Homelessness In Canada Essay Contest
Homelessness In Canada Essay
1202 Words5 Pages
If you do not already know what homelessness means, it is someone who is not able to live in a stable residence because of financial or psychological problems, so they are forced to live on the streets or put themselves on the streets, because they feel it would be a better fit. Homelessness in Canada is a very large and concerning issue because of the growing population.
We need to ask our selves what causes homelessness, why are so many youth involved with homelessness and what can we change so that the homelessness problem in Canada lessens? Many people put the issue of homelessness aside because there are many programs that people can go to so that they can get help but not all people have the capability to push themselves to turn…show more content…
Canada West Foundation).
In youth homelessness these children, adolescents and even young adults are being exposed to many dangerous drugs, alcohol, and people.
Youth who live on the streets are there for two main reasons either they chose to leave the home because of the living situation or they will leave home because they are kicked out or drugs and alcohol have led them onto the streets. 20% of the homeless population is youth and it is increasing every year because of the changes that our generation is going through and being affected by. The rates of suicide in homeless youth are 10.3 times larger then an average Canadian youth. (McKay, E. (2009). Independent Living Accounts: Leaving Homelessness in the Past.).
Many youth who have or are still living on the streets have faced sexual or physical abuse from an adult at some point in their lives and the data states that 61% of all youth face this (McKay, E, (2009). Seeing the Possibilities. The Need for a Mental health Focus Amongst Street-Involved Youth: Recognizing and Supporting Resilience. Toronto: Wellesley Institute.). Approximately 1,500 – 2,000 homeless youth make up the total amount of homeless people sleeping on the streets every night in Toronto; this number is considerably large and it continues to grow because the issue of youth homelessness or homelessness in general is not thought of as a priority by various levels of government and therefore
Homelessness in Canada has grown in size and complexity by 1997. While historically known as a crisis only of urban centres such as Montreal, Laval, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and Toronto the increasing incidence of homelessness in the suburbs is necessitating new services and resources.
The demographic profile of Canada's homeless population is also changing. By the end of the 20th century it was reported that, while previously, men comprised the vast majority of homeless persons, now men and children represent the fastest-growing subgroup of the homeless population, followed by youth. In recent years homelessness has become a major social issue in Canada.
In Action Plan 2011, the Federal Government of Canada proposed $120 million annually from April 2014 until April 2019—with $700 million in new funding—to renew its Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS). In dealing with homelessness in Canada, the focus is on the Housing First model. Thus, private or public organizations across Canada are eligible to receive HPS subsidies to implement Housing First programs.
In 2007 most research and programs in Canada focused on "absolute homelessness" and there was no consistent definition of homelessness. and public policy initiatives.
In 2012 the York University-based Canadian Homelessness Research Network (CHRN) released the first Canadian Definition of Homelessness.
"Homelessness describes the situation of an individual or family without stable, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it. It is the result of systemic or societal barriers, a lack of affordable and appropriate housing, the individual/household’s financial, mental, cognitive, behavioural or physical challenges, and/or racism and discrimination. Most people do not choose to be homeless, and the experience is generally negative, unpleasant, stressful and distressing."
— CHRN, 2012
Stephen Gaetz, a homelessness researcher at York University, argued that the detailed classification of homelessness, provided governments with more “precision” in figuring out how to draw up homeless plans. The report cites 4 typologies: unsheltered, emergency-sheltered, provisionally-accommodated, and at risk of homelessness. The definition received a lot of support from advocates for the homeless. Critics included Peter Goldring, an Alberta MP, member of the Edmonton Committee to End Homelessness, who argued that the CHRN's definition of homelessness painted an overly broad picture including those who were "having a hard time financially." Goldring felt that, "You don’t want to look at it coldly, but they’re really not in desperate need until they’re holding that eviction notice in their hand."
By 2008 the annual homeless count was considered to be a politically-charged and methodologically-contentious issue. The federal estimate of the core number of homeless people in Canada was 200,000 in 2005, or about 1 per cent of the population. Homeless advocates estimated it to be closer to 20,000 annually, or 30,000 on any given night plus those in the hidden homeless category. This includes 6,000 youth nightly and 30,000 youth annually.
Cost of homelessness
Based on the more conservative figure, the annual cost of homelessness in Canada in 2008 was approximately $5.5 to $7 billion in emergency services, organizations, and non-profits.
Homelessness is actually a chronic problem for only a small minority of people; the vast majority of individuals are "one-time only" shelter users or experience episodic homelessness. However, the distinctly different subgroup of individuals who are "chronically homeless" consume about half of shelter beds and available resources at any given time.
Some of the homeless who make use of homeless shelters are also employed. Individuals and families are simply priced out of private housing markets. In 1999, about 26% or 2.8 million Canadian households fell below the minimum amount required to afford a basic home, gauged at $25,920. Five years later, this number rose to 26% or 3.2 million households.
It was not until after the 1960s that, in Canada, "homeless" came to mean the "unhoused" versus those simply living in poor-quality housing. Previously, the "homeless" was a general term applied mostly to transient men with no family ties, such as the migrant workers who travelled by freight hopping during the Great Depression.
