Homelessness One Of Canada's 'Defining Social Issues'

A new report cites poverty and a lack of a national housing strategy for the dramatic increase in homelessness in Canada.

"Canada's homeless population is somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 people, while another 1.7 million residents struggle with "housing affordability issues," says an analysis of the latest research on shelter.

In a report released Tuesday from the Calgary-based Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership, journalist and author Gordon Laird argues homelessness is now chronic and is quickly becoming one of the country's defining social issues. He makes a case for a national housing strategy and a more robust income security program.

Citing statistics from a wide range of organizations, Laird says poverty is the leading cause of homelessness in Canada, not substance abuse or mental illness. "Roughly half of all Canadians live in fear of poverty, and 49 per cent polled believe they might be poverty stricken if they missed one or two paycheques," he writes.

In his report, Laird writes that street counts of homeless people have increased dramatically - 'Calgary's homeless population grew 740 per cent between 1994 and 2006.'

The report criticizes Canada for trying to contain the growth of homelessness with temporary measures such as shelters and other crisis-based services. It cites studies that show the cost of emergency shelters is much greater than the cost of creating affordable housing and implementing rent supplements."

Full Story: Homelessness 'chronic' in Canada: study

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