August 2011: Rural and Remote Homelessness

Message from the Director General

Dear Colleagues,
Great collaboration starts with communication and knowledge sharing. In that spirit, I am pleased to launch the first Homelessness Partnering Secretariat Bulletin. I trust that this issue, and those that follow, will facilitate a productive exchange of knowledge.

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As you know, the Homelessness Partnering Strategy has been renewed until March 31, 2014. The renewed Homelessness Partnering Strategy maintains the successful community-based model and also introduces enhancements aimed at improving program effectiveness. Program enhancements include an increased emphasis on labour market integration; reinforced accountability for results and improved data sharing; an enhanced focus on rural and remote communities; culturally relevant programming and services for Aboriginal people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness; strengthened linkages related to mental health and homelessness; and increased relevance and dissemination of research.

In addition, the Homelessness Partnering Secretariat is enhancing partnerships with provincial and territorial governments to better align priorities and increase collaboration to find long-term solutions to homelessness.

The first issue of this Bulletin provides an update on recent activity within the Homelessness Partnering Secretariat and features a literature review on rural and remote homelessness. Our next issue will focus on youth homelessness and will include highlights from major studies.

Your opinions and ideas are important to us. We welcome your feedback on any of the items presented in the Bulletin.

Barbara Lawless, Director General
Homelessness Partnering Secretariat
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

It's not too late to have your say

The Knowledge Dissemination and Research Priorities Questionnaire will help in shaping the Homelessness Partnering Strategy research agenda for 2011-2014! As part of the Homelessness Partnering Strategy's objective to increase the relevance of research and to better disseminate findings, a questionnaire was distributed in May to Community Advisory Boards, Regional Advisory Boards and Aboriginal Community Advisory Boards and provinces and territories to gain a better sense of the information needs and research gaps of communities across the country.

If you have not already submitted your completed questionnaire, please do so as soon as possible. The results of this questionnaire will help us ensure that future research is in line with your communities' needs. We believe that this will provide valuable input on what information will be most useful to your planning and priority-setting exercises.

Webinars- At Home/Chez Soi

On May 30, 2011, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) kicked off a series of presentations about their At Home/Chez Soi project at an HPS Webinar.

The overall goal of the project is to provide evidence about what service and system interventions best achieve housing stability and improved health and well-being for those who are homeless with mental health issues.

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The project has been implemented in five cities across Canada (Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Moncton) and will involve a total of 2285 homeless people living with mental health issues. The MHCC project is unique and the largest of its kind underway in the world right now.

The next HPS Webinar will be held on September 14th and will feature promising practices identified through a Homelessness Knowledge Development-funded project in Metro Vancouver.

The next HPS Webinar on the MHCC project will be held in November.

Not on our invite list? Please send us an email to be added.

If you have suggestions for topics or would like to have a project featured in an upcoming Webinar, please e-mail us.

Community Plans: We have most of them

We have received most of the community plans for 2011-2014. The community planning process is integral to the delivery of the HPS in communities across Canada and we thank you for your efforts which are targeted at local priorities.

Once plans are approved, communities are encouraged to post their plans on a local website in order to allow interested community members to remain up to date with plans and priorities.

Dialogue with Provinces and Territories to increase collaboration

The Homelessness Partnering Secretariat has been busy meeting with all of the provinces and territories to explain the enhancements under the renewed program, to learn first-hand from the provinces and territories about their approaches to addressing homelessness, and to explore potential areas for increased collaboration.

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These include:

  • research on preventing and reducing homelessness;
  • provincial/territorial participation on Community Advisory Boards;
  • participation in the development of Community Progress Indicators;
  • enhancements to HPS capital project sustainability planning;
  • increased data sharing and information exchange; and
  • the Homelessness Individuals and Families Information System (HIFIS).

Horizontal Pilot Projects

The HPS has a Federal Horizontal Pilot Projects (HPP) funding stream to pursue pilot projects between the HPS and other federal programs/policies whose outcomes affect or are affected by homelessness. These pilot projects aim to:

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  • address common risk factors or client groups associated with homelessness;
  • prevent homelessness by addressing its root causes; and
  • reduce the impact of homelessness on other policy areas, and vice versa.

The 2011-2014 strategy for Horizontal Pilot Projects will consider extending existing projects that have had promising results, replicating previous successful projects in new locations or with different client groups, and launching new innovative pilot projects.

New Releases

The Annual Shelter Capacity Report

The 2010 Annual Shelter Capacity Report is now available. The report provides an overview of emergency homeless shelters in Canada, including a breakdown of the number of shelters and beds by client type (general, men, women, youth, and families) in each province/ territory and HPS designated community.

For copies of the Shelter Capacity Report, please send us an email.

Key Findings on Rural and Remote Homelessness

The Homelessness Partnering Secretariat recently conducted a literature review on issues related to homelessness in rural and remote areas. The review looked at both Canadian and international studies.

The efforts of this review revealed that current literature on the issue is sparse; the phenomenon has not been examined in detail and there is limited research to support decision-making. The literature available, however, indicates that homelessness in rural and remote areas is a direct consequence of poverty and is caused primarily by structural factors including income, employment and housing.

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Some of the factors contributing to rural homelessness are common across countries: insufficient affordable housing; inadequate income and employment opportunities; job loss; family breakdown; and fewer transportation and support services for the homeless and at-risk populations.

Homelessness in rural and remote regions is often hidden in nature; it is not as visible as urban homelessness.

While homelessness in any context is often linked to economic factors, homeless people in rural and remote areas are less likely to have mental health and substance abuse issues compared with homeless populations in urban areas.

In Canada, rural average incomes are below those of urban areas. The rural workforce faces a number of disadvantages compared to its non-rural counterpart, including fewer job opportunities, limited training and lower pay rates.

At-Risk Populations

Due to a number of social, economic and historical factors, some segments of the population are at greater risk of homelessness in rural areas, including: women, youth, Aboriginal people (Canada), Native Americans (US), Indigenous people (Australia), and minority populations.

Access to Services

Transportation is one of the major concerns of rural communities and one of the issues they most want addressed. Rural communities are far more reliant on privately owned cars, and rural residents have to travel in order to make use of a range of services. Access to health care is another challenge for rural and remote residents.


Compared to urban residents, rural residents tend to have lower education levels, lower levels of literacy, lower incomes, fewer job opportunities, including fewer higher-paying job opportunities, and more seasonal employment. There is a lack of affordable housing available and rural residents are more likely to have housing that is in need of repair. In addition, they have relatively poorer health and less access to health care services.

Policy & Program Development

Homelessness in rural and remote areas seems to be more hidden. However, community organizations in these areas are familiar with the diversity of homeless people, local issues surrounding homelessness and the needs of their communities, and the risk factors. They are involved in programs to help vulnerable populations in their areas. To reduce and prevent homelessness among at-risk populations in rural and remote areas, a number of innovative approaches can be considered in partnership with these community organizations.


Rural and Remote Call for Proposals

The literature review confirms the need for more information on homelessness in rural and remote communities. There is a lack of comprehensive research on this issue in the Canadian context. To begin to address this, the Homelessness Partnering Secretariat has announced a Call for Proposals in July for research on rural and remote homelessness. The call seeks proposals covering issues such as migration from rural to urban centers and the role of social networks such as family and friends. For the full Call for Proposals, please see:

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