Homelessness in Canada

The number of homeless persons in Canada has grown since 1997 and not only in major cities such as Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, and Montreal but also in suburban areas. A recent survey shows that the rate of homelessness may be actually higher and on the rise amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

What Figures Show

A survey by Nanos Research conducted for CAEH /Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness/ shows that some 5 percent of respondents have been homeless /about 1.16 million people/. Speaking of persons who live in rented accommodation, 25 percent admit they may be unable to pay rent in the next month while 11 percent share they’ve experienced homelessness. Another study conducted in 2016, the State of Homelessness in Canada report suggests that the number of persons who are unhoused is at least 235,000 but can be higher than that. The reason is that many Canadians live with relatives or friends instead of at emergency shelters. A poll by Ipsos Reid conducted in 2013 reveals that some 1.3 million people were either in an insecure housing situation or unhoused over the last 5 years.

Persons in Emergency Shelters

Emergency shelters across Canada offer about 15,460 beds, and occupancy rates increased significantly between 2005 and 2014. Rates jumped from 82 percent to over 92 percent. Stays with duration beyond 1 month also increased from a little over 9 percent to 12 percent. As of 2010, violence against women shelters had about 9,960 beds for children and women who are victim of violence. This number also includes beds in second stage and transitional housing. A survey conducted in 2017 reveals that the occupancy rate was at 44 percent on any given day. In addition to Canadians in temporary institutional accommodation and unsheltered persons that have been accounted for, figures suggest that some 50,000 hidden homeless are unhoused on any given day. This figure also includes persons who are living with relatives and friends as they have nowhere else to go.

Chronic Homelessness

The majority of people who lose their homes experience homelessness over a short period. The average duration of stay in shelters is at about 50 days. Only a small number of people are either episodically or chronically homeless but they account for about 50 percent of emergency shelter occupancy rates. According to estimates by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, the number of persons who are episodically unhoused ranges from 6,000 to 22,000 a year while those who are chronically homeless are between 4,000 and 8,000.

Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic

With the onset of the global pandemic, provinces such as British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario announced moratoria on evictions. The problem is that many have either ended or are soon to end. Renters, on the other hand, are also coping with difficult financial circumstances because of the coronavirus crisis. CEO and President of CAEH Tim Richter expressed the opinion that all this may result in higher homelessness rates. One reason is that lower-income persons have been harder hit by the pandemic and the associated economic uncertainty. This includes Canadians with insecure employment, those with low-paid jobs, and essential workers. CAED released an estimate that government funding in the amount of $52 billion could help end homelessness by 2030. Figures also show that the majority of Canadians approve of government spending on affordable housing projects. About 72 percent of respondents agree that it is important to invest in affordable housing projects while 80 percent somewhat support projects with a focus on affordable housing.