements are subsidies paid by government to private landlords who are part of this program.

Respite accommodation – refers to services that provide young people with emergency supports as an alternative to the shelter system.

Scattered Site Housing – Housing that is provided at individual locations, usually in the private rental market, as opposed to an affordable housing building or project.

Secondary prevention – typically refers to strategies that target people who are clearly at risk of, or who have recently become homeless and can include system prevention.

Self-care – the process of maintaining and promoting one’s health, wellbeing and development to meet the everyday challenges and stressors.

Service Coordination - term used to describe inter- or intra-organizational efforts to support individuals across a range of services.

Severe housing needs – when a household spends more than 50% of its pre-tax income on housing costs.

Severe mental illness - defined as a serious and persistent mental or emotional disorder (e.g. schizophrenia, mood-disorders, schizo-affective disorders) that interrupts people’s abilities to carry out a range of daily life activities such as self-care, interpersonal relationships, maintaining housing, and employment or school.

Sex trade - It is broad and encompasses a variety of activities including escort services, street-level sex workers, pornography, exotic dancing, massage, internet work, phone sex operators and third-party support (drivers, managers, bartenders etc.).

Shelter diversion – a strategy targeting homeless youth that refers to the provision of alternative temporary housing options, supports and interventions designed to reduces the young people reliance on emergency shelter system.

Shelter inventories - counts the number of beds available in a shelter system (which may or may not include Violence Against Women shelters) and determines what percentage of these beds are occupied on a given night.

Shelter workers (Residential Counsellor) – refers to individuals working in a shelter who provide support to the residents to help maintain order in the shelter and to help the residents achieve success in transitioning to housing.

Social enterprise - revenue-generating businesses but they have a focus on creating socially related good.

Social Housing – any housing that is funded/subsidized by a level of government.

Soft skills – refers the range of skills that help someone obtain and maintain employment such as resume preparation and job search. It also refers to “life skills” training such as shopping, cooking and managing money.

Squeegeeing - a subsistence strategy that refers washing car windshields for money. The activity is considered to be part of informal economy and is commonly associated with homelessness.

Structural Factors – are economic and societal issues that affect opportunities and social environments for individuals.

Substance use - refers to all types of drug and alcohol use.

Substance use prevention - interventions that seek to delay the onset of substance use, or to avoid substance use problems before they occur.

Suitable housing - housing has enough bedrooms for the size and composition of the resident household, according to National Occupancy Standard (NOS) requirements.

Support workers (SW) – are usually assigned individual clients to monitor and conduct case management with in order to place clients into housing.

System of care - strengths-based, culturally relevant, participatory framework for working with children and families.

System Integration – formalized coordinated approach to planning, service delivery, and management. An integrated system is an intentional, coordinated, suite of services that is centrally funded and managed. Systems integration aims to align services to avoid duplication, improve information-sharing, increase efficiency (e.g., reduce wait-times), and provide a seamless care experience for individuals and families.

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.

System prevention – refers to working with mainstream institutions to stop the flow of individuals from mental health care, child protection and corrections into homelessness.

Tertiary prevention – refers to strategies intended to slow the progression of and treat a condition. It also refers to rehabilitation efforts to reduce the recurrence of the problem.

Transitional housing – refers to supportive, yet temporary type of accommodation that is meant to bridge the gap from homelessness to permanent housing by offering structure, supervision, support, life skills, education, etc.

Trauma - an event outside the range of usual human experiences that would be markedly distressing to almost anyone and cause victimization.

Unsheltered – living on the streets or in places not intended for human habitation.

Vertical Integration - describes a centralized approach to planning, management, and service delivery within a single organizational context.

Vulnerability Index – an index used to determine mortality risk.

Wrap-around – refers to a service delivery model that is a team-based, collaborative case management approach.

Youth homelessness – Youth homelessness refers to young people between the ages of 13 and 24 who are living independently of parents and/or caregivers, and importantly, lack many of the social supports deemed necessary for the transition from childhood to adulthood.