Q: What is the relationship between the Homeless Hub and the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH)?

The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH) is a non-partisan research and policy partnership between academics, policy and decision makers, service providers and people with lived experience of homelessness.  Housed at York University, the COH evolved out of a 2008 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council funded project called the Canadian Homelessness Research Network. Led by Dr. Stephen Gaetz, CEO & President, the COH collaborates with partners to conduct and mobilize research that contributes to better, more effective solutions to homelessness. The Homeless Hub, an online library of over 30,000 homelessness resources, is operated by the COH.

Q: How do I submit resources to be published on the Homeless Hub?

Email us at thehub@yorku.ca. When submitting a resource, include the following information: a title, names of authors/editors, a short description/executive summary, URL to the resource and/or PDF attachment, publisher/organization, and publication year.

Q: I would like to work for the COH. How do I apply?

Any available job opportunities will be posted on our social media channels (find our LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter pages here). Please apply by following the instructions on the post.

Q: Does the COH offer workshops?

The COH offers webinars on various topics throughout the year. Register for the Homeless Hub newsletter to be notified of upcoming webinars and other events. You can view all of our previous webinars on our Vimeo Channel

Q: Does the COH respond to interview requests?

While we consider all requests for media interviews, please refer to the resources on the Homeless Hub website for specific data-related questions.

Q: I am working on a fundraiser/crowdfunding campaign. Would the COH be willing to partner on this event?

Unfortunately, we cannot promote or participate in fundraisers that ask for monetary donations and/or other items.

Q: Where and how do you collect data on homelessness?

In order to know whether efforts to end homelessness are successful, communities need to monitor and evaluate their progress, both successes and failures. There are three methods of determining how many people are homeless in a community: Shelter Inventory, Point-in-Time Counts and Prevalence Counts. Details on each method are outlined in our website’s Monitoring Progress section.

Q: A resource that I tried to access takes me to a broken link. Can you help me find it?

Please report any broken links to thehub@yorku.ca.

Q: Can I share your report/blog post/infographic on my website, in a paper, etc.?

The content produced by the COH is under a Creative Commons license, under the following terms:

  • Attribution – You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
  • Non-commercial – You may not use the material for commercial purposes.
  • No Derivatives – If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you may not distribute the modified material.

For resources not produced by the COH, contact the appropriate authors/organizations for more information on sharing materials.

Q: How can I find a resource on a particular topic?

The best option is to try the search function. Additionally, the Community Workspace on Homelessness is available for sharing resources, seek input and guidance, and engaging in conversations with other communities, service providers, policymakers and individuals with lived experience.

Questions about Homelessness

Q: What is homelessness?

Homelessness describes the situation of an individual or family without stable, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it. The COH first published Canadian Definition of Homelessness in 2012 (updated in 2017) to improve understanding, measurement and responses to homelessness in Canada by providing a common “language” for addressing this complex problem.

Q: What causes homelessness?

There are many factors which can put an individual at risk for homelessness, and every experience of homelessness is unique. Some factors include job loss, experiencing trauma, lack of social supports, and health problems. Learn more about the causes of homelessness here.

Q: How many people are homeless in Canada?

According to the State of Homelessness in Canada 2016, there are at least 235,000 Canadians experiencing homelessness in a year. Individuals experiencing homelessness are diverse, including women, families, youth, Indigenous Peoples and others.

Q: Why do young people become homeless?

Young people who are homeless (ages 13-24) make up approximately 20% of the homeless population in Canada. Researches on youth homelessness in Canada and the U.S. show some of the reasons include physical, sexual and emotional abuse, homophobia, discrimination, poverty, as well as involvement with child welfare system. The Without a Home: The National Youth Homelessness Survey is the first pan-Canadian study of youth homelessness; with respondents from 47 different communities across 10 provinces and territories, this study’s sample size has enabled us to conduct detailed analyses on youth homelessness. You can also learn more about the COH's Canadian Definition of Youth Homelessness here.

