Homelessness: Anyone who does not have access to safe, affordable, appropriate, permanent housing to which they can return whenever they choose.
When you think of people experiencing homelessness, what images come to mind? If you’re like most people, you might imagine someone sleeping on park benches, living on the streets or in cars, staying in an emergency shelter, and you’d be right, but only partially. The person you see on the street is just the tip of the iceberg, representing a small portion of the homeless population in our city.
Homelessness is the absence of a place to live. You might be surprised to learn homelessness does not discriminate against anyone, regardless of race, religion, age or gender. People from all walks of life in our own community have no adequate place to call home right at this very moment. They include:
- families with infants and small children
- individuals who are employed full time at below a living wage
- youth disconnected from their families
- post secondary students
- individuals who are faced with health related issues and disabilities
These are individuals and families who once had housing but today have no place of their own to live and don’t have enough money to pay for life's necessities. At some point, they had enough income, as well as the support network of family and friends and access to a social safety net. For a variety of reasons, increasing numbers of people in our community find themselves without access to sustained, safe and affordable housing. Some of these include:
- inability to find housing within a short period of time
- finding themselves drifting in and out of homelessness
- remaining without a home for long periods of time
Types of homelessness
An individual who is living on the street with no physical shelter of his/her own, including individuals who spend their nights sleeping in emergency shelters.
"Sleeping rough" is the most extreme form of homelessness. It means living on the street or in alleys, beside garbage bins, in public spaces, sheltered over heating ducts or in any other place not meant for human habitation. It is usually a last resort for homeless people. Places where people/families might be sleeping rough:
- on the street
- in doorways
- in the coulees
- bus shelters
- cardboard boxes
- beside garbage dumpsters
- dilapidated buildings
- under loading docks
According to the most recent SHIA Homeless Census, evidence of people sleeping rough in our community has significantly decreased.
It goes without saying that sleeping rough is extremely difficult and dangerous. People sleeping rough don’t know where their next meal is coming from or where they are going to sleep that night. There is nowhere to store or protect their belongings. There may be nowhere to maintain personal hygiene.
Life on the street poses many dangers, including:
- risk of illness or death due to weather conditions
- being assaulted, robbed or worse
- falling into illegal activity to obtain money
- risk contact with unsanitary situations/conditions
- risk exposure to an unsafe or hazardous environment
People sleeping rough may represent a small percentage of our homeless population, but they are perhaps our community’s most vulnerable men, women, youth and children.
At-Risk of Homelessness
An individual that is experiencing difficulty maintaining their housing and has no alternatives for obtaining subsequent housing. Circumstances that often contribute to becoming at-risk of homelessness include: eviction, loss of income, unaffordable increase in the cost of housing, discharge from an institution without subsequent housing in place, irreparable damage or deterioration to residences, and fleeing from family violence.
An individual who has been continuously homeless for a year or more, or who has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years. In order to be considered chronically homeless, a person must have been sleeping in a place not meant for human habitation (e.g., living on the streets) and/or in an emergency homeless shelter.
An individual who has been homeless for less than a year and has had fewer than four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.
An individual living in any spaces that does not meet the basic health and safety standards including protection from the elements; access to safe water and sanitation; security of tenure and personal safety; affordability; access to employment, education and health care; and the provision of minimum space to avoid overcrowding.