There are no accurate numbers that tell us how many people who are experiencing homelessness also live with a disability, but experience and anecdotal information shows that it is quite high. Mortality and morbidity are higher amongst people experiencing homelessness than housed people, as are addictions issues and mental health issues.
In Canada, there are a number of services, benefits and grants/tax deductions designed to support people living with disabilities, but a lack of employment options often results in higher levels of poverty amongst this population. In turn, this can lead to homelessness when there isn’t enough money to afford housing.
Ensuring that shelters and homeless services are responsive to the needs of individuals with disabilities goes beyond accommodating physical needs. Services need to take into account the unique needs of people who are Deaf or blind, who experience developmental or cognitive difficulties (including acquired brain injuries and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder), people living with addictions and/or mental health issues.
These accommodations could include changing the way a service operates – not requiring someone with health issues to leave the shelter during the day for example. It also can include ensuring that all materials are available in Braille or large-print, than ASL interpreters are available (on-call) and that staff receive training in disability accommodations.