Fast Facts on Homelessness
Who are Canada’s Homeless?
- Some non-governmental sources estimate Canada’s true homeless population, not just those living in emergency shelters, to be between 200,000 and 300,000. (“Homelessness”, The Globe and Mail, June 12, 2006; National Housing and Homeless Network in Laird, op.cit., page 4)
- At any time during the year as many as 65,000* youth are without a place to call home. (*As reported in Raising the Roof’s report Youth Homelessness in Canada: The Road to Solutions, 2009)
- Several studies have found that youth experiencing homelessness have disproportionately been involved in child protection services or foster care in their lives. This number ranges from close to 30% to 49% (Clarke & Cooper, 2000; Leslie & Hare, 2000; McCarthy, 1995; Kaus & Dowling, 2003; Raising the Roof, 2009).
- The tens of thousands of people who are currently experiencing homelessness are a diverse mix of young and old, families with children, couples and single people (Laird, 2007; Hulchanski, J. D., Campsie, P., Chau, S. B.Y., Hwang, S. W., Paradis. E. Homelessness: What’s in a Word? (2009). In D. J. Hulchanski, P. Campsie, S. Chau, S. Hwang, E. Paradis (Eds.), Finding Home: Policy Options for Addressing Homelessness in Canada (e-book). Toronto: Cities Centre, University of Toronto. www.homelesshub.ca/FindingHome
- As the number of people experiencing homelessness has grown, so have the reasons for homelessness – poverty and lack of affordable housing have surpassed substance abuse and mental illness as the leading causes of homelessness (Snow, D., 2008. A Roof Over Our Heads 2008: Affordable Housing and Homelessness in Canada. Canada West Foundation, as cited in Laird, 2007)
- 1/3 of the homeless population is between ages of 16-24 (Snow, D., 2008. A Roof Over Our Heads 2008: Affordable Housing and Homelessness in Canada. Canada West Foundation).
- In the past 25 years there has been a 450% increase in the number of youth shelter beds in Toronto. Toronto Community Foundation (2009). Independent Living Accounts: Leaving Homelessness in the Past.
- 1,500-2,000 youth are homeless in Toronto on any given night; approximately 10,000 different youth at any point in any given year. Toronto Community Foundation (2009). Independent Living Accounts: Leaving Homelessness in the Past.
- Suicide attempts amongst street-involved youth are 10.3 times that of the national average for Canadian youth McKay, E. (2009). Seeing the Possibilities. The Need for a Mental Health Focus Amongst Street-Involved Youth: Recognizing and Supporting Resilience. Toronto: Wellesley Institute.
- Mortality rates amongst youth experiencing homelessness are quite high, conservative estimate of up to 11 times the general youth population Kidd, S. A., & Davidson, L. (2009). Homeless Youth: The Need to Link Research and Policy. In: J. D. Hulchanski, P. Campsie, S. Chau, S. Hwang, E. Paradis, (Eds.), Finding Home: Policy Options for Addressing Homelessness in Canada (e-book).Toronto: Cities Centre, University of Toronto). www.homelesshub.ca/FindingHome
- 61% of youth (n=43) reported being either physically or sexually abused by an adult at some point in their lives. McKay, E,. (2009). Seeing the Possibilities. The Need for a Mental health Focus Amongst Street-Involved Youth: Recognizing and Supporting Resilience. Toronto: Wellesley Institute.
- Housing issues have been reported to be a factor in one of every five cases where a child is brought into care in Children’s Aid Society of Toronto (Chau, S., Fitzpatrick, A., Hulchanski, D., Leslie, B., & Schatia, D. (2001). One in Five: Housing as a Factor in the Admission of Children to Care. Toronto, ON: Children's Aid Society of Toronto & the University of Toronto.
- Youth who stay on the street for two years are less likely to leave – making an intervention within the first two years key to solving the problem (The Yonge Street Mission. (2009). Changing Patterns for Street Involved Youth).
- One in four youth leave home before the legal age. The younger they are, the more likely their stay on the street will last longer. (The Yonge Street Mission. (2009). Changing Patterns for Street Involved Youth).
It costs an estimated $30,000 – $40,000 a year to keep a youth in the shelter system and over $100,000 per year to keep one youth in detention. Laird (2007). Homelessness in a Growth Economy: Canada’s 21st Century Paradox. Calgary, AB: Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership.
- 20% of homeless in Canada are “chronically” homeless or have been on the streets for more than three months (Trypuc, B., & Robinson, J., 2009. Homeless in Canada: A Funder’s Primer in Understanding the Tragedy on Canadian Streets. King City, ON: Charity Intelligence Canada).
- The average life expectancy of a person experiencing homelessness in Canada is 39 years. (Trypuc, B., & Robinson, J., 2009. Homeless in Canada: A Funder’s Primer in Understanding the Tragedy on Canadian Streets. King City, ON: Charity Intelligence Canada).
- Contrary to popular misconception, schizophrenia is only present in approximately 6% of Toronto’s homeless population (Frankish, C. J., Hwang, S., & Quantz, D.,2005. Homeless and Health in Canada: Research Lessons and Priorities. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 96, S23-S29, as cited in Toronto Report Card on Homelessness, 2000.)
- Families with children are the fastest growing group of citizens experiencing homelessness Caragata, L. (2006). Housing and Homelessness. In A. Westhues (Ed.), Canadian Social Policy: Issues and Perspectives. Wilfred Laurier Press.
- Aboriginal Peoples are overrepresented in the homeless population by as much as a factor of 10 Decter, A. (2007). Lost in the Shuffle: The Impact of Homelessness on Children's Education in Toronto. Toronto, ON: Community Social Planning Council of Toronto – as cited Registered Nurses Association, 2004).
- Based on the Federal Governments conservative estimate that 150,000 people will experience homelessness in Canada every year, homelessness costs tax payers between $ 4.5 – 6 billion annually, inclusive of health care, criminal justice, social services, emergency shelter costs Laird (2007). Homelessness in a Growth Economy: Canada’s 21st Century Paradox. Calgary, AB: Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership.
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