Calgary Homeless Foundation
October 27, 2016

Poverty is one of the pathways that can lead individuals and families to experience homelessness. A loss of stable housing, for those struggling to pay for basic necessities, can be as close as one paycheck, illness or accident away. Additionally, the rising cost of living, the growth of precarious low wage labour met with soaring housing costs, and low rates of welfare support are all contributing factors to a vulnerable situation. Although Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI), a form of basic income, cannot account as a panacea to preventing homelessness, it can offer an increased cushion of security in times of financial strain. This blog post, which we are republishing from the Calgary Homeless Foundation, looked at some important considerations for the GAI conversation.

The possibility of implementing a Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI) is currently one of the hottest topics in Canadian social policy. It gained momentum earlier this year when the Ontario government announced it would undertake a pilot study of the GAI. And in June, the Ontario government announced that former Canadian Senator Hugh Segal will advise them on the “design and implementation” of the pilot. A discussion paper he has authored is expected to be made public this fall, and three months of consultations will start soon in Ontario.

The main idea behind a GAI is to give every adult in Canada a fixed amount of money with few if any conditions and to do away with several other types of income assistance programs (especially social assistance).  GAI image

Here are 10 things to know about Canada’s GAI debate:

  1. The various proposed GAI schemes have multiple names. The following terms are often used interchangeably: basic income, guaranteed annual income, negative income tax, guaranteed livable income, guaranteed adequate income, social dividend, territorial dividend, state bonus, demogrant, assured annual income and citizen’s wage. Each comes with slightly different connotations and different ‘camps’ of advocates have their own reasons for favouring one term over the other. As of 2009, the most used term in English Canada was the Guaranteed Annual Income; though more recently ‘basic income’ has gained momentum and is the term currently used by the Ontario government.

  2. There’s already been a Canadian pilot study done on the GAI. From 1974 until 1979, a big GAI study was done in Manitoba known as the MINCOME experiment. Successful outcomes from this study (including evidence that the GAI demonstrated notable health improvement among recipients, without reducing labour supply very much) are often cited in support of a broader adoption of a GAI across Canada.

  3. It’s not clear who would get the GAI or how much of it they’d get to keep. Some GAI advocates say a well-designed GAI would be ‘phased out’ as an individual’s income rises—i.e. funds paid to individuals who already make more than the GAI would be taxed back. What’s more, some GAI proposals in the past have excluded young single people. Some advocates also believe that different age groups should receive different benefit amounts. Some believe that immigrants should be excluded from such a scheme until such time that they become full-fledged citizens.  But other advocates think the GAI should go to everybody and that everybody should be able to keep the full amount. 

  4. Many proponents of the GAI believe it would result in lower administrative costs. One argument in favour of the GAI is that it would result in reduced need for administrative staff. For example, in some Ontario jurisdictions, more than 30% of the total costs of social assistance are attributable to administrative costs.  By contrast, my colleague John Stapleton estimates that administrative costs for a benefit where eligibility is determined via the tax system account for just 2-3% of the benefit. But remember:  “lower administrative costs” would likely translate into job losses—specifically, the loss of relatively well-paying jobs currently held overwhelmingly by women. Across Canada, more than three-quarters of community and social service workers are women.

  5. The idea of a GAI has support on both the left and right of the political spectrum. Those on the left tend to believe that doing away with other programs will reduce stigma (e.g. the sometimes humiliating experience of having to answer intrusive questions by a welfare worker) and achieve adequacy. Those on the right of the political spectrum like the fact that the GAI might reduce work disincentives currently in place with means-tested programs (e.g. earned income being ‘clawed back’ for social assistance recipients). Those on the right also like the fact a GAI could result in ‘smaller government’—i.e. less regulation pertaining to existing programs. (For more on the GAI’s broad political appeal, see this 1989 article, as well as this more recent piece by John Clarke.)

