History of homelessness in Canada

Homelessness is not new:

Homelessness has been around for centuries. Homelessness has increased  due to:

  • Urban renewal: Beginning in the 1950s, cheap shelter, like “skid row” hotels, were demolished and the land reused for office buildings and condominiums
  • Changes in the labour market: Employers needed muscle to handle cargo, providing jobs and wages to the pool of transient labour. With the advent of fork lift tractors and other machines, using casual labour was no longer cost-efficient.
  • Closure of mental health facilities changed the composition of the homeless population: Beginning in the 1960s the trend in mental health has been ‘deinstitutionalization’ with psychiatric hospitals closing, replaced by community care and outpatient treatment. With breakthroughs in drug treatments and psychotherapy, the good intention was that with strong community care, people needing psychiatric care could live in the community. This has occurred in some regions, but in most communities, the necessary support is inadequate. This has created a revolving door method of treating the mentally ill that often involves hospital stabilization and then discharge without the necessary follow-up treatment.(Source:  Charity Intelligence, Homeless in Canada, 2009)
  • Governments produce fewer new units: Canada is the only G8 nation without a national housing strategy.  No country in the world solves housing affordability problems without government help.  Private sector investment alone will not solve homelessness because rent that low income earners can afford to pay is not as attractive a return on investment when compared to condos and high-end rentals.  (Source Finding Room)