About 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness each year, and the amount of homeless people, as well as the duration they spend being homeless, continues rising. A simple definition for homelessness is the state of not having a place to live. However, homelessness can also be defined by social exclusionary factors that increase poverty, limit opportunities, and create barriers for these people to fully participate in society. Contrary to popular belief, homelessness is not a choice. In reality, anyone can become homeless. Most homelessness is caused by poverty, but other issues which could result in people becoming homeless include:
- Poor physical and/or mental health
- Family breakup
- Physical/emotional abuse at one’s home
- Lack of employment or income
- Substance abuse
- Unavailability of affordable housing
Also contrary to popular belief, there are many homeless people who are actually employed. However, they move through a variety of temporary and unstable living situations, which makes tasks such as generating income, maintaining health, developing healthy relationships, and obtaining permanent housing more complicated.
Categories of People Who Experience Homelessness
The population of homeless Canadians is incredibly diverse in terms of categorizing. The “street” type we see in big cities such as Toronto, which may also be staying at a temporary emergency shelter, only make up less than 20% of the entire homeless population. As many as 50,000 homeless people temporarily stay with their family or friends because there is nowhere else for them to go.
The fastest growing category of homeless people, however, are families with children. Over 10% of Canadian families currently live below the low-income cut-off, unable to meet even the most basic of necessities.
There is also a shocking rise in the amount of homeless youth in Canada. In the past 25 years, there has been a 450% increase in the quantity of youth shelter beds in Toronto. Many of these young people flee dangerous situations, especially physical or sexual abuse by an adult, which reports in 61% of homeless youth. Also, studies show that youth who stay on the streets for at least two years are less likely to abandon the homeless lifestyle.
Written by Marco Hidalgo Romero