This edition of the Canadian Review of Social Policy brings together a sampling of papers presented at the Canadian Conference on Homelessness, held at York University in 2005. Over 700 people gathered at this first large-scale conference on homelessness in Canada, with delegates and presenters coming from all regions of Canada, as well as from abroad. The diversity of content was far reaching, demonstrating the breadth of knowledge and expertise across the country, an important resource for ending homelessness.
The conference provided an opportunity for researchers and people who would most benefit from knowing about their research to come together. Those who attended are well aware that over the past 15 years, the problem of homelessness in Canada has increased considerably in severity. Cutbacks to the social safety net have made many more people vulnerable to homelessness. They have also made the challenge of getting off the streets that much harder for those who are already homeless. In the absence of a comprehensive, well-funded strategy to end homelessness focusing both on prevention as well as offering pathways off the streets, service providers and different levels of government have struggled to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse homeless and under housed population. Temporary shelters, drop-ins, nutrition programs, services for those with addictions or mental health challenges have multiplied across the country. Arguably, these diverse and extensive responses to homelessness have developed largely in an ad-hoc manner, without being adequately informed by a range of helpful information including research, best practices, and useful experiences from elsewhere in the country.