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Supporting the unhoused

Supporting the unhoused

The homelessness crisis in our province is a failure of our government over decades of inaction, existing systems and institutions and a result of compounding crises.

The right to a safe, healthy and secure place to call home is a human right. But in BC, we’re not treating it that way. The housing crisis is having a growing impact on finding affordable and available housing. And for many, finding safe, secure and affordable housing isn’t possible.  

Governments have created the homelessness crisis over decades, failing to adequately adapt existing systems and institutions, which has then resulted in multiple and compounding crises. The housing crisis, rising unaffordability, inequality, systemic racism, criminalization, the toxic drug crisis, the mental health crisis and the lack of a robust social safety net have gotten us to where we are now and people deserve better. The unhoused population is incredibly diverse; no one is absolutely safe from experiencing homelessness. 

However, some racialized groups are at an increased risk of experiencing homelessness. Colonialism, systemic and individual racism and poverty all create fewer opportunities and a greater risk of homelessness. On any given night, 6.97% of the urban Indigenous population in Canada is homeless, as compared to a national average of 0.78%. And 1 in 5 racialized families will live in poverty compared to only 1 in 20 non-racialized families.

Investing in housing and putting people first has been shown to be better for the economy and more cost-effective. A person experiencing homelessness with addictions and/or mental illness used $55,000/year in healthcare and/or corrections services compared to $37,000/year for a person in supportive housing. And what’s more, every dollar invested in supportive housing creates four to five dollars in social and/or economic value by saving money through a decreased use of social services and the local neighbourhoods benefit from improved well-being and increased local spending. 

Demographic breakdown

More than 29,000 families live in provincially-subsidized housing. In Canada, 1 in 5 racialized families will live in poverty compared to only 1 in 20 non-racialized families.

Women make up 27.3% of those experiencing homelessness—precarious employment, having to take on additional caregiver roles (to take care of children or dependents), as well as the wage gap in our province (women make an average of 18.6% less than men, or approx. $5.90/hour) are all contributing factors.

Indigenous peoples are overrepresented among those experiencing homelessness in urban centres in Canada—colonialism, systemic and individual racism and poverty all create fewer opportunities and a greater risk of homelessness. On any given night, 6.97% of the urban Indigenous population in Canada is homeless, as compared to a national average of 0.78%. 41% of BC’s Indigenous peoples are at risk of homelessness and 23% are absolutely homeless.

More than 56,000 seniors’ households across BC receive housing support.

Youth between the ages of 13-24 make up 20% of the homeless population in Canada. In any given year, there are at least 35–40,000 youth experiencing homelessness.

  • LGBTQ2S+ youth make up 25–40% of the youth experiencing homelessness, and trans youth face discrimination in accessing the shelter system (1 in 3 are rejected)

People with severe addictions and/or mental illness make up anywhere from 33% to over 60% of the homeless population. Approximately 136,000 adults in BC have a severe addiction and/or mental illness, and between 8,000 and 15,500 of these people are street homeless. Because of the cyclical and long-term nature of severe mental illness, people often have difficulty getting and keeping employment. Without a regular income, many people depend on provincial and federal benefit programs. However, these programs do not provide enough assistance to cover basic food and shelter costs, and people with addictions and mental illness are often not able to qualify for these programs. These people fall through the cracks of our society due to an overwhelmed medical system, societal stigma and a lack of resources.

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