Homelessness in Canada has increased in recent years. While in the past, it has been known as a crisis that solely affected urban centers such as Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal, the increasing incidence of homelessness in the suburbs has resulted in new services and programs being created in all communities. The demographic profile of Canada’s homeless population is also changing. Historically, men have comprised the vast majority of homeless persons, however, now women and children represent the fastest growing group of the homeless population, followed by youth.
Why people become homeless is a complex question and the answers are as unique as each individual’s story. Still, the most common reasons are: inability to pay for housing, conflict or abuse and alcohol or drug addictions. Other factors can include: mental illness, 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.
Homeless advocates maintain that government funding should be spent on securing affordable housing and supporting more homelessness shelters and programs. A 2003 census estimated 702, 600 Canadians were considered to be at-risk for homelessness, in that they spent more than 50 per cent of their household income on a mortgage or rent. Lack of job security combined with a decrease of affordable housing creates the problem of “hidden” homelessness. The “hidden homeless” eventually fall back and forth between homelessness and being housed, making the problem of homelessness much larger than that identified in street or shelter counts.
Mission Services of Hamilton is a charitable, Christian organization that provides emergency care and shelter for those who need it in the community. They offer basic services for struggling families, including food, shelter and clothing, as well as opportunities for healing and restorative assistance, in addition to life skills, vocational and on-the-job training. For more information on their fight to break the cycle of poverty and hunger, log onto www.mission-services.com.