  6. One reason the GAI has support on both the left and right is that advocates on each side of the spectrum appear to have different ideas as to how generous the GAI would be. Many on the left envisage it as being equivalent to Statistics Canada’s low income measure. As you can see from this table, that would be about $20,000 for a one-income household, $30,00 for a two-person household and $40,000 for a four-person household. Many on the right, by contrast, believe the GAI should be equivalent to current social assistance benefit levels.  In Alberta, a ‘single employable’ adult on social assistance receives about $8,000 a year. (For more on social assistance benefit levels across Canada, see this report.)

  7. Not all proponents of a GAI agree on its desired outcomes. Depending on who you ask, the GAI appears to have at least a dozen possible desired outcomes: Is the desired outcome to reduce work disincentives? Is it to reduce stigma? Is it to reduce poverty? Is it to reduce income inequality? Is it to reduce wealth inequality? Is it to increase the generosity of benefits for those currently receiving social assistance? Is it to reduce food insecurity? Is it to improve health outcomes? Is it to improve educational outcomes?  Is it to increase gender equality? Is it to increase literacy levels? Is it to decrease criminal activity? Is it all of the above?

  8. Like any social policy initiative, a GAI could have unintended consequences. Specifically, a GAI—particularly one that’s more generous—could potentially create work disincentives of its own. To put it crudely, if the GAI were to make life ‘more comfortable’ for persons not working (and if it were to reduce the stigma currently associated with social assistance) it’s possible that some people currently working at low-wage, precarious jobs would decide to work less. That’s precisely what this 2013 study found—a study co-authored by Jean-Yves Duclos, who is now Canada’s Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. He is also the Minister mandated by Prime Minister Trudeau to “[l]ead the development of a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy…”. Whether this potential outcome is deemed a good thing or bad thing depends in part on whether one is on the right or left of the political spectrum.

  9. It’s hard to estimate the GAI’s cost. When it comes to how much money the GAI should provide to households, there are important differences of opinion between those on the left and those on the right. With so many different possible approaches, it’s hard to ‘cost out’ a GAI. Some proponents believe the GAI would pay for itself and maybe even save money; others believe it would result in more than $100 billion in additional annual program spending each year (net of savings). During any discussion about the GAI, important questions to ask include: Which existing programs would be cancelled? Would Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement be cancelled? Would Employment Insurance be eliminated? (According to a recent CBC News article, the Ontario government has indicated that its upcoming pilot won’t “eliminate or consolidate existing poverty-reduction programs, but rather be designed as a top-up to such programs to lift its voluntary participants above the poverty line.”)

  10. The implementation of a GAI would require a considerable amount of intergovernmental cooperation. How realistic is it to expect all 10 provincial governments, all three territorial governments and the federal government to agree on how much a person needs to live on each year? Which order of government would set the rules? Which would pay for it?  Which would administer it? Would there be a separate program in Quebec? How would this work on reserves? How will Indigenous leaders be consulted and where will the funding come from? 

Click here to learn more about the history of the guaranteed annual income. 

Raising the Roof
October 26, 2016

The Upstream Project is a school-based program focused on youth homelessness prevention. Why schools? Because virtually every young person who becomes homeless was in school at one point, and very likely was in contact with an adult who knew something was wrong but didn’t know how to help.

This program has been collaboratively developed by Raising the Roof, the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH), and A Way Home Canada to suit the Canadian context.

Through a three-phase approach, The Upstream Project adapts the innovative evidence-based model from Australia’s The Geelong Project. These three phases are:

  1. Identifying and accessing youth using the proven screening method: The Students Needs Assessment;
  2. Connecting youth to services and providing wrap around case management to identified youth and their families;
  3. Measurement and replication: upon comprehensive program evaluation The Upstream Project will be replicated in communities across Canada.

When people first learn about The Geelong Project, they are often drawn in by the survey tool: a risk assessment completed by students directly in their classrooms. The survey on its own is a very exciting innovation, providing an incredible opportunity to gather data on the growing issue of youth homelessness.

In my role as Project Manager for The Upstream Project, however, I have discovered a deeper value of the survey tool. In championing the survey, we have been given an invaluable opportunity to engage in dialogue with school board administrations on how to address youth homelessness, together. the upstream project

A core objective of The Geelong Project is to be responsive to the needs of youth in their communities and thus, reform systems to address their needs. In the Canadian context, we have begun this work be creating connections with school boards in two pilot communities: Niagara and York Region. By working in collaboration with the school boards to spearhead The Upstream Project, we have ignited a system reform process at the ground-level.

