Out In The Cold: Canada’s Response to the Homeless
I chose this social group through a personal experience with my best friend, Susan, who lost her brother to alcohol consumption and to a life on the streets in Vancouver’s downtown eastside. This paper is limited to Canada and its provinces and territories and discusses homelessness, offering a demographic profile, needs, legal jurisdictions and key policies and programs that address the principal needs of the homeless. Defining "Homelessness" in Canada
The way a problem is defined has important policy implications: not only can the definition influence the perceived extent of the problem, but it can also circumscribe the possible solutions. No single definition of homelessness is "official" in Canada, and advocates, researchers, and policy makers have interpreted the issue in a multitude of ways (Echenberg & Jensen, 2008). Most take into account two important facets of homelessness: the specific housing situation and the duration and/or frequency of homeless episodes (Springer, 2000). Homelessness is a broad term that can encompass a range of housing conditions. These can be understood on a continuum of types of shelter (Girard, 2006). “At one end, absolute homelessness is a narrow concept that includes only those living on the street or in emergency shelters. Hidden or concealed homelessness is in the middle of the continuum. These include people without a place of their own who live in a car, with family or friends, or in a long-term institution. At the other end of the continuum, relative homelessness is a broad category that includes those who are housed but who reside in substandard shelter and/or who may be at risk of losing their homes” (Ibid). Enumeration of Homelessness
Attempts have been made by municipal and/or non-government organizations to enumerate the homeless population in various Canadian cities. The City of Calgary count determined that, on the night of 14 May 2008, 4,060 Calgary residents experienced absolute homelessness, an increase of 18.2% since 2006 (City of Calgary Community and Neighborhood Services, 2008). The Greater Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness counted 2,660 homeless people on the day of its 2008 study (Greater Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness, 2008). While the number of homeless in the City of Vancouver increased by 6% between 2005 and 2008, the figure jumped by 35% in the other municipalities of Metro Vancouver (Ibid, p. 2). Finally, the City of Toronto estimated that 5,052 were living on the street or in shelters or other facilities on the day of its 2006 count (City of Toronto, 2006).
In 2005, the National Homeless Initiative, the federal secretariat most directly responsible for homelessness in Canada until its closure in 2007, estimated that 150,000 Canadians were homeless. Given the rapid growth found in municipal homeless counts, some non-governmental sources estimate Canada’s true homeless population, not just those living in emergency shelters, ranges between 200,000 and 300,000 (Kothari, OHCHR, 2007). Advocates of the homeless have been saying as many as 300,000 are without a home since the year 2000 (Girard, 2006). Demographics of Homelessness
More is known about the nature of the homeless than its size: In 2011, most homeless are males in their 20’s and early 30’s, less afraid of being seen and are spread throughout the downtown sectors of every major Canadian city. A Toronto task force represented women at 30 per cent of the homeless. Estimates of homeless with psychiatric issues range from 20 to 35 per cent. Like many cities, Montreal streets are home to young men and women. Montreal is the city that created the ‘squeegee-kid’ phenomenon. Dans La Rue, a Montreal organization for street kids, had over 65,000 visits to its outreach van in 2003. Studies also...
References: City of Calgary, Community and Neighbourhood Services (2008, p. i )
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Girard, M. Determining the Extent of the Problem: The Value and Challengers of Enumeration, Canadian Review of Social Policy, Vol. 58, 2006, p. 104.
Gordon, L. (2010, Aug.8). Examination of Canadian Shelters. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/Canada/story/2007/06/26/shelter.html (22 November 2011)
Greater Vancouver Regional Steering Committee on Homelessness (2008, p
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. Retrieved from http://www.hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/funding_programs/index.shtml (23 November 2011)
Légaré, F., Mission Old Brewery, Homelessness: where have all the funds gone? Press Release 3 December 2008.
Medleg, S., Development Coordinator, Dan la rue , phone interview (25 November 2011)
Mission Old Brewery, Retrieved from http:// www.oldbrewerymission.ca/obm_services.htm (November 22 20011)
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
Springer, S., Homelessness: a proposal for global definition and classification, Habitat International, Vol. 24, 2000, pp. 475–84.
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