Introduction: Municipalities on Front Line to Combat Homelessness

Man with lit match

Homelessness is a serious problem in Canada. Adequate housing gives shelter, comfort and safety, but unfortunately, many Canadians do not have an appropriate home. At least 235,000 Canadians experience some form of homelessness each year and an estimated 35,000 Canadians experience homelessness on a given night.

The causes of homelessness are as varied as the individuals and families who experience it. Family breakdown, job loss, addiction, mental illness and poverty are frequent causes - and beyond the control of municipal governments.

Despite being the level of government that most often interacts with people without adequate housing, municipalities often do not have enough resources or expertise to address its challenges. Solutions depend on cooperation with other levels of government and community organizations.

A strategy to address homelessness can result in many benefits for the community and for the homeless individuals. For example, the municipality is likely to see reduced costs for policing, bylaw enforcement, healthcare, social services and sanitation. It also achieves less tangible but no less important benefits such as recognizing the dignity and worth of all persons.