While the ultimate goal of The Upstream Project is to prevent youth homelessness, there are several key success indicators. The program aims to increase school engagement, secondary school graduation rates, and ensure access to safe, secure housing. A reduction of family breakdown, dropping out of school, and involvement in crime are aligned objectives.

This ambitious goal will in no doubt require a unified community response. With the support of local school boards, municipal partners and local community agencies, The Upstream Project will act as a catalyst for impactful service reform to take place at the community level.

In my presentation at the upcoming National Conference on Ending Homelessness, I will discuss The Upstream Project model in detail. This will include a description of the methodology and projected outcomes of the program, a ‘sneak peek’ at a toolkit being developed by COH to provide communities with the necessary resources to implement the program, and early learnings from 360˚kids and The RAFT, the two community agencies piloting The Upstream Project beginning in September 2016.

I look forward to sharing the journey of The Upstream Project to-date and engaging with thought leaders and innovators on how we can come together to create real impact in communities across the country.

This blog post is part of our series which highlights sessions of the 2016 National Conference on Ending Homelessness. Hear Elisa Traficante speak on Thursday, November 3rd at 3:30PM on the topic of ending youth homelessness through prevention and early interventions. Learn more about this upcoming conference presented by CAEH. 



Homeless Hub
October 21, 2016
Categories: Ask the Hub

The Homeless Hub has written extensively on affordable housing across Canada, and the lack thereof. Just yesterday we released our 2016 State of Homelessness in Canada report, where we outlined how we can collectively prevent and end homelessness in Canada. However, I will keep this entry specifically on the topic of wait lists, and what can be done to support the housing needs of the homeless population and of those at-risk. Before going into further details, I will clarify what is meant by ‘social housing’ and ‘affordable housing’.

Social housing specifically refers to housing that is subsidized by the government. It provides safety and stability to people with low-income, and is the cheapest form of decent housing available in communities across Canada.  On the other hand, Canada Mortgage and Housing Company (CMHC) defines affordable housing as being much broader and includes housing provided by the private, public and not-for-profit sectors as well as all forms of housing tenure (i.e. rental, ownership and cooperative ownership). It also includes temporary as well as permanent housing such as emergency shelters, transition housing and supportive housing.

According to CMHC, housing is considered affordable when a household spends less than 30% of its pre-tax income on adequate shelter. Households that spend more than 30% of their income on shelter are deemed to be in core housing need. Those that spend 50% or more on shelter are in severe housing need. CMHC reported that over 27% of Canadian households live in core housing need and 10.5% are in severe housing need. In other words, Canada is in a severe housing crisis.

As the private rental market is out of reach for those who are homeless and a heavy financial burden for those at-risk, it is essential that we find a way to deal with long wait list times and invest in alternate solutions beyond social housing.

Years-Long Wait for Housing

Over the years, social housing has become the go-to solution when discussing ways of finding homes for people staying in emergency shelters and transition housing. Unfortunately, it often takes years before a person or a family obtains a unit. The situation is so critical that many people give up after years of waiting and fall through ‘system cracks’ by couchsurfing, living in dangerous situations and/or environments, bouncing from shelter to shelter, or continuing to survive in core or severe housing need without any hopes of ever getting a social housing unit.

A number of municipalities and provinces publicize their social housing wait list figures, however, these numbers alone don’t provide a comprehensive picture of the supply and demand pressures for all types of affordable housing. What these numbers do provide is an important insight into the financial needs of many Canadian families and the urgency with which a government response is required to address this housing crisis.

