Knowing who is experiencing homelessness is the first step to knowing how to serve them. In Calgary, the following individuals and groups are experiencing homelessness:
Single adult men and women
These groups also have individuals within them whose gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation put them at greater risk of experiencing homelessness. For example, youth who identify as LGBTQ2S+ or single adult men who are Indigenous are more likely to experience homelessness than their peers. Below is an overview of the different individuals and groups.
In 2018, Calgary conducted a survey known as a Point In Time (PiT) Count (the “PiT Count”) of individuals experiencing homelessness on the night of April 11. Of the 2911 people surveyed, 72% (2125) were adult men, while the remaining 728 individuals were adult women. Who are these individuals and what are the factors that can contribute to their loss of permanent housing? Below is an overview of the two groups and how their experiences of homelessness can differ as a result of their gender. Single Men Most of the people who are visibly experiencing homelessness in Calgary are single adult men. According to the 2018 PiT Count, the 2125 adult men experiencing homelessness on the night of April 11 were aged 25 to 44 and 45 to 64. Why do adult men experience homelessness? The answer is a complex mixture of macro factors like the economy, as well as micro factors or the unique characteristics of an individual. For example, a single adult man may experience homelessness because of a lack of affordable housing that is exacerbated by a physical disability. Within this group, individuals who identify as Indigenous are also at higher risk of experiencing homelessness, because they must contend with the macro factor of colonialism – an ongoing phenomenon that informs laws and social policies affecting their ability to obtain permanent housing. For more information about contributing factors to homelessness, including the macro factors affecting Indigenous peoples, please visit our Pathways to Homelessness page. Single Women Single adult women experience homelessness alongside men, but unlike their male counterparts, they are more likely to form part of the “hidden homeless” population because their true numbers do not show up in official studies and counts. For example, in Calgary’s 2018 PiT Count, only 728 of the 2911 people counted that night were women. However, we know that many more women are experiencing homelessness in Calgary that weren’t included in this number. That’s because women often avoid shelters or sleeping rough. If women experience homelessness because they are escaping from an abusive partner, they are more likely to couch surf or to make temporary living arrangements with friends or family. They may also remain with their partners, even if it means continuing to suffer from domestic violence. Women resort to these forms of temporary accommodation, because living on the streets or in shelters greatly increases their risk of sexual exploitation, abuse, and violence. This makes it difficult to locate women in an official count, and as a result, their experiences of homelessness often go unnoticed.
While adults may be among the more visible members of the homeless population, youth – including children as young as thirteen – also experience homelessness. A “youth” is a person between the ages of 13 to 24 without a permanent night-time residence. In Calgary, approximately 286 youth will experience homelessness on any given night, according to Our Living Legacy report. This finding was reflected in the 2018 PiT Count, where 214 (9%) of the 2911 people counted were youth. Of those 214 individuals, 204 were young adults aged 18 to 24, while the remaining 10 were aged 13 to 17. What factors contribute to youth experiencing homelessness and how do their experiences differ from adults? According to the research: What factors contribute to youth experiencing homelessness and how do their experiences differ from adults? According to the research:
Youth often enter homelessness after experiencing family conflict and violence.
Youth who identify as LGBTQ2S+ are particularly at risk of experiencing homelessness as family tension over the individual’s sexual orientation can leave them without permanent housing. Indeed, youth who are LGBTQ2S+re overrepresented among the homeless population.
Unlike adults, youth generally need more support when experiencing homelessness, because they are still developing physically, emotionally, psychologically and socially. They may also struggle with trauma, mental health challenges and learning disabilities.
Unlike adults, youth are more likely to couch surf or to live in correctional facilities without any prospect of permanent housing, making them invisible in official counts and studies.
Entire families, not just individuals, can experience homelessness too. “Families” include:
One or two parents with minor children;
Adults with custody of minor children;
Couples in an adult interdependent partnership;
Couples where one person is pregnant, and
In the 2018 PiT Count, 480 out of the 2911 people counted were part of a family. In total, there were 180 families – defined as parents or guardians with dependents – experiencing homelessness that night. Low incomes, precarious employment and a lack of affordable housing are among the main reasons why families experience homelessness. Domestic violence is another contributing factor: the risk of homelessness is increased when victims and their dependents are fleeing physical, sexual or psychological violence. Rough sleeping is almost non-existent among families: only 1% of families lived on the streets from 2012 to 2017, according to Our Living Legacy report. Families tend to favour shelters, and of the 180 families counted on the night of the 2018 PiT Count:
76% (137) stayed in a domestic violence shelter
21% (37) stayed in a family shelter
3% (6) stayed in other accommodation, like treatment and transitional housing facilities