Every person who has found themselves homeless at any point could point to numerous reasons why they ended up on the streets.
The causes of homelessness are usually intertwined with one another. Anyone could find themselves looking for shelter, regardless of their background or life experience. Homelessness is usually the combination of several factors.
The latest figures from the Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) from 2016, estimates 235,000 experience homelessness every year. That number increases when you add those who live with family and friends but do not access emergency shelters.
The number of individuals that are homeless on a given night is estimated to be 35,000.
Lack of low-income housing
Many urban centres in Canada have seen a significant increase in housing prices and rents over the last several years. The City of Toronto itself has acknowledge that affordability was the most significant barrier for people living in shelters.
Around 9,000 people are said to be homeless in a city in the midst of a construction boom. There has been more of a coordinated effort from the federal and provincial levels to build more subsidized housing units but it does not go far enough.
Systemic problems are problems that stem from problems inherent in our overall system. For example, the legal system sometimes overly-prosecutes people for petty crimes, putting too much strain on people who face many challenges.
Also, there’s a large number of people who lose their home because they cannot work because of health-related reasons or due to long-term hospitalization. Cuts to social assistance and welfare have only added to the problem.
This is often cited as the main cause of homelessness.
It is probably the biggest commonality in why people end up without a place to live but it’s rarely the only factor.
The state of the economy at a given time often has an impact on homeless numbers. If unemployment and precariousness is on the rise, it exacerbates a lot of the factors that lead to homelessness such as mental health and medical problems, domestic violence and the breakdown of relationships.
Personal circumstances and trauma
Our relationships sustain us. They give us hope. But, sometimes, our relationships break down and we fall into despair.
A sudden loss or single traumatic event could send people in a spiral and their life could quickly unravel. When there is abuse of any kind, many see the streets as a better alternative to their current situation. If they have any choice at all.
Mental health and addiction
There has been more of an emphasis in talking about mental health and addiction in recent years. But, more needs to be done to remove the stigma attached to both. We need to continue to raise awareness of these issues and encourage those affected by these afflictions to seek help. The opioid crisis has only added to the challenge.