171, 360 Ontario families, seniors, single adults and couples on waiting lists for rent-geared-to-income housing in 2015

With wages failing to keep up with the rising cost of private market housing, cities across Canada cannot keep up with the demand for social housing. Estimated numbers of households currently waiting far exceeds the supply:

  • Fredericton: 500 households
  • Montreal: 24,000 households
  • Ottawa: 10,900 households
  • Toronto: 90,900 households
  • Vancouver: 9,500 households
  • Winnipeg: 2,855 households

Canada has invested very little in building and maintaining social housing infrastructure in the last 25 years. As a result, there are tens of thousands of households on city wait lists and thousands of social housing units needing urgent repairs, which add to the growing wait times. The good news is that there is renewed interest in investing in housing by the federal government. The Government of Canada is currently looking into developing and implementing a National Housing Strategy.

So what can be done to meet the housing needs of homeless people and those at-risk? To achieve this, a full range of options and services is necessary to address the present situation. I will mention some of them below, but for a complete look at our recommendations for the National Housing Strategy please see our State of Homelessness in Canada 2016 report. 

Increase Funding for Prevention

Preventing homelessness by providing supportive services to those at-risk is an effective way of keeping people housed in the private rental market. Eviction prevention practices are key to keeping individuals and families in their homes and avoid homelessness altogether. A recent study found that providing supportive services to those at-risk of homelessness is a cost-effective strategy to a secure pathway to healthy and long-term housing.

Homeward Trust’s eviction prevention program supports people with financial assistance for rental subsidies while connecting households with employment, health, and income support agencies. For those where eviction is for certain, efforts are made to re-house tenants on a timely basis, thus preventing homelessness and years of waiting to be housed again.

Public-Private Partnerships

Engaging the private sector to build affordable housing for low and moderate-income families and individuals is essential to increasing the affordable housing stock. The City of Toronto offers incentives to developers to build affordable housing through their new Open Door program. Incentives include waiving permit fees, streamlining the application process and deferring development charges.

Additionally, some service providers have also developed partnerships with private landlords, which could be a promising solution for rural communities where developers are not building new homes. We have previously written about the number of ways to engage landlords as a service agency.

Build New Social Housing Units & Fund Maintenance

Thousands of rental units were built annually across Canada in the 60s and 70s but this trend has not continued. Not only do we need to increase the social housing stock but also deal with aging buildings that have extensive backlog of repairs and require major renovations. Maintaining buildings has been found to have economic, health, environmental, and social benefits for people living in social housing but also for entire communities. The lack of investments on repairs can force families out of their homes if not addressed immediately and would worsen the housing crisis.

Housing First

The basic underlying approach of Housing First is that people are better able to move forward with their lives if they are first housed. Housing is not contingent upon some type of compliance but rather a rights-based intervention that all people deserve housing. Under this key principle, people experiencing homelessness have a chance of accessing housing through different housing models including independent private rental units with on-call supports, permanent supportive housing or congregate housing. 

The Lux offered by RainCity in Vancouver provides 25 supportive housing units to people coping with substance use, mental health and physical concerns. The length of stay depends of each resident’s unique needs but they are supported with securing permanent housing while staying at the Lux. 

Let’s Talk Housing

Canada is the last G8 country without a national housing strategy. The situation is so dire that in 2009, the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing declared the state of affairs in Canada a national emergency.  A national housing strategy would call on all levels of government to work together to address some of the challenges that emerged in the last three decades from the lack of investments in affordable housing including the rise of homelessness.

The Government of Canada has been asking for feedback on what should be included in the National Housing Strategy and today is the last day to submit your views! Make your voice heard by sharing your ideas, taking a brief survey or submitting your views in writing at

Images: Government of Canada, Let’s Talk Housing & Wellesley Institute

This post is part of our Friday "Ask the Hub" blog series. Have a homeless-related question you want answered? E-mail us at and we will provide a research-based answer.

Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, York University
October 20, 2016

Today,Cover of the report the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness are releasing The State of Homelessness in Canada 2016. In this year’s report, we consider how - through the introduction of a National Housing Strategy – we can collectively prevent and end homelessness in Canada.

Since 1993 and the federal disinvestment in housing, more and more people have found themselves homeless or at risk of homelessness. Despite this, Canada is the only G8 country without a national strategy on homelessness. It is then not surprising that stakeholders across the country were encouraged by the announcement that the Government of Canada has committed to a National Housing Strategy.