Homelessness remained a minor concern as long as extremely cheap accommodation was available in 'skid row' rooming houses or flophouses located in the poorest parts of most major cities. Even the most destitute could find some form of housing, even if its quality was abysmal.
At the end of the Second World War in 1946, the federal government created the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to make mortgages and home ownership more accessible to people and organizations. The surplus generated by the CMHC was used in the 1980s to fund non-profit, Aboriginal, and rent supplement housing.
However, following changes to Canada's National Housing Act housing act in 1996 to give the CMHC "more flexibility", it was able to directly fund social housing and its role in supporting new and existing affordable housing diminished. Today the CMHC still exists, and its annual surpluses ($7.6 billion in 2006) raises questions as to why some of this money cannot be spent on new housing initiatives.
About 20,000 social housing units were created every year following the 1973 amendments to the National Housing Act. Starting in the mid-1980s, the federal government initiated a series of cuts in funding for national housing programs. While accurate statistics on the homeless population are hard to gather, it is the general consensus that from the 1980s onwards the number of homeless increased considerably.
Despite Canada's economy this trend continued, and perhaps even accelerated in the 1990s. For example, in Toronto admissions to homeless shelters increased by 75% between 1988 and 1998. After 1993 the national affordable housing program initiated in 1973 was cut and Canada's focus in addressing homelessness in the 1990s was to create more homeless shelters and emergency services A decade later in 2003 the federal government resumed spending on housing investment at $2.03 billion, a 25% decline from 1993 levels of $1.98 billion when adjusted for inflation (Laird 2007:15).
On December 19, 2006 Prime Minister Harper announced social policies with $526 million of funding to tackle poverty and homelessness in Canada. The Homelessness Partnering Strategy received $270 million and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation received $246 million to refurbish and renovate affordable housing, as well as to improve access for homeless people to various services and supports such as health and substance abuse treatment programs. Activists protested at Human Resources and Social Services Minister Diane Finley's offices in Ottawa.
The first Canadian national report card on homelessness was compiled by the Canadian Homelessness Research Network (CHRN) and the National Alliance to End Homelessness in 2013.[Notes 1]
Why people become homeless is a complex question and the answers are as unique as each individual's history. People become homeless by many different paths; however, the most common reasons are "inability to pay rent (63%), conflict or abuse (36%), alcohol or drug use problems(10%)". Other factors can include mental disorders, foster care exits, exiting from jail or hospitalization, immigration, rising housing costs and decreased rent controls, federal and provincial downloading of housing programs, and low social assistance rates.
While the causes are complex, the solutions to homelessness may be simple: "Homelessness may not be only a housing problem, but it is always a housing problem; housing is necessary, although sometimes not sufficient, to solve the problem of homelessness." Policy changes are often criticized for punishing the poor instead of trying to solve the underlying problem.
Lack of low-income housing
While in 1966 30,000 new low-income housing units had been built across Canada, this had fallen to 7,000 in 1999. In the city of Calgary, with one of the most acute housing shortages, only 16 new units of rental housing were built in 1996.
Main article: Deinstitutionalization
The 1950s and 1960s also saw an international movement towards deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, moving them out of asylums and other facilities, and releasing them into the community. Studies found that the vast majority of those who had been placed in asylums could be healthy and productive members of society if placed in the community and provided with the proper care and medication.
Thus over these decades the number of people confined to mental institutions fell dramatically from just under 70,000 to about 20,000. However, while great savings were made by shutting down empty institutions much of this money was absorbed by general government funds, and did not make it into community care.
No assurances were made that those discharged had access to and were taking the medication they needed. While some of those discharged did integrate with the community, a significant number, estimated at around 75%, did not. Many of these individuals became homeless. Today up to 40% of homeless have some sort of mental illness.
Justice system and homelessness
In a paper published in 2010, York University professor, Stephen Gaetz, argued that, "[p]risoners who are sentenced or who are awaiting trial often lose their jobs and housing, and without support, wind up in homeless shelters and drop-ins upon release ... When prisoners become homeless, their chances of reoffending increase."
In 2005 Alberta initiated a three-year program offering an "alternative to sending people to jail or helping them when they are released". Alberta's Pathways to Housing program, which includes about $7 million in provincial money, has been helping homeless Calgarians who have been in and out of the corrections system due to unpaid tickets for petty crimes.
Poverty in Canada
Main article: Poverty in Canada
Poverty remains prevalent with certain groups in Canada. The measurement of poverty has been a challenge as there is no official government measure. Some groups, like the Canadian Council on Social Development and the National Anti-Poverty Organization, believe the low-income cut off published by Statistics Canada is applicable as a poverty measure regardless of whether its intent or designation is to be one. They have argued, that as it stands, the LICO is the best measure available that accurately measures a relative poverty rate. The LICO fell to a near-record low of 9.5% in 2006, down from a recent high of 16.7% in 1994.
