Having a roof over your head is not just a basic need, it’s a human right. We all know that shelter, along with food and clothing, is critical for people’s health and survival. More than that, it is critical to dignity, safety, inclusion, and full participation in society. Yet, in 2018, Calgary noted that more than 2,900 people experienced homelessness, and in 2019, Vancouver counted more than 2,200 residents who identified as homeless. And those were only the people who volunteers found and physically counted. The numbers don’t include women, youth, and individuals facing domestic violence, financial disasters, and the looming homelessness due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and other cities across Canada are in the middle of a serious shelter crisis — there’s no other way to put it — and vulnerable people and at-risk communities need solutions to chronic homelessness. In Vancouver alone, one third of people experiencing homelessness live on the streets, and the rest live in shelters, detox centres, safe houses, and hospitals, with no fixed address.
It’s a social and moral catastrophe that so many people face homelessness in Western Canada. Due to increasing rents, falling incomes, social traumas, and, now, the COVID-19 pandemic, the homelessness crisis continues to devastate increasing numbers of individuals and families. In a recent eye-popping study by Nanos Research and CTV News, a majority of Canadians said they believe “homelessness will have a serious or somewhat serious impact on Canada as a country” — and if you live in British Columbia, or if you’re a woman, this belief is even stronger.
How charities are providing support for Canadians experiencing homelessness
In this desperate context, charities in Alberta and BC have been providing food, healthcare, and crucial support to vulnerable people living on the streets, while working with them to find solutions to complex health and social needs. Community-based organizations also manage emergency shelters, interim housing, and affordable housing, some of which include programs and staff to provide legal assistance, mental health services, job training, and childcare.
More widely, charitable foundations, associations, and institutes in the provinces also bring together individuals, communities, and governments to advocate an end to chronic homelessness across the country. Often, this means finding solutions to alleviate poverty and address social and economic crises that lead to homelessness in the first place.
Some of this strategic work involves convincing specific people and communities to deepen their understanding and to share more resources with those facing extreme crises and homelessness. Educating society in general is a priority.
Children, teenagers, and youth, in particular, require services that have meaning to them and their realities — services and supports related to domestic abuse, addiction, or mental health, and that lead to fewer young people facing homelessness. Similarly, vulnerable or isolated women benefit from services that acknowledge their unique needs for shelters and counseling. Hundreds of charities in both provinces frequently save the lives and alleviate the suffering of youth, women, and other vulnerable people.
You can support critical work being done to eradicate homelessness in Canada
To support the work of charities doing this critical work in Alberta and Vancouver where the crisis is so acute, CanadaHelps launched two, new Funds to support Housing for All in a single transaction. The more than 80 charities working in these communities focus on providing short- or long-term affordable housing for vulnerable populations in Alberta or BC. This includes running advocacy, education, counseling, support services, and dozens of other programs for people experiencing homelessness. Donations made to these Funds are pooled together and distributed equally amongst charities in the Fund to achieve wide-reaching impact.