The National Housing Strategy – with a clear priority on ending homelessness and a funding commitment to do so – presents us with an unprecedented and overdue opportunity to make progress towards ending homelessness.

The federal government is undergoing consultations until October 21, 2016 through and will release the results on November 22, 2016 (National Housing Day). The State of Homelessness 2016 provides a roadmap for the way forward. It includes joint recommendations, authored by the COH and CAEH, on how the National Housing Strategy can serve as a catalyst for better, more suitable solutions to preventing and ending homelessness.

Preventing and ending homelessness

In the last few years, many have started to recognize that housing is a human right. To embrace a human rights approach, we must make a more concerted effort to ensure that wherever possible homelessness is prevented. If we cannot prevent it, we must ensure that occurrences of homelessness are brief and non-recurring. This must be at the core of our National Housing Strategy.

Encouragingly, we have solutions at our disposable to address the latter. Housing First has proven to move people out of homelessness quickly, while providing the supports they need to stay housed. A National Housing Strategy, as we’ve recommended, should embrace, invest and scale this model of accommodation.

Unfortunately, preventing homelessness is something Canada has made less progress on. However, as discussed in our recent blog post, Let’s Talk Housing & Prevention, that is beginning to change. We ask that in addition to prioritizing Housing First, the government of Canada embrace a homelessness prevention framework.

Fortunately, we can learn from the communities, provinces and territories that are making progress. Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador are leading the way provincially. Locally, Medicine Hat is on the cusp of ending homelessness and Hamilton is showing huge success with Housing First. However, we need long-term, stable funding if we want these successes to grow. That’s where the National Housing Strategy comes in.


Our report outlines eight key recommendations for the National Housing Strategy. We are calling on the government to invest $43.788 billion over 10 years through the National Housing Strategy – only $50 more per Canadian annually than we’re currently spending. For less than $1 per week per person, in added investment, we can effectively prevent and end homelessness in Canada.

The following recommendations focus on two areas: addressing homelessness and expanding the supply of affordable housing. 

Addressing Homelessness in Canada

Recommendation 1.1Recommendation #1: The government should adopt a national goal of ending homelessness with clear and measurable outcomes, milestones and criteria

There should be a commitment to ending homelessness at the national level that includes an emphasis on Housing First, a focus on prevention, and an effort to improve how different local systems coordinate with one another, among other principles.

Recommendation 1.2Recommendation #2: Renewal of the Homelessness Partnering Strategy

The Homelessness Partnering Strategy funds 61 communities across Canada to develop local solutions to preventing and ending homelessness. The Homelessness Partnering Strategy should be renewed in 2019 for ten years with substantial and long-term funding to ensure consistency and stability for programs working to prevent and end homelessness.

Recommendation 1.3Recommendation #3: A new federal/provincial/territorial framework agreement that defines local leadership on homelessness and housing investment

All orders of government have a responsibility to prevent and end homelessness. The National Housing Strategy should include a framework that clearly identifies the roles and responsibilities that each actor should play in the collective effort to prevent and end homelessness.

Recommendation 1.4Recommendation #4: Targeted strategies to address the needs of priority populations

In order to respond to the unique needs of different groups of people experiencing homelessness, the National Housing Strategy should adopt tailored, evidence-based solutions for groups such as youth, Indigenous Peoples and veterans.

Addressing Affordable Housing in Canada

Recommendation 2.1Recommendation #5: Retain and expand existing affordable housing stock

We need to make up for the loss of affordable housing that began in 1993. This means keeping the affordable housing units we do have and building new ones through a variety of innovative means.

Recommendation 2.2Recommendation #6: Implement a National Housing Benefit

Like the child tax benefit, a national housing benefit would give low income Canadians a monthly tax credit that would help keep people housed, thus preventing homelessness.

Recommendation 2.3Recommendation #7: Affordable housing tax credit

An affordable housing tax credit will give private equity investors reductions in federal income tax for dollars invested in affordable housing projects.

