It is important for us to begin this book with an understanding of what homelessness is and is not. According to the Canadian Definition of 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. 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 (CHRN, 2012, Canadian Definition of Homelessness).
Understanding homelessness means having a grasp of the extent of the problem. It is estimated that over 235,000 different people are homeless every year in Canada, or 35,000 on any given night (Gaetz et al., 2014). There is no commonly used method for counting and reporting the numbers of people experiencing homelessness, so this is only an estimate —but it is a sound one.