Information about Homelessness
Homelessness is defined as anyone who does not have access to safe, affordable, appropriate, permanent housing to which they can return whenever they choose.
What images come to mind when you think of people experiencing homelessness? You might imagine someone sleeping in park shelters, living on the streets or in cars, staying in an emergency shelter, or staying under a bridge. Unfortunately these scenarios can all be correct. However, 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.
Homeless people are individuals and families who once had housing but now have no place of their own to live and don’t have enough money to pay for life's necessities. For a variety of reasons, increasing numbers of people in our community find themselves without access to sustained, safe and affordable housing.
Brandon Housing First is initially focusing our efforts on those who are dealing with chronic and episodic homelessness. Chronically homeless refers to individuals, often with disabling conditions, who are currently homeless and have been homeless for six months or more in the past year. Episodically homeless refers to individuals who are currently homeless and have experienced three or more episodes of homelessness in the past year.
Types of Homelessness
This includes people who lack housing and are not accessing emergency shelters or accommodation, except during extreme weather conditions. In most cases, people are staying in places that are not designed for or fit for human habitation.
PEOPLE LIVING IN PUBLIC OR PRIVATE SPACES WITHOUT CONSENT OR CONTRACT
- Public space, such as sidewalks, squares, parks, forests, etc.
- Private space and vacant buildings (squatting)
PEOPLE LIVING IN PLACES NOT INTENDED FOR PERMANENT HUMAN HABITATION
- Living in cars or other vehicles
- Living in garages, attics, closets or buildings not designed for habitation
- People in makeshift shelters, shacks or tents
This refers to people who, because they cannot secure permanent housing, are accessing emergency shelter and system supports, generally provided at no cost or minimal cost to the user. Such accommodation represents a stop-gap institutional response to homelessness provided by government, non-profit, faith based organizations and / or volunteers.
- EMERGENCY OVERNIGHT SHELTERS FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE HOMELESS
- These facilities are designed to meet the immediate needs of people who are homeless. Such short-term emergency shelters may target specific sub-populations, including women, families, youth or Aboriginal persons, for instance. These shelters typically have minimal eligibility criteria, offer shared sleeping facilities and amenities, and often expect clients to leave in the morning. They may or may not offer food, clothing or other services. Some emergency shelters allow people to stay on an ongoing basis while others are short term and are set up to respond to special circumstances, such as extreme weather.
- SHELTERS FOR INDIVIDUALS/FAMILIES IMPACTED BY FAMILY VIOLENCE
- These shelters provide basic emergency and crisis services including safe accommodation, meals, information, and referral. They provide a high security environment for women (and sometimes men) and children fleeing family violence or other crisis situations. Residents are not required to leave during the day. These facilities offer private rooms for families and a range of supports to help residents rebuild their lives.
- EMERGENCY SHELTER FOR PEOPLE FLEEING A NATURAL DISASTER OR DESTRUCTION OF ACCOMMODATION DUE TO FIRES, FLOODS, ETC.
This describes situations in which people, who are technically homeless and without permanent shelter, access accommodation that offers no prospect of permanence. Those who are provisionally accommodated may be accessing temporary housing provided by government or the non-profit sector, or may have independently made arrangements for short-term accommodation.
- INTERIM HOUSING FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE HOMELESS
- Interim housing is a systems-supported form of housing that is meant to bridge the gap between unsheltered homelessness or emergency accommodation and permanent housing. In some cases referred to as ‘transitional housing’, this form of accommodation typically provides services beyond basic needs, offers residents more privacy, and places greater emphasis on participation and social engagement. Interim housing targets those who would benefit from structure, support and skill-building prior to moving to long term housing stability, with the ultimate goal of preventing a return to homelessness.
- PEOPLE LIVING TEMPORARILY WITH OTHERS, BUT WITHOUT GUARANTEE OF CONTINUED RESIDENCY OR IMMEDIATE PROSPECTS FOR ACCESSING PERMANENT HOUSING
- Often referred to as ‘couch surfers’ or the ‘hidden homeless’, this describes people who stay with friends, family, or even strangers. They are typically not paying rent, their duration of stay is unsustainable in the long term, and they do not have the means to secure their own permanent housing in the future.
- PEOPLE ACCESSING SHORT TERM, TEMPORARY RENTAL ACCOMMODATIONS WITHOUT SECURITY OF TENURE
- In some cases people who are homeless make temporary rental arrangements, such as staying in motels, hostels, rooming houses, etc. Although occupants pay rent, the accommodation does not offer the possibility of permanency. People living in these situations are often considered to be part of the ‘hidden homeless’ population.
- PEOPLE IN INSTITUTIONAL CARE WHO LACK PERMANENT HOUSING ARRANGEMENTS
- Individuals are considered to be provisionally accommodated and ‘at risk’ of homelessness if there are no arrangements in place to ensure they move into safe, permanent housing upon release from institutional care.
- ACCOMMODATION / RECEPTION CENTERS FOR RECENTLY ARRIVED IMMIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
- Prior to securing their own housing, recently arrived immigrants and refugees may be temporarily housed while receiving settlement support and orientation to life in Canada. They are considered to be homeless if they have no means or prospects of securing permanent housing.
Although not technically homeless, this includes individuals or families whose current housing situations are dangerously lacking security or stability, and so are considered to be at risk of homelessness. They are living in housing that is intended for permanent human habitation, and could potentially be permanent (as opposed to those who are provisionally accommodated).
An important distinction to make is between those who are at “imminent risk” of becoming homeless and those who are “precariously housed”.
No matter the level of probability, all who can be categorized as being “at risk” of homelessness possess a shared vulnerability; for them, a single event, unexpected expense, crisis, or trigger is all it may take for them to lose their housing. As the risk factors mount and compound, so too does the possibility of becoming homeless.
- PEOPLE AT IMMINENT RISK OF HOMELESSNESS
- Many factors can contribute to individuals and families being at imminent risk of homelessness. Though in some cases individual factors (such as those listed below) may be most significant, in most cases it is the interaction of structural and individual risk that, in the context of a crisis, influence pathways into homelessness. In other words, what separates those who are at risk of homelessness due to precarious housing from those who are at imminent risk, is the onset of a crisis, a turn in events, or the increase in acuity of one or more underlying risk factors.
- INDIVIDUALS AND FAMILIES WHO ARE PRECARIOUSLY HOUSED
- Many individuals and families experience severe housing affordability problems, due to their income, the local economy and / or the lack of availability of affordable housing that meets their needs in the local market. The income of these households is not sufficient to cover the household’s basic shelter and non-shelter costs. This includes people who are on government benefits but who do not have sufficient funds to pay for basic needs. The greater the shortfall of income in covering basic costs, the more at risk of homelessness the household is. Those classified as “precariously housed” face challenges that may or may not leave them homeless in the immediate or near future (in the absence of an intervention). Those who manage to retain their housing in such circumstances often do so at the expense of meeting their nutritional needs, heating their homes, providing proper child care and other expenses that contribute to health and well-being.