Understanding Homelessness and the Strategy

The causes and consequences of homelessness are complex. Homelessness affects a diverse cross-section of the population that includes youth, women with children, and seniors. Many factors can contribute to an individual being homeless, which can make it difficult for individuals to regain self-sufficiency the longer they have been homeless.

The Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) is a community-based program aimed at preventing and reducing homelessness by providing direct support and funding to communities across Canada. The Government of Canada's Economic Action Plan announced nearly $600 million over five years (-) starting in to renew and refocus the HPS using a Housing First approach.

Housing First

As an approach, Housing First under the HPS will involve moving primarily individuals who are chronically or episodically homeless from the streets or homeless shelters directly into permanent housing. Permanent housing is complemented by the provision of services to assist clients to sustain their housing and work towards recovery and reintegration into the community. The implementation of Housing First will be phased in, taking into account varying capacity and resources among communities.

Through this renewed commitment, funding available to communities will remain unchanged and communities will retain flexibility to invest in other proven approaches that complement Housing First. The federal government will continue to work in partnership with provinces and territories, communities, the private sector and other stakeholders to reduce homelessness.

The implementation of a Housing First approach builds on the outcomes of the Mental Health Commission of Canada's (MHCC) At Home/Chez Soi demonstration research project, as well as outcomes in several other Canadian communities. The At Home/Chez Soi research demonstration project was funded by the federal government at $110 million over five years and established pilots in five cities (Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montréal and Moncton). The project—the largest of its kind—ended in and provides strong evidence that Housing First is an effective way to reduce homelessness.

The report demonstrated that a Housing First approach can be effectively implemented in Canadian cities both large and small, to rapidly reduce homelessness while alleviating pressure on shelters and health and judicial services. Once stable housing is obtained, the focus shifts to more enduring issues, such as addiction and mental health.

Read the National At Home/Chez Soi Final Report for more information.

About the Homelessness Partnering Strategy

The HPS supports 61 designated communities and some small, rural, northern and Aboriginal communities across Canada to develop local solutions to homelessness. The HPS funds local priorities identified by communities through a comprehensive community planning process involving officials from all levels of government, community stakeholders, and the private and voluntary sectors. This approach provides communities with the flexibility to invest in proven approaches that reduce homelessness at the local level.

Recognizing that homelessness is a shared responsibility, the HPS works to enhance partnerships to find longer-term solutions to homelessness, strengthen community capacity and build sustainability. It supports research and knowledge sharing to foster a better understanding of homelessness, and it collects and promotes promising practices to help communities design the most effective responses.

The HPS also recognizes that stable housing is a basic requirement for improving health, parenting, education, and employment. The HPS supports community initiatives that use a housing-first approach, and it emphasizes transitional and supportive housing to help individuals and families move to greater autonomy and self-sufficiency.

By stabilizing the lives of homeless and at-risk individuals, the HPS contributes to the mission of Employment and Social Development Canada to build a stronger and more competitive Canada, to support Canadians in making choices that help them live productive and rewarding lives and to improve Canadians' quality of life.

Background and renewal

The HPS was launched in , with a focus on longer-term solutions to homelessness. Since its launch, over $750 million for projects to prevent and reduce homelessness have been approved. The HPS is demonstrating success. Despite the recent recession, communities are experiencing improvements to the homelessness situation. The number of emergency shelter users in Canada is not on the rise and rough sleeping, or sleeping in the street, is down in many communities. Through the efforts of the HPS and its partners, thousands of homeless individuals have secured stable housing, found jobs, returned to school, and become more fully-participating members of Canadian society.

These successes notwithstanding, homelessness remains a persistent issue that requires a well-focused and innovative strategy to address. It affects a diverse cross-section of the population, including individuals and families, and the communities in which they reside.

The Government of Canada understands the importance of helping vulnerable Canadians. The renewed HPS, as announced in Economic Action Plan , was allocated stable funding over five years (-), nearly $600 million in total. A number of key features of the program are being maintained, such as the proven community-based approach, as well as funding allocations to communities and the different regionally-delivered funding streams. This renewal provides long-term and predictable funding that is in line with the Government's goal of supporting communities in developing longer-term solutions to homelessness, and in particular moving to a Housing First approach.

Understanding homelessness

National statistics: Reviewing the numbers

It is difficult to measure the number of homeless individuals, as the homeless population is diverse, mobile and in some cases, hidden. It is estimated that close to 150 000 people use shelters every year across Canada. Research indicates that shelter use is a good estimate of the total homeless population. A number of communities conduct Point-in-Time counts, which provide a local "snapshot" of sheltered and unsheltered homelessness on a given day.

In order to reduce and prevent homelessness, we need to better understand the situation and the supports needed. Communities are coming together to do just this and find ways to help.

Read highlights from the National Shelter Study to learn more about emergency shelter use in Canada between and .

Understanding the needs

The HPS is delivered through a unique community-based approach that gives communities the flexibility and tools to identify and address their own community's distinct homelessness needs and priorities. As a result, some communities have identified [women, seniors, youth, etc.] as a priority target group for HPS-funded projects.

Homelessness among Veterans

Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) are working together to address the issue of homelessness among Canada's Veterans.

Through the Homelessness Partnering Strategy and its renewed focus on a Housing First approach, ESDC is collaborating with VAC to ensure that the services and supports provided by both departments complement one another and are delivered in a coordinated way at the regional or community level.

A key component is to ensure that all Veterans currently experiencing homelessness, or who may be at imminent risk of becoming homeless, receive all the services for which they are eligible.

To this end, we are working with communities so that emergency shelter and crisis service providers are equipped to assist in identifying and referring homeless Veterans to VAC, which will then connect them with needed services and supports in their community.

For information on the range of VAC services for eligible Veterans, including those experiencing or facing homelessness, please visit the VAC website or contact the VAC office nearest you.