Discrimination & Homelessness

Canadian Observatory on Homelessness
August 24, 2015
Categories: Topics

Spray painting of the word "No".Discrimination refers to intentional or unintentional actions that negatively affect people, based on biases and prejudices. People may experience discrimination because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, age and/or income. Discrimination is linked to homelessness in several ways. The experience of discrimination in employment, housing and access to services can result in inadequate opportunities, education, income and compromised health, all of which can increase the risk of homelessness. 

Research shows that certain marginalized populations (racial minorities, Aboriginal Peoples, sexual minorities, people with disabilities) are overrepresented amongst the homeless. At the same time, the very experience of homelessness and extreme poverty can result in discrimination through restricting people’s access to necessary services and supports, and to housing and employment. People who are homeless and who are racial minorities, Aboriginal or sexual minorities face multiple forms of discrimination. 

In addition, people who are homeless often experience restricted access to many of the spaces and places that domiciled individuals typically enjoy, including both public (parks, streets, etc.) and private spaces (restaurants, stores and malls, for instance). One negative consequence is that many homeless people are forced, then, to live in dangerous and undesirable environments, which further impairs their ability to move forward with their lives.

The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness is a non-profit, non-partisan research institute that is committed to conducting and mobilizing research so as to contribute to solutions to homelessness. We work together as a group of researchers, service providers, policy and decision makers, people with lived experience of homelessness as well as graduate and undergraduate students from across Canada with a passion for social justice issues and a desire to solve homelessness in our communities.


Gordon Underwood
9:45 PM 24/01/2016

I believe that it is outrageous for discriminatory guidlines to be in place and practiced. In BC I am currently being discriminated against by TheMinistryofSocialDevelopmentandSocialInovatoin. The withhold a portion of money usualy granted to individuals based on nothing other than not havin a home i would like legal representation to change this put i cannot afford it

Homeless Hub
10:50 AM 03/09/2015

Hi Emmy,

Thank you for sharing your experience with us. The discrimination that people who are experiencing homelessness face is completely unacceptable and everyone deserves to be treated with respect.

Homeless Hub
10:40 AM 03/09/2015

Hi Paul,

The post has been edited to correct for this oversight.

We appreciate your feedback.

Paul Gilbert
6:02 AM 03/09/2015

Hi Homeless Hub,

The article you referred me to estimates that 50% of the homeless have disabilities ... So, it still seems an outrageous oversight to ignore the disabled in an article on discrimination against the homeless.

9:39 AM 02/09/2015

When I was homeless I was denied access to a shelter bed because the social worker "didn't like my kind" my kind being an ex foster kid. When I did get into a shelter I was told I was not allowed to wait for housing, because of my disability I was told I needed to go to a nursing home or leave so I left and slept on the streets. I would try to go into coffee shops to use the bathroom but nope not allowed I wasn't even allowed to buy a coffee, wasn't allowed in at all. Same goes for a library, a walk in clinic and of course the sidewalk.
A couple of weeks of ago I went into a Tim Horton's to buy a homeless lady a coffee because she is not allowed in the store herself and I came out to find the police bothering her. She told them she was waiting for me and I confirmed it but even so they gave her a ticket which she can't pay.
So in my experience homeless people are often times not allowed in shelters, stores, libraries, doctors offices or on the street, it makes no sense at all and it is disgusting.

Homeless Hub
9:57 AM 25/08/2015

Hi Paul,

You are right, this article doesn't cover all discrimination. Some forms that are not covered include ableism, ageism and sexism. Unfortunately, we did not go into specific details for all types of discrimination, but we do recognize that people living with disabilities are often marginalized. We spoke further about it in this Ask the Hub blog post: http://www.homelesshub.ca/blog/how-many-homeless-people-live-disabilities

Paul Gilbert
4:02 AM 25/08/2015

The largest and most marginalized minority in the world is? The Disabled ... The stats will tell you that they are a significant percentage of the homeless,.... Why does your article ignore their existence?

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