Toronto is the site of a homelessness disaster in which thousands of people each year with no place of their own must stay in shelters, on the street, and in places not intended for human habitation. Toronto is also home to a housing crisis for low-income families. These two emergencies are not disconnected; yet in a city familiar with the sight of lone adults and youth sleeping on sidewalks, homelessness among families with children remains little recognized.
This report explores the continuum of inadequate housing, risk of homelessness, and visible homelessness among families in Toronto. Low-income families often move between different points on this continuum, and homelessness among families is more likely to be hidden than visible. The more problems there are with a family’s housing, the more precarious it becomes.
Drawing upon a survey of families living in aging rental apartment buildings in Toronto’s lowincome neighbourhoods, and on focus groups with parents and service providers, this study examines the relationship between housing conditions and homelessness. The findings show that large numbers of children and parents are living in precarious, unaffordable, poor-quality housing. The Canadian Definition of Homelessness, developed by researchers and service providers, includes such conditions in the category “At Risk of Homelessness.” Indeed, many families in such conditions do lose their housing, and some end up in shelters.
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