Homelessness and Causes

Homelessness has become more prevalent across Canada, and there is an urgency for governments at all levels to address the root causes while providing services that respect human rights and dignity.

Below are some common questions that are asked regarding homelessness and causes:

What is homelessness?

According to the Canadian Definition of Homelessness, homelessness can be defined as “the situation of an individual, family, or community without stable, safe, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect means and ability of acquiring it.” It is important to note that this definition does not fully encompass every experience of homelessness, and every individual’s experience is unique.

The Indigenous definition of homelessness considers the traumas imposed on Indigenous Peoples through colonialism. According the Definition of Indigenous Homelessness in Canada, it is “a human condition that describes First Nations, Métis and Inuit individuals, families or communities lacking stable, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means or ability to acquire such housing…Indigenous homelessness is not defined as lacking a structure of habitation; rather, it is more fully described and understood through a composite lens of Indigenous worldviews.”

Additionally, youth experience homelessness in fundamentally different ways than adults, due to their age. The Canadian Definition of Youth Homelessness outlines that it is a “situation and experience of young people between the ages of 13-24 who are living independently of parents and/or caregivers, but do not have the means or ability to acquire stable, safe or consistent residence.” Further, research indicates that there is low service utilization rates and service availability to youth, resulting in homeless youth “falling through the cracks”.
Who is experiencing homelessness?
  • According to Statistics Canada, it is estimated that more than 235,000 people in Canada experience homelessness within a given year, or 25,000 to 35,000 on a given night.
  • The City of Brantford hosted a Point-in-Time Count April 2021. On the night of the count, it was estimated that at least 238 individuals were experiencing homelessness.
  • These totals are considered an undercount of the true number of individuals experiencing homelessness because it is a tremendous challenge to reach every person, particularly those that are experiencing “hidden homelessness”.
Why do people experience homelessness?

In most situations, homelessness is caused by several different factors over time rather than one single incident or cause. As identified by the Homeless Hub, there are three distinct reasons by people may become homeless:

  1. Structural factors – These are broad economic and social issues, that can affect an individual’s ability to thrive and meet their basic needs. This can include the amount of available and affordable housing in their community, amount of income, availability of jobs, health care access, or experiences with discrimination. It can be very challenging for people to earn enough money to pay for food, clothing, and other expenses.
  2. Systems failures – This occurs when there are gaps in services, and vulnerable people have no other option but to turn to the homelessness sector. Gaps in services and include but are not limited to: lack of support for immigrants and refugees, difficult transitions from child welfare, and inadequate discharge planning for people leaving hospitals, corrections and mental health and addictions facilities. 
  3. Individual circumstances – There are a number of circumstances that can an individual on a personal level or within their family/support system that lead to homelessness. This could involve a traumatic event (e.g. a house fire, job loss, or family break-up), a health-related issue or disability, or conflicts within relationships such as family violence.

What are some common myths about homelessness?

Myth 1: People choose to be homeless
  • A variety of factors can contribute to an individual’s experience of homelessness.
  • Typically, individuals experience homelessness when all options have been exhausted and the challenges that they are facing have become so overwhelming that they cannot maintain their housing.
  • According to our most recent Point-in-Time Count, the top five reasons individuals indicated that they lost their housing most recently were:
    • Landlord / Tenant conflict;
    • Conflict with spouse or partner;
    • Not enough income for housing;
    • Unfit / unsafe housing conditions; and
    • Conflict with parent / guardian.
  • For many, homelessness happens early in their life. According to our most recent Point-in-Time Count, approximately 45% of those experiencing homelessness indicated that their first experience was under the age of 24.
  • For those that have experienced homelessness, there could be deep trauma resulting from years of living on the street. So, the transition to being comfortably housed can be challenging.
Myth 2: People experiencing homelessness are lazy
  • In order to survive, many people who experience homelessness are constantly in search for the necessities of life, such as food, shelter and a source of income.
  • Due to the barriers that they face, many people experiencing homelessness do not have the option of being stagnant or lazy. For example, searching for a job becomes even more challenging when an individual does not have access to a phone, computer, or fixed address on a regular basis.
Myth 3: People experiencing homelessness are not "from here"
  • There is a common misconception that individuals experiencing homelessness in Brantford-Brant are not local to the area, and have moved to the community recently. The findings from our most recent Point-in-Time Count strongly counter this assumption.
  • The majority of respondents (86.5%) have lived in the Brantford-Brant for more than one year, with 35.3% living in the region longer than five years and 33.3% residing here their entire lives.
  • Only 9.6% of respondents indicated that they lived in Brantford-Brant for less than one year, with even fewer (7.1%) living in the region for six or fewer months.
Myth 4: You can easily see who is homeless
  • There are many individuals experiencing homelessness who may have a short-term place to stay, like a couch to stay on at a friend’s house where they have access to some of these necessities.
  • Some people experiencing homelessness are employed, university educated, some are youth, or seniors who have worked for their whole lives.
  • Some are living unsheltered, in tents, and struggling with mental health.
  • Many people experiencing poverty are often just a paycheck away from homelessness.
  • Homelessness is not a one size fits all picture and at the end of the day, we are all one community and deserve to be safe.

Looking for more information?

  • Do you or someone you know need access to emergency shelter? Please visit our Emergency Shelter page.
  • Are you wondering how we provide homelessness services in Brantford-Brant? Please visit our Homelessness System of Care page.
  • Are you looking for information about what community supports are available in our community related to housing, health, eviction prevention, food and clothing? Please visit our Community Supports page.
  • Do you want to know more about how our community support individuals living in encampments? Please visit our Encampment Response page.
  • Are you wondering what can you do to help? Please visit our Take Action page for more information.