Recommendation 2.4Recommendation #8: Review and expand investment in affordable housing for Indigenous peoples

We need an audit of the housing situation on reserve so that we know where we’re at. With that information in hand, programs like an Indigenous Innovation Demonstration Fund can be used to find solutions to the housing challenges Indigenous Peoples face on and off reserve.

For further information on our report, including more detailed recommendations, you can download the State of Homelessness in Canada 2016. If you have not yet submitted your feedback on the proposed National Housing Strategy, we encourage you to do so at, prior to tomorrow’s deadline.

Remember, we can end homelessness in Canada – if we want to.

York University; Canadian Observatory on Homelessness
October 17, 2016
Categories: Topics

October 10th was World Homeless Day, an annual occasion on an international stage that brings attention to the needs of people experiencing homelessness and provides opportunities for communities across the world to get involved in responding to homelessness. The initiative encourages both community members and politicians alike to engage in and take critical steps towards combatting homelessness.

World Homeless Day

Unfortunately, homelessness is an issue that is deeply stigmatized, as many of us are socialized to believe in common misconceptions about homelessness. Some of these misconceptions are that homelessness is a choice, that all individuals experiencing homelessness are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, do not want to work or that homelessness is simply an inevitability. However, none of these notions are true and are harmful attitudes that impede solutions towards addressing and alleviating the causes of homelessness. Furthermore, defining homelessness as an individualized issue, rather than as a result of a combination of structural factors, system failures and individual and relational factors, leads to actions which are sorely misguided, counterproductive, costly and inefficient.

In order to develop the right solutions, we need an accurate portrayal of the problem. That is why the COH developed a definition of homelessness that is useable, understandable and uniquely Canadian yet allows for national and international comparison. Homelessness is a multi-faceted issue that is much bigger than a matter of individual choice. Indeed, as homelessness is an epidemic that touches individuals regardless of race, gender, religion and all nations globally, with an estimated 100 million to one billion or more worldwide (depending on how homelessness is defined), we as a society are all responsible.

Community services

Today’s blog post discusses the vital role that community services play in the lives of those at-risk of or who are experiencing homelessness. Community services refer to any programs delivered through non-profit or faith-based community organizations. These programs can be funded by donations or government grants, and are ran by staff, students and/or volunteers. Services offered by organizations include, but are not limited to, food and clothing banks, health and mental health services, activities for ‘at-risk’ youth like counseling or sports, supportive services for families, women or LGBTQ2S individuals, employment services, settlement services, access to internet and shelter accommodation.

Having a diverse range of services is critical for those with complex needs, such as individuals facing homelessness. Not only do they require stable, secure and affordable housing, but also require a diverse range of supportive services tailored according to the gender they identify with, their psychological needs, cultural background, sexual orientation, disability and/or geographical location. For instance, mental health supports are critical, as research shows that people experiencing homelessness tend to have a higher prevalence of mental illness than the general population.

At times, however, access to services simply is not a possibility. For individuals living in remote communities, supportive services are limited and scarce, and migration to larger centers to access services away from one’s community is common. For those experiencing homelessness in larger cities, a plethora of services may be available, yet inaccessible to some due to discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, addictions to illicit substances, mental illness and/or disabilities. Often times, navigating supportive services for a wide range of complex needs can be an overwhelming task, especially without a stable address, health card, ID or form of reliable transportation. Furthermore, where failures in coordinating services occur, some systems may be discharging people into homelessness.

The role of community services in addressing homelessness

As stated earlier, the role of community services in the lives of those who are at-risk of or experiencing homelessness is indispensable. At this moment in time, Canada generally has an emergency response approach to homelessness that manages, rather than provides any long-term solutions to homelessness, placing significant strain on emergency services like shelters and food banks. Although there will always be a need for emergency responses, a shift in focus to prevention and accommodation and supports is needed to truly eliminate homelessness. More and more organizations across the nation are starting to implement a  Housing First approach, a best practice for ending homelessness that involves moving people who experience homelessness into permanent housing as quickly as possible and providing them with additional services and supports as needed. As such, community services play a vital role in ensuring that individuals have choice and access to services that can address any number of their complex needs.

