We often get asked “why are there so many homeless in our region?”
The experience of homelessness is different for everyone. While it can become challenging to fully comprehend the increasing numbers, the reasons for homelessness are usually the result of a number of factors – rather than a single cause.
In a recent article, the Homeless Hub (The State of Homelessness in Canada 2013. Toronto: Canadian Homelessness Research Network Press) identified three distinct reasons people become homelessness:
- Structural factors – these factors are economic or social issues where inadequate income, access to affordable housing and health supports are key factors. A lack of jobs during an economic downturn creates challenges for people to earn an adequate income to pay for food and housing. When poverty deepens, people find it increasingly difficult to pay for necessities including housing, food, education, childcare and healthcare. A person who is poor is one illness, one accident or one paycheque away from being homeless.
The shortage of safe and quality affordable housing is a contributing factor to homelessness.
- Systems failures – these failures are a result of vulnerable people not receiving adequate support and fall through the cracks in the systems. As an example inadequate discharge planning for people leaving hospitals, corrections, mental health and addictions facilities, lack of support for immigrants and refugees or people facing a difficult transition from social assistance.
When systems of support fail, the vulnerable can become homeless, when other mainstream services could have prevented this.
- Individual and relational factors – include personal circumstances such as traumatic events or personal crisis such as house fire, job loss, domestic violence, family breakdown, mental health issues, physical disability, addictions, and extreme poverty. Relational issues include the above circumstances of other family members.
Crisis and traumatic factors without proper supports in place lead to an increase in homelessness.
For more information, click on the below image to view a brief slideshow as presented in the Homeless Hub.