|January 1, 2010|
In most communities across Canada (with the exception of Vancouver & Victoria BC area) it’s cold outside! If you walk outside your front door, out in the cold, out on the side walk in the freezing elements, you would be in the “home” of about 250,000 people in Canada.
Homelessness – simply defined – is the absence of a place to live. A person who has no regular place to live stays in an overnight emergency shelter, an abandoned building, an all-night coffee shop or theatre, a car, outdoors, or other such places not meant to be living spaces.1
However homelessness is not just about an absence of a place to live, it’s about resources, community and opportunities. Everyone needs a place to live, a friend and a job. There may be other elements holding a person back from accessing housing, such as being trapped in an active addiction, and mental health.
The latest federal estimate of the number of homeless in Canada is about 150,000. Some non-government sources estimate Canada’s true homeless population, not just those living in emergency shelters, to be between 200,000 and 300,000.2
It is estimated that roughly 65,000 young people are homeless or living in homeless shelters throughout the country at some time during the year.3
There are many causes of youth homelessness including loss of a job, marital breakdown, mental illness and alcohol and drug addiction. But when it comes to youth and children, the reasons tend to revolve around the family.
From 1993 to 2003 in Canada, there was a 24 percent increase in reported missing children.
Abuse in the home:
Ultimately, experts say that the vast majority of youth or children rarely leave happy homes for the streets. Several studies have indicated that 70% of youth have experienced some form of sexual, physical or emotional abuse. Many of the rest simply felt neglected.
A shortage of good jobs and affordable housing:
A recent study by the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto (CAS) found that in 2000, housing was a factor in one in five cases where children were taken into care by the CAS – a dramatic 60% increase over a similar study in 1992.4
Being homeless does not make a person not human, and yet the homeless population are treated as if they were “less”. This month we focus on homelessness, let this be a journey of understanding our brothers and sisters, educating ourselves, volunteering in organisations that help the homeless with resources, and praying for change.
“The greatest suffering is being lonely, feeling unloved, having no one. I have come more and more to realise that it is being unwanted that is the worst disease that any human being can ever experience” – Mother Teresa
“We are moved by the tragedy of mass starvation on a far continent…But it takes a greater effort of emotional imagination to emphasize with an addict. We readily feel for a suffering child, but can not see the child in the adult who, their soul fragmented and isolated, hustles for survival a few blocks away from where we shop or work” – Gabor Mate
2 “Defining and Enumerating Homelessness in Canada”, Havi Echenberg, Hilary Jensen, 2008
3 “Youth Homelessness in Canada: The Road to Solutions”, Raising the Roof, 2009
4 Covenant House
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