For example, COSTI Immigrant Services has been a leader in settlement and citizenship services for newcomers to Toronto and the GTA for over 20 years. COSTI also offers a variety of services including mental health supports, employment and youth services as well as supports for women seeking to overcome economic, health, legal, and cultural barriers. COSTI also provides access to housing supports for individuals with limited income, who are new to Canada and who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless. These services are critical among newcomer women facing domestic abuse, for instance, as research finds that often times newcomer women will not leave their abusers due to fear of deportation, a lack of knowledge regarding their rights, financial dependency on their abuser or lack of awareness of the community resources available to them.

The 519, also located in Toronto, is committed to the health, happiness and full participation of the LGBTQ2S community and works to promote inclusion, understanding and respect. Through their supportive services and inclusive spaces, the 519 is accessible to the evolving needs of the LGBTQ2S community that range from counseling, queer parenting, housing services, Coming Out groups and much more. These services are particularly crucial as one Toronto study found that 20% of youth in shelter systems identify as LGBTQ2S, which is more than twice the rate for all age groups. Furthermore, LGBTQ2S youth are at a higher risk of homelessness due to homophobia and transphobia in the home and they often face the same discrimination in the shelter system.

Places such as Insite – North America’s first supervised injection site in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside continues to achieve life-saving results for its patrons. In addition to providing detox services, Insite also provides liaison with community supports to housing for those who require it. Substance use and addiction is a commonly cited health issue among individuals experiencing homelessness, where some may utilize injection drug use as a coping mechanism in dealing with the stressors of being unhoused. When accessing necessary health services, research shows that those experiencing homelessness and addiction often face stigmatization on the part of health professionals. Therefore, addiction and health care services that offer judgment-free supports like Insite are crucial in assisting individuals experiencing homelessness and addiction in gaining access to the care they need.

Employment services also play a crucial role in the lives of individuals at-risk of or experiencing homelessness. When a person is homeless and unemployed, getting back into the workforce can be a challenge. Employment services, then, are crucial for individuals experiencing homelessness as they work to increase hire-ability. For instance, Youth Employment Services (YES) Street To Jobs initiative works to employ young people who are at-risk of becoming homeless. Through the program, youth are provided with individualized supports, skills training, work placements, referrals and more with permanent housing and financial self-sufficiency as the ultimate goal.

As crucial as employment services are, employment is only one piece of the puzzle in ensuring an individual attains and maintains housing. Canada’s transition to a service-based employment sector has resulted in the proliferation of low-wage, precarious and insecure labour, and assisting individuals in accessing employment will only be successful if there are good, stable, living-wage jobs available. One way that this is being done is through the role of social enterprises. Social enterprises are companies that reinvest any profits and revenue back into the organization and its employees, rather than into the pockets of shareholders or executives. As a key tenant, social enterprises often work to employ those from backgrounds that often face discrimination in hiring practices, such as individuals with disabilities or histories of substance use and addiction. Places like Out of this World café in Toronto, or Coco café in Naimano, BC are social enterprises breaking down barriers and ensuring everyone regardless of abilities, health, mental health or housing status are given a fair chance.

These are just a few examples of the crucial work being done by a wide range of community services around the country. However, larger structural issues such as reverting the decline in Canada’s social safety net as well as changes across all sectors such as secure, living-wage employment, access to education and consistently funded community services are all necessary to make meaningful, long-term changes in the lives of those experiencing homelessness with complex needs. In addition, community services need to be accessible to all individuals, where stigma is no longer cited as a barrier to accessing help.

As we circle back to the issue of stigma, it is crucial that as we go about our daily lives, we treat societal issues, like homelessness and those experiencing homelessness with compassion, understanding and kindness. For example, as a teacher or parent perhaps implementing lessons to children regarding homelessness will help counteract stigma at an earlier age. If you have any questions about homelessness, browse the Hub’s selection of comprehensive resources. Don’t see an answer to your question? You can always ask the hub and we will provide a research-based answer!

There are also a number of programs available to those who are homeless or at-risk of facing homelessness:

If you would like to suggest or know of any other community services kindly leave them in the comments!


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The analysis and interpretations contained in the blog posts are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness.