If homelessness is so “invisible” how can we really know that it exists in Halton Region? Measuring the size of homelessness is very hard, the Region of Halton is experiencing growth in the two key indicators that are present for individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The two key indicators are:
- Requests for Assistance from Low-Income Households;
- Requests for Emergency Shelter.
Requests for Assistance
In 2009 the Region of Halton received over 5,200 requests for assistance from low-income households such as financial assistance with rent; utility arrears; food vouchers; etc. In just one year, between 2008 – 2009 there was a 53% increase in requests for assistance in Halton and an 84% increase in people receiving help.
Requests for Emergency Shelters
Between 2006 – 2009 there was a 37% increase in request for Emergency Shelter with over 1,500 requests received in 2009. Keep in mind that these are recorded requests, and that many people are obtaining emergency help but not putting those requests through the Region. Instead they are asking friends, family, the faith community, etc. Based on the Mary Beth Shinn statistic, these requests reflect more of the “visible” side of homelessness, and there are many more persons in Halton Region needing immediate help.
Problem for Families is Growing
A 2004 CMCH (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.) report outlined the reality of growing homelessness for Canadian families. Very recently, at the G20 Summit in Toronto in June 2010, one of Canada’s leading authorities on homelessness – Michael Shapcott, who is the Director of Affordable Housing and Social Innovation at the Wellesley Institute – was interviewed about homelessness in Canada and he reported that family homelessness has steadily been on the rise since the 1990’s.
Real Cost of Homelessness
According to a report released by the Homeless Hub in 2012 on the real cost of homelessness, “[relying] heavily on the provision of emergency services – is a very expensive way of responding to a seemingly intractable problem.” The report goes on to argue that if “we shifted the focus to prevention and housing (with supports, if necessary), we would not only be responding appropriately and compassionately to a problem that harms individuals, families and communities, but we would also be saving money. The report suggests that “a conservative estimate of the annual cost of homelessness in Canada in 2007 was $4.5 to 6 billion – this for community organizations, governments and non-profits to provide emergency services. Furthermore, between 1993 and 2004, Canadian taxpayers spent an estimated $49.5 billion maintaining the status quo on the homeless problem in Canada” (Laird, 2007a).
Housing Insecurity in Halton
Halton faces extremely low rates of affordable family housing and this impacts the growing number of families facing a housing crisis in the Region. It would take an astonishing 25 years to fulfill the existing waitlist of families needing affordable housing, based on the current affordable housing stock that exists in the Region. (Region of Halton statistics)