Shelter: Homelessness in a Growth Economy: Canada's 21st Century Paradox-A Report for the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership

Housing insecurity is a national concern, an issue that affects a broad portion of Canada's population and reflects major trends in income distribution. In 2004, one in seven Canadian households - 1.7 million – spent 30 per cent or more of their income on housing and are considered to have housing affordability issues. 

Despite Canada’s status as top economic performer of all G7 countries in 2006, it continues to experience a nation-wide homelessness crisis and affordable housing shortage. Unlike the United States and the United Kingdom, who have already launched major initiatives on homelessness in recent years, Canada has neglected the issue, as well as other core issues like poverty, urban development and housing security. Instead of dealing with root causes and strategic investments, Canadian government attempted to contain the rapid growth of homelessness with homeless shelters and other short-term, crisis-based services. This strategy has failed. Homelessness has become commonplace across Canada. From urban regions like Toronto and Vancouver to smaller centres like Thunder Bay, Iqaluit and Fort McMurray, Canada witnessed an unprecedented surge in homelessness during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Even Canada’s most affluent city, Calgary, boasts the third-largest homeless shelter population in Canada. From Halifax to Iqaluit, emergency shelters and other front line services have been turning away growing numbers of homeless people, especially during the winter season.

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