Homelessness isn’t just what we see on the streets—it takes many forms and affects many different people. On any given night in Canada, 35,000 people experience a form of homelessness. For many, the climbing expenses of rent, food and other bills force difficult decisions that often lead to homelessness. Between March 1 and April 30, 2018, the second national Point-in-Time (PiT) Count of homelessness was conducted by communities across Canada. This count provides vital information about individuals experiencing homelessness, helping to identify their needs and develop effective strategies to respond appropriately in each community. When homelessness is not addressed, governments end up spending more money on health care emergency services and law enforcement.
It’s a common misconception that homeless people don’t have jobs or sources of income. A 2013 report by Citizens for Public Justice found that in 44 percent of poor households, there is at least one working person. For many, a steady paycheck just isn’t enough to keep up with the climbing expenses of rent, food and bills.
Living in shelters or temporary housing adds an extra barrier to employment. Beyond the stigma of homelessness, applying for a job without a fixed address, rental history, reliable phone number or access to childcare adds an extra hurdle to an already difficult process.
Homelessness takes on many forms and affects many different people. People may find themselves homeless after losing their job, dealing with health complications, struggling with addiction or fleeing domestic violence.
At the beginning of 2016, over half a million people were living on the streets, in cars, homeless shelters, or subsidized transitional housing. One out of five of these individuals were living in New York City or Los Angeles.
Although the numbers are profound, there has been some progress in the fight against homelessness with the number of people sleeping on the streets falling by three percent since last year. And according to a report from the U.S. Department of Housing, 68 percent of the homeless population were provided with emergency shelter in 2016.
There are an estimated 550,000 Americans experiencing homelessness on any given night, but they are all experiencing homelessness differently. Some of them are chronically homeless, meaning they remain homeless for a long period of time. Others are cyclically homeless, moving in and out of homelessness several times over a three-year period. Others are transitionally homeless, only remaining homeless for a very short period of time.
The largest population of homeless individuals are single adults. A large portion of these individuals face physical and mental health conditions, which can be both the cause and result of homelessness. While homelessness is a difficult situation regardless of age, children who experience homelessness can face serious physical, emotional and psychological implications.
Families typically become homeless because of an unforeseen financial crisis, whereas young people often become homeless due to family conflict. A large majority of young people experience short-term homelessness, eventually returning home or staying with family or friends. Veterans often become homeless due to war-related disabilities as they find it difficult to re-adjust to civilian life.