Report on addiction, substance use and homelessness

Official title: Addiction, substance use and homelessness – An analysis from the nationally coordinated Point-in-Time counts

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List of abbreviations
ESDC
Employment and Social Development Canada
PiT counts
Point-in-Time counts
ASU
Addiction or substance use
RCMP
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
RV
Recreational vehicle
CPP
Canada Pension Plan
OAS
Old Age Security
GIS
Guaranteed Income Supplement
List of figures

Acknowledgements

Employment and Social Development Canada gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the communities, the National Point-in-Time Count working group and experts in Canada that helped to implement the 2016 coordinated Point-in-Time count and Everyone Counts 2018. We would also like to acknowledge the local teams, that relied on dedicated people working with homelessness serving organizations, municipal staff, emergency services and volunteers who took the time to have converse with people experiencing homelessness, to listen to their stories and understand their needs.

Author and principal investigators

  • Sajidul Quayum, Analyst
  • Dr. Patrick Hunter, Analyst
  • Dr. Jacqueline Rivier, Analyst
  • Dr. Ian Cooper, Manager
  • Nancy Baker, Director

Report highlights

In 2018, Everyone Counts, the second nationally coordinated Point-in-Time surveyed 19,536 people across 61 communities about their experience of homelessness. This report analyzes responses from those who identified addiction or substance use as a reason for their recent housing loss. Key findings from the report include:

  • addiction or substance use was the most commonly cited reason for housing loss. More than a quarter (25.1%) of survey respondents indicated that addiction or substance use was a reason for their most recent housing loss
  • the proportion of male respondents reporting addiction or substance use as a reason for housing loss (27.6%) was higher than female (21.0%) and gender diverse respondents (22.7%)
  • the proportion of individuals who reported addiction or substance use increases with time spent homeless, from 19.0% at 0 to 2 months to 28.2% for those who reported over 6 months of homelessness in the past year
  • the proportion of respondents who reported addiction or substance use was similar between those who identified as Indigenous (First Nations, Métis, Inuit or Indigenous Ancestry) (27.7%) and respondents who are non-Indigenous (27.2%). However, a higher proportion of Indigenous female respondents reported addiction or substance use a reason for housing loss (27.9%) compared to non-Indigenous female respondents (21.4%)
  • in communities that conducted 2016 and 2018 Point-in-Time surveys, the prevalence of people who identified addiction or substance use as a reason for housing loss increased from 20.9% to 26.0%. Increases were observed for each age group, in particular for youth and adults

Introduction

Substance use is estimated to affect more than one-fifth of the Canadian population and has been found to be more prevalent among homeless individualsFootnote 1. Negative consequences associated with substance use, such as poor mental and physical health, can be amplified when combined with homelessness or risk of homelessnessFootnote 2.

Launched in April 2019, Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy is a community-based program aimed at preventing and reducing homelessness across Canada. The program supports initiatives such as the Nationally Coordinated Point-in-Time (PiT) count, which includes a survey of people experiencing homelessness inside and outside of shelters. Using data from the 2016 and 2018 Nationally Coordinated PiT CountsFootnote 3, this report contributes to the understanding of homelessness and substance use in Canada. In particular, it analyzes responses from those who indicated addiction or substance use as a reason for housing loss. Understanding the relationship between substance use and homelessness can help inform policy and program development, and targeted prevention and housing intervention strategies for those in need.

Methods

Data source and sample

This report analyzes survey data from the Nationally Coordinated PiT Counts of Homelessness in Canadian Communities. The first nationally coordinated PiT count was conducted in 32 communities in March and April 2016. The second count occurred in 2018 during the same 2 month period with 61 participatingFootnote 4 communities. PiT counts provide a 1-day snapshot of homelessness in a community, including people experiencing homelessness in shelters, unsheltered locations, and transitional housing. They can also include people experiencing homelessness who are in health or correctional facilities or who are staying with others because they have no access to a permanent residence. Unless indicated otherwise, the data presented in this report is from the 2018 PiT count. Additional data is provided from the 2016 PiT count for comparison purposes.

For the 2018 PiT count, participating communities adopted the guidelines and methodology for the PiT count based on a guideFootnote 5 developed by ESDCFootnote 6 with feedback from communities that participated in the 2016 Coordinated PiT Count, as well as the National PiT Count Working Group. The nationally coordinated PiT counts include a survey with 14 standardized questions. One of the questions is a multi-response question about the reasons for the respondent’s most recent housing loss: “What happened that caused you to lose your housing most recently?” Respondents were asked to identify all of the factors from a list of 12 response options that contributed to their housing loss. One of these factors is “addiction or substance use” (referred to in this report as ASU). In the 2018 PiT Count, 13,432 people responded to this question, of which 3,377 identified ASU as one of the reasons for their most recent housing loss. The remaining 10,055 who did not attribute ASU to their most recent housing loss are used for comparison throughout the report.

Limitations

It is important to note that the question used to establish the sample size for this report does not directly ask about substance use. As such, information on substance type or severity of substance use are not included in the analysis. The group under examination in this report are the 3,377 respondents who self-reported addiction or substance use as a reason for housing loss at the time of the survey. This does not imply that ASU did not contribute to housing loss at an earlier point(s) in time for the remaining 10,005 survey respondents. This latter group may also include substance users who felt that they lost their housing as a result of factors unrelated to addiction or substance use, such as eviction or conflict with a landlord. Moreover, the respondent may not have cited ASU as a reason for their housing loss due to the stigma associated with it, which can lead to substance use being underreportedFootnote 7.

Results from the Point-in-Time counts for addiction or substance use

Loss of housing attributed to addiction or substance use

Out of the 13,432 respondents to the question ‘What happened that caused you to lose your housing most recently’, 3,377 (25.1%) indicated ASU as a reason for housing lossFootnote 8, while 10,055 (74.9%) did not (Figure 1). ‘Addiction or substance use’ was the most frequently reported factor, followed by ‘unable to pay rent or mortgage’