According to the Canadian Definition of Homelessness, the ‘hidden homelessness’ population falls under the category of ‘provisionally accommodated’. It refers specifically to people who live “temporarily with others but without guarantee of continued residency or immediate prospects for accessing permanent housing.” Often known as ‘couch surfing’ this describes people are staying with relatives, friends, neighbours or strangers because they have no other option. They generally are not paying rent, it is not a sustainable, long-term living arrangement but they do not have the ability to secure their own permanent housing immediately or in the near future. This population is considered to be ‘hidden’ because they usually do not access homeless supports and services even though they are improperly or inadequately housed. Because they do not access services, they do not show up on standard statistics regarding homelessness.
In the State of Homelessness in Canada: 2013 an attempt was made to estimate the number of people who fall into this category. The report states: “One Canadian study in Vancouver estimated 3.5 people were considered to be homeless for every one who was homeless. While the methodology of this study is sound, it was conducted in only one city, and the difference between cities, their infrastructure to support homelessness and their homeless population are quite profound. Applied nationally with a more conservative 3:1 ration, as many as 50,000 people could be estimated to be hidden homeless on any given night in Canada.”