Q: Are there people experiencing homelessness who are employed?

Individuals experiencing homelessness can be informally (panhandling, binning, etc.) or formally employed, as having a job isn’t safeguard against homelessness. For example, Vancouver’s 2016 Homeless Count showed 23% of individuals experiencing homelessness were employed. Similarly, Winnipeg’s 2015 Street Census showed 16.5% of those experiencing homelessness were employed, while 18.5% were informally employed.

Q: Do homelessness services need to be culturally relevant?

Groups that tend to be marginalized such as non-English speakers, Indigenous Peoples, racialized communities, newcomers, LGBTQ2S and those experiencing homelessness tend to have poorer health outcomes than others. All of these factors lead to a great need for services that are accessible and culturally relevant. Inclusion allows service users and organizations to plan, assess and implement effective programs. It also gives organizations the required lived experience and input they need to make programs and services more effective. For example, in Youth Homelessness in Canada: Implications for Policy and Practice, Indigenous youth describe the positive impact of connecting with Indigenous-specific services.

Q: How are individuals experiencing homelessness criminalized?

Individuals experiencing homelessness are criminalized for reasons ranging from anti-homelessness laws, increasing surveillance by police, increased likelihood of being imprisoned and discharging people from custody into homelessness. One example of anti-homelessness law is the Ontario Safe Streets Act, which prohibits “aggressive” panhandling and anyone attempting, approaching or stopping a motor vehicle for the purpose of offering a service or commodity. The COH’s research raises serious questions about the use of law enforcement as a strategy to address the crises of homelessness in Canada.

Q: Is it possible to end homelessness?

It is possible to end homelessness, but it means doing things differently instead of simply managing the problem through emergency services and supports (ex. shelters and soup kitchens). The COH published Exploring Effective Systems Responses to Homelessness to understand how thinking about different ways of delivering services can contribute to ending homelessness. Most recently, the COH published A New Direction: A Framework for Homelessness Prevention, exploring what will take to stop homelessness before it starts in Canada.

Q: How can I get help if I am experiencing homelessness or at-risk of homelessness? Can the COH provide direct help?

While we focus on research and do not provide direct resources for those experiencing homelessness, we have compiled a list of resources for those experiencing homelessness across Canada. This document is organized by province and community. Additionally, many cities in Canada have a free 211 or 311 service, which can be accessed through a payphone or online (ex. 211toronto). 211 can provide information on community organizations such as foodbanks, while 311 can provide information on services provided by the city, such as shelters. 

Q: Why do some people choose to sleep outside, instead of staying in a shelter?

Staying in a shelter is not ideal for everyone. Some of the reasons include overcrowding, problems with staff, and other people there. Individuals may not be able to bring their pets, and do not want to leave them behind. Additionally, some may not meet the criteria to stay in a shelter. For instance, someone who is using substances may not be welcome in certain shelters unless they can prove they are not using. Furthermore, different communities, including Indigenous Peoples, immigrants, newcomers and refugees, women fleeing violence and others, face unique barriers. Those who are part of the LGBTQ2S community, often face discrimination. In fact, transgender youth are sometimes rejected from shelters because the shelters are not equipped to support them. Some people may have trouble accessing resources because they lack identification, such as a health card, which in many instances is required.

Q: What is Housing First?

Housing First is an approach which aims to end homelessness by helping individuals move quickly into independent and permanent housing. There are no readiness requirements, meaning that individuals do not need to prove sobriety to be eligible. Furthermore, it is client-centered, so the individual experiencing homelessness guides the process. For instance, they are given some choice in where they live. Community integration is crucial in the Housing First process. You can learn more about Housing First in Canada here.

Q: What can I do to help people experiencing homelessness?

There are many ways you can help those experiencing homelessness, including volunteering at a shelter, assisting in job trainings, advocating change and making donations. National Coalition for the Homeless, an organization based in the U.S., has outlined the ways you can make a difference.