The National Shelter Study is the first national analysis using consistent shelter data collected over an extended period of time to establish a baseline count and description of the characteristics of the homeless population in Canada. This study uses information gathered from emergency homeless shelters using the Homeless Individuals and Families Information System (HIFIS) and emergency homeless shelters in the City of Toronto.
Though not all homeless people regularly use them, emergency shelters are a common point of contact for those experiencing absolute homelessness. Emergency shelter use, measured over a period of years, currently serves as the best available indicator for understanding baseline trends in the size and composition of the homeless population. At the time of the study, there were nearly 400 emergency shelters with over 15,400 beds across Canada.
The National Shelter Study uses a stratified cluster sample to produce national estimates of the annual number of emergency shelter users between 2005 and 2009. Information from more than 655,000 client stays at over one quarter of Canada's emergency homeless shelters was used in the study.