One Pay Away From Homelessness


In late 2019, Ipsos reported that Canadians have, on average, $557 at the end of the month after paying all their bills and debt obligations. That represents a drop of 20 percent from the previous report and the lowest level since 2016. Men and those aged 18-34 have seen the biggest decreases, 25 and 35 percent, respectively. Still, Canadians are “generally positive about their personal financial situations,” the October 28, 2019 report reads.


That was 9 months ago, before novel coronavirus all but shut down the country and the economy. How are Canadians feeling today with an unemployment rate of 12.3 percent (down from a record high of 13.7 percent in May) compared to 5.67 percent in 2019, and 110,000+ cases of COVID-19?


“Nearly half (48 percent) of Canadians are $200 or less away from financial insolvency,” said Ipsos. That was last October, and that figure “includes 29 percent who already cannot meet their debt obligations and are insolvent at month-end.” Looking back, those may have been the good ole days of late.


Only weeks ago, Global News said the coronavirus pandemic could end up “swamping” millions of Canadian households.


The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) estimates 12 percent of the country’s mortgage holders have entered into a mortgage deferral agreement with their bank. By September, that number could rise to one in five.


The future for renters is just as ominous. Geordie Dent, the executive director of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations warns, “It is going to be a terrifying bloodbath.” Dent calculated that renters who fell into arrears in April may have created the justification for some 50,000 landlord applications to the board, over 12 times that of a typical month. That leaves roughly 130,000 renters exposed. Dent says, “Everyone seems to think May will be worse.”


Tony Irwin, the president of the Federation of Rental-Housing Providers of Ontario, estimated that their member landlords saw a 10 percent delinquency rate across Ontario in April, up from about 1 percent in a normal month. In Toronto, where rent is almost 45 percent higher than the average rent in the country, “it is almost certain that delinquency rates are much higher,” states a June 2020 report from Toronto Foundation. The report suggests that a realistic but less optimistic forecast indicates that “260,000 people in our city were delinquent in their rent payment.”


With so many people living so close to the edge, financially, and with the inevitable end to COVID-related assistance on the horizon combined with projections of an unemployment rate of 14.1 percent, homelessness is certain to rise.


Homelessness already affects many Canadians, though some population groups, like single adult men, are more at risk of becoming homeless than others. It is estimated that approximately 35,000 Canadians experience homelessness on any given night — 10,000+ in Toronto alone — and at least 235,000 Canadians are homeless in any given year.


With the impending increase in homelessness comes an increase in the need for supports, including crisis and housing counselling, shelters, food banks and drop-in centres.


Since the start of the pandemic, Haven Toronto has seen not just an increase in the number of meals served but an alarming spike.


In February, the centre — the only one of its kind in Canada dedicated to serving elder homeless men age 50+ — served 3,211 meals (breakfast and lunch combined). By the end of June, the total number of meals served was up 108 percent. Recognizing that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, the number of meals served at breakfast last month (June 2020) was up 228 percent over June 2019.


By the end of the year, which for many cannot come too soon, Haven Toronto expects to have served a record number of meals; the most in a single year since opening in 1933.


With help from grants and donations, Haven Toronto has been able to meet the growing need for assistance of late. However, as numbers continue to rise to record levels, with it rises the pressure for additional support.


Haven Toronto’s online store enables donors to help solve the issue of food insecurity by donating meals; from a single meal for one dollar to meals for a week, a month and more. Donors receive a tax receipt just as the most vulnerable in our community gain the peace of mind of knowing where their next meal is coming from; and not just any meal but healthy, nutritious choices prepared onsite at the downtown Toronto centre which is open every day, all year.


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