This question came from Bill T. via our latest website survey.
Homelessness in Canada’s remote and northern communities is unique and worthy of attention. There is an ongoing need for more data and research focused on Yukon and other territories.
That said, we do have some great data about homelessness in Yukon. The majority of existing studies focus on Whitehorse, Yukon’s capital and only city, where about 75% of people live.
As is the case in other locations, homelessness is impossible to quantify with 100% certainty, so what we do know about homelessness in Yukon is estimated from multiple data sources. Statistics Canada has some data on Yukon, but does not track rates of homelessness – this is a difficult task anywhere. More recent data on employment, population, income and more in the territory can be found through the Yukon Bureau of Statistics. Many recent reports have used data from (or in collaboration with) the YBS to publish findings about poverty and housing in Yukon, including:
- Dimensions of Social Inclusion and Exclusion in Yukon, 2010 – which used the Yukon Social Inclusion Household Survey (2010)
- Bridges and Barriers 2010: Yukon experiences with poverty, social exclusion and inclusion
- 2010 Whitehorse Housing Adequacy Study
Together, these reports showed that health and wellbeing in Yukon is poor. A CBC News article succinctly summarizes some of the findings:
On average, Yukon has high average income and education levels, though segments of the population still struggle in those areas.
The people most likely to be homeless were not raising children, were aboriginal, were younger than 25, or were living on a household income of less than $20,000 in the past year.
For those with homes, the housing study found that young people, low-income people and single parents were most likely to suffer from excessive shelter costs, though rent subsidies helped single parents. Senior citizens were significantly more likely to be living in overcrowded housing.
By capturing data on poverty and social exclusion, these reports encouraged further evidence development to make the case for investments in not only social infrastructure in Yukon, but housing as well.
Developing a homelessness research base in Yukon
In 2011, The Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition published A Home for Everyone: A Housing Plan for Whitehorse. The report was based on a year of interviews with service providers and organizations to determine how four levels of government and over 80 social service agencies can work together to end homelessness. Its writers emphasized the importance of partnerships and collaboration, concluding that: “Our city needs a coordinated approach to housing—one that recognizes the many players and their responsibilities and opportunities to make a difference; one that demonstrates the benefits of working collaboratively; and one that includes the community.”
Regarding women’s homelessness in Yukon, the Yukon Status of Women Council produced a report in 2007. Through interviews with women in Dawson City, Whitehorse, and Teslin, the study used a naturalistic research method to outline 13 determinants of women’s homelessness. Its authors made a number of recommendations to territorial and federal governments, including: ending clawbacks of national child benefit and other forms of social assistance, building more and varied affordable housing, and including women in decision-making.
Another important report was Nick Falvo’s Poverty Amongst Plenty: Waiting for the Yukon Government to Adopt a Poverty Reduction Strategy (May 2012, key housing indicators pictured right). Falvo combined data about food insecurity; child apprehensions; income, social assistance and unemployment; housing development, cost, quality and availability; and more to paint a more accurate portrait of poverty in Yukon and what it costs. Falvo also encouraged the government to implement a poverty reduction strategy, which happened six months later.
Finally, Kate Mechan’s 2013 report on homelessness in Whitehorse used information from existing sources and from voluntary interviews with some local service providers. Her findings spoke to the affordability and housing problems experienced by many people in Whitehorse, and included:
- The Salvation Army shelters over 350 unique clients every year.
- FASSY found that 17% of their clients identified as homeless inSeptember 2013.
- In November 2013, the Whitehorse Food Bank database indicated that of 612 households in their registry: 58 were ‘staying with family and friends’; 5 were on the street’; 87 in ‘social housing’; 83 in ‘Band owned’ housing; and 282 in ‘private rental.’
Despite the overwhelming evidence that Yukon needs affordable and varied housing (i.e. supported, transitional and permanent), the territorial governments have not acted as much as they could have. In 2014, the government rejected federal funding to for-profit developers that would have seen the development of 100 rental units.
Even so, positive moves are being made in Yukon to address homelessness and poverty. This month, the Council of Yukon First Nations, Yukon Planning Group on Homelessness, and various volunteers will lead the first Point-in-Time (PiT) Homeless Count in Whitehorse; contributing important data to help complete our understanding of homelessness in the area. And as Bill Thomas noted in Yukon News: “…on Feb. 11, we witnessed a piece of history during a press conference held at city hall, where three levels of government jointly announced that they will work together to end homelessness.” Hopefully, the combination of even more data and a public declaration will lead to a more defined strategy on reducing poverty and homelessness in Yukon.
This post is part of our Friday "Ask the Hub" blog series. Have a homeless-related question you want answered? E-mail us at email@example.com and we will provide a research-based answer.
Data table from Poverty Amongst Plenty: Waiting for the Yukon Government to Adopt a Poverty Reduction Strategy