Man sleeping on Canadian sidewalk.
Homelessness in Canada has grown in size and complexity in recent years.  While historically known as a crisis only of
urban centres such as Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, and Montreal, the increasing incidence of homelessness in the suburbs is
necessitating new services and resources.
The demographic profile of Canada's homeless population is also changing. While in the past men used to comprise the vast
majority of homeless persons, now women and children represent the fastest growing subgroup of the homeless population, followed
by youth.In recent years homelessness has become a major political issue in Canada.
Why people become homeless is a complex question and the answers are as unique as each individual person’s history.
People become homeless by many different paths, the risk factors often can include psychological trauma, violence, mental
health and addictions, unemployment, foster care exits, exiting from jail or hospitalization, immigration, rising housing
costs and decreased rent controls, federal and provincial downloading of housing programs, and low social assistance rates.
Kids become homeless usually due to some sort of abuse, whether it be from home, school, society or peers.
While the causes are complex, the solutions to homelessness may be simple: “Homelessness may not be only a housing problem,
but it is always a housing problem; housing is necessary, although sometimes not sufficient, to solve the problem of homelessness.”
The lack of a consistent definition of homelessness is a contentious issue, however most research and programs focus on absolute
homelessness and public policy initiatives.
Absolute homelessness is what is commonly thought of as the homeless. This includes people sleeping outdoors in parks or ravines,
begging on the sidewalk, etc.
Sheltered homeless are those who make use of emergency shelters.
Hidden or concealed homeless are people who have lost their homes and are temporarily housed with friends or relatives, couch
surfing, or doubled up with other families.
While counting the homeless is a politically charged and methodologically contentious issue, the federal estimate of the number
of homeless people in Canada was 150,000 in 2005, or about 0.5 per cent of the population. Homeless advocates estimated it
to be closer to 300,000.
Based on the more conservative figure, the annual cost of homelessness in Canada in 2007 was approximately 4.5 to 6 billion
in emergency services, community organizations, and non-profits.
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