In the 2005 census, 702,650 Canadians were considered to be at-risk for homelessness in that they spent more than 50 per cent of their household income on shelter. Lack of income security combined with the lack of affordable housing creates the problem of "hidden" homelessness. The "hidden homeless" may actually fall back and forth between homelessness and being housed, making the problem of homelessness much larger than that identified in street or shelter counts.
Cuts to Social Assistance (welfare)
In the late 1990s, under Finance Minister Paul Martin, large cuts were made to transfer payments to Canada's provinces. At the same time, Canada removed a long-standing requirement of each province and territory to provide a livable rate of social assistance to all those in need. This led to a series of cuts to welfare rates and tightened eligibility rules, with many provinces competing with each other to offer the lowest assistance so those in need would leave. Alberta even offered bus tickets for welfare recipients to leave the province. In 2002, B.C.'s newly elected Liberal government introduced welfare reforms which in the coming years removed tens of thousands from that province's welfare rolls. All of this has had the effect of leaving thousands of people without the means to pay for even the most modest accommodation, resulting in many Canadians having no home and thus relying on homeless shelters or else sleeping outside.
The National Homeless Initiative (NHI), created in 1999, was the federal secretariat most directly responsible for homelessness matters until its closure in 2007. The NHI was created to fund transitional housing and a range of services for homeless people across the country. NHI funded the federal program Supporting Community Partnerships Initiative (SCPI) which covered the costs of temporary shelters and services for the homeless.
The federal government replaced the NHI with the Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) which was allocated to spend $270 million between 2007 and 2009. In September 2008, the Government of Canada announced that it would set aside funding for housing and homelessness programs of $387.9 million per year for the next five years.
Canada is one of the few countries in the world without a national housing strategy (United Nations, 2009). Many of the federal governments' expenditures are cost-sharing, one-time only funding initiatives that lack long-term leadership on homelessness. The United Nations has also noted the lack of information on these expenditures, including the number of houses produced.
Housing has been declared a fundamental human right. Canada helped to draft the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights that includes a right to access housing in Article 25. Canada also ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights in 1976, which recognizes an adequate standard of living, including housing, in Article 11.
Homeless advocates maintain that government funding should be spent on securing affordable housing versus funding more homelessness programs.
In 2008, the Alberta Secretariat for Action on Homelessness's Plan for Alberta, adopted a goal of ending homelessness in Alberta by 2019 with a focus on three key areas: rapid re-housing of homeless Albertans, providing client-centered supports to re-housed clients, and preventing homelessness. Pathways to Housing Canada uses the Housing First model, a "client-driven strategy that provides immediate access to an apartment without requiring initial participation in psychiatric treatment or treatment for sobriety."
Clients pay 30 percent of their income towards their rent: 85 percent of Pathways to Housing clients receive Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) benefits and 15 percent receive 
In 2007 Calgary's Pathways to Housing campaign included the opening of the Alex By 2013 Calgary's Pathways to Housing had 150 individuals in scatter site homes. The Alex Pathways to Housing uses the Housing First model, but it also uses Assertive Community Treatment (ACT), an integrated approach to healthcare where clients access a team of "nurses, mental health specialists, justice specialists and substance abuse specialists." Director Sue Fortune is committed to the 10 Year Plan To End Homelessless in the Calgary Region. Fortune reported that the Housing First approach resulted in a 66 percent decline in days hospitalized (from one year prior to intake compared to one year in the program), a 38 percent decline in times in emergency room, a 41 percent decline in EMS events, a 79 percent decline in days in jail and a 30 percent decline in police interactions.
In 2001 in British Columbia the service and shelter costs of homeless people ranged from $30,000 to $40,000 annually versus $22,000 to $28,000 per year for formerly homeless persons housed in social housing.
A plan to house Vancouver's homeless was proposed by a local architect. It called for the rapid erection of temporary villages assembled from the same type of modular units that mining companies provide for remote workers. "Stop Gap Shelters" is what architect Gregory Henriquez calls it. "All of us in this community have long been advocates for permanent housing," he said. "But we've gotten to the point where the numbers of homeless are so staggering that I'm left wondering if we will ever catch up doing it that way. I don't think we can. I think there has to be a stop-gap measure. And that's what this is." Henriquez drew up plans for a motel-like village, with 48 to 120 suites clustered around central courtyards. The colourful compound includes a managers' office, a covered patio, and a second-storey meeting room. [The Tyee, 2008]
Homelessness in Vancouver
Main article: Homelessness in Vancouver
In 2011 there were about 2,651 homeless people in Vancouver.
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- Shapcott, M. (October 2007). "Ten Things You Should Know about housing and homelessness." Wellesley Institute. Policy Primer.
- Shapcott, M. (2008). New income numbers confirm growing income inequality; One-in-four Canadian households below fair housing income; New figures underline urgent need for national housing strategy. Wellesley Institute Backgrounder: Growing Income Inequality.
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- ^This research used the 2012 Canadian Homelessness Research Network (CHRN)definition of homelessness.