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Myths and Facts about Homelessness in Canada

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A senior man wearing winter clothes and sitting on a bench outside with a tin cup

Homelessness is a serious problem for many Canadians. Many people live without the essential care they need, raising their need for health care and other forms of support. Additionally, there are many assumptions made about people experiencing homelessness that can lead to indifference toward this issue. 

Some of the common myths about homelessness in Canada are related to misunderstandings about the causes of homelessness, the lives of people experiencing homelessness, and the seriousness of homelessness in our communities. When the facts are laid out, this nationwide problem can be revealed to be more complicated than it seems. 

Myth: There’s Only One Cause of Homelessness

Many people assume there’s only one cause of homelessness—that everyone makes the same mistake. In other cases, some people assume that someone chooses to be homeless on purpose. 

However, this idea is a myth. There are many potential causes of homelessness. 

Fact: Many Factors Affect Homelessness

Someone may experience homelessness for many reasons. There isn’t one moment in someone’s life that leads to their situation. For many people, homelessness occurs due to several factors. 

Some causes of homelessness include: 

  • Structural factors: Lack of affordable housing, discrimination, low wages, and lack of health support can lead to homelessness. 
  • Housing shortages: Some communities in Canada lack affordable housing. Many Canadians cannot afford other necessities on top of their housing costs.
  • Poverty: A major financial problem (accident, illness, etc.) can lead to homelessness if you’re struggling to afford your daily needs.
  • Personal circumstances: Mental health issues, traumatic events, addiction, and other personal problems can factor into homelessness.
  • Relationship problems: Relationship problems, especially domestic violence, can make homelessness one of the only avenues of escape. Many people (women and children in particular) must leave their homes to get away from their abusers.
  • System failures: Failures in the prison system and addiction centres, lack of support for immigrants, and other systematic issues can lead to homelessness. 

Myth: People Experiencing Homelessness Are Lazy & Should Get a Job

It’s a common assumption that someone experiencing homelessness is lazy. However, you only see a moment of their day, not the struggles they live through. 

Someone experiencing homelessness may be making efforts to survive daily life that you don’t see first-hand. 

Fact: Many Factors Prevent People Experiencing Homelessness from Getting Jobs

It can be extremely difficult for someone experiencing homelessness to just “get a job.” For example, many applications require you to fill out your home address. 

Some obstacles to getting a job when experiencing homelessness include: 

  • Transportation difficulties
  • Limited access to phones or computers
  • Lack of experience or training 
  • Struggles with mental illness
  • Lack of a permanent home address
  • Irregular access to hygiene necessities (showers, toiletries, etc.)

A young person experiencing homelessness smiling and looking healthy

Myth: People Experiencing Homelessness are Addicts or Have Mental Illnesses

Many people can brush aside someone struggling with homelessness by assuming they have an addiction or mental illness, but that is not always the case. Mental health is only one factor that contributes to homelessness.  

Fact: Anyone Can Experience Homelessness 

While people experiencing homelessness can be addicts, suffer from mental illness, or experience both problems at once, anyone can become homeless. Only a percentage of those experiencing homelessness are addicts

Myth: Experiencing Homelessness Means You Live on the Streets

When people think of someone experiencing homelessness, they generally imagine someone sleeping outside or staying in a shelter. However, this view of homelessness doesn’t capture the entire experience. Every person’s situation is different. 

Fact: Homelessness is Complicated & People’s Experiences Vary

While many people assume homelessness means you live on the streets or in a shelter, it actually affects a wider range of people. Many people experience hidden homelessness—meaning they aren’t unsheltered but still experience homelessness. 

Hidden homelessness can also be known as couch surfing—when you live with friends or family until you can get back on your feet. According to the Government of Canada, 15% of people who now make housing decisions in their households have experienced hidden homelessness. 

Myth: Homelessness Isn’t a Problem

People can make many assumptions about homelessness, and if you’re not affected by homelessness, it’s easy to assume it isn’t an issue. 

Homelessness is an issue ignored by many people. Some people may have a bad experience with someone struggling with homelessness or become used to seeing this issue every day, making it seem like a smaller issue than it is. 

Fact: Homelessness Must Be Addressed

According to 2019 data, approximately 35,000 Canadians lack shelter on any given night. On average, 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness every year. No one deserves to live without shelter—homelessness is a crucial issue Canada must address. 

Make a Local Impact

Homelessness is a nationwide problem, but you can make an impact in your community, whether through volunteering, donating goods, or financial donations. Additionally, you can advocate for action toward addressing homelessness across Canada. Contact Regeneration Community Outreach to learn more about helping your local community.

Written by Dan Gibson

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