But what we know is homelessness almost always results from a combination of systemic issues and personal circumstances.
Systemic issues contribute to a person’s experience of homelessness.
Affordable housing policies
A lack of coordination between systems designed to help people experiencing homelessness
The long-term impact of colonialism
Poverty arises from economic and social inequalities based on factors outside of a person’s control, like low wages, discrimination, and a lack of work.
While poverty does not always result in homelessness, homelessness is always a result of poverty.
A declining economy can make it harder to find and keep a job, putting people at risk of homelessness. But did you know a strong economy can also contribute to homelessness?
During the mid-2000s economic boom, Calgary saw an uptick in the number of people coming to the city for work. This drove up the demand for housing, making rentals too expensive for many people to afford.
Affordable Housing Policies
Any change in social policies that reduces affordable housing and supports can make it more difficult for people to maintain their housing.
In Canada, national investment in housing has fallen by 46% over the past 25 years, according to a 2014 report by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness and the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.
Calgary also has less affordable housing per capita than other cities. To reach the same amount of affordable housing stock in other cities, Calgary would have to build over 22,000 units by 2025.
Lack of Coordination
In Calgary, government ministries and a network of agencies known as Calgary’s Homeless-Serving System of Care help people experiencing homelessness.
However, a lack of coordination between these groups can mean that people fall through the cracks.
That’s why we work as the Community-Based Organization, coordinating everyone’s efforts so people experiencing homelessness receive the help they need efficiently and effectively.
Indigenous peoples are over-represented in the homeless population.
On any given night, 41% of people experiencing homelessness in Calgary have Indigenous ancestry.
Canada’s colonial policies and practices, including residential schools and the mass removal of thousands of Indigenous children from their families in The 60s Scoop, have contributed to inter-generational trauma and a loss of connection to community and culture—all of which place Indigenous people at increased risk of experiencing homelessness.
An individual’s personal circumstances may also contribute to homelessness. These include:
Past and current trauma
Chronic health conditions
Discrimination and family conflict based on a person’s sexual orientation
While personal circumstances might contribute to a person’s experience of homelessness, the truth is that homelessness is ultimately correlated with systemic issues like poverty.
A strong correlation exists between trauma and homelessness. According to Our Living Legacy report, long-term users of shelters in Calgary suffered childhood trauma at a rate five times higher than the general population. This included neglect, domestic violence, abuse and parents with addictions.
Chronic Health Issues
Mental health and physical health challenges may contribute to a person experiencing homelessness. Addictions are also a contributing factor, though they may arise as a result of the stress and insecurity that individuals experience when they do not have a home.
Domestic violence puts people at risk of homelessness.
In 2017, the 24-Hour Family Violence Helpline operated by Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter received 11,886 calls. The shelter also reported serving 14,387 clients in one year.
These tragic statistics reflect the fact that a woman is killed every six days in Canada by her intimate partner. The reality is worse for Indigenous women, who are six times more likely to be killed than their non-Indigenous counterparts.
You can learn more about how domestic violence shapes women’s experiences of homelessness here.
Youth who identify as LGBTQ2S+ are over-represented among the homeless population as a result of discrimination from family and friends, as well as systemic cissexism and heterosexism.
Calgary Homeless Foundation
Rocky Mountain Plaza
Suite 1500, 615 Macleod Trail SE
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2G 4T8