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More Seniors Using, Staying Longer In Emergency Shelters

The National Shelter Study is an ongoing analysis of homelessness shelter use trends in Canada. Highlights from the latest report are now available. The current report is based on anonymous information from nearly 3.1 million shelter stays that occurred at over 200 of the approximately 400 emergency shelters across Canada between 2005 and 2016.

The National Shelter Study is the most comprehensive national-level study of homelessness in Canada and is vital for understanding changing trends over time. It provides a descriptive account of the demographic characteristics of the homeless population using shelters in Canada and the trends in the average shelter occupancy rate, the overall number of Canadians using shelters, shelter bed use and the length of stay by individuals using Canada’s emergency shelter system.

While the complete report is expected this fall, the initial findings show a disturbing trend as it pertains to elder Canadians — everything from a growing number of seniors using emergency shelters to longer stays in shelters for seniors compared to every other demographic.

Initial findings include:

  1. Over 14,000 Canadians slept in an emergency shelter on an average night.

  2. 69.5% of shelter users were male.

  3. Shelter use remains high with an occupancy rate of 91% in 2016.

  4. Almost 1 in 4 shelter users is age for 50 or older.

  5. While the number of adult shelter users dropped 30%, the number of shelter users aged 50 to 64 has increased by more than 25%, from 21,209 in 2005 to 26,839.

  6. The number of seniors using emergency shelter services has increased by 50%.

  7. The duration of time spent in a shelter has increased for all age groups.

  8. Older adults and seniors were estimated to have significantly longer shelter stays compared to other age groups.

  9. The majority (about 50% to 60%) of shelter stays in a given year are short (1 to 4 days). Older adults with a single shelter stay had an estimated length of stay of 22.1 days while seniors had an estimated length of stay of 27.6 days in 2016.

  10. An estimated 2,400 people living in Canada's shelters reported having served in the military.

Initial Report:




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