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A social innovation approach is needed to tackle homelessness in Canada – SSHRC

October, 16, 2023

Housing, as we know, is a critical issue for Canadians. Daily media headlines range from the lack of affordable homes to the meteoric rise in rents across all regions; from young adults giving up on home ownership to seniors on fixed incomes who can’t afford to stay in their homes. The message is clear: Canada is facing a housing crisis. In response, the federal government has made housing a national priority.

Sometimes—but not always—media articles focus on a devastating issue linked to but not always a direct result of the housing crisis: homelessness. As the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness notes, homelessness is commonly defined as “the situation of an individual, family or community without stable, safe, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it.”

During the pandemic, homelessness became a more “visible” problem as encampments and tent cities sprung up in rural areas and city centres. COVID-19 not only exposed pre-existing social inequities and injustices, it also intensified them and worsened the conditions for already marginalized populations and individuals. Globally, an estimated 150 million people are homeless on any given day. In Canada, an estimated 235,000 people experience homelessness annually, of which around 40,000 are youth aged 13-24. These figures are best guesses only and likely underestimate Canada’s homeless population. Statistics Canada is currently attempting to provide a more accurate national portrait of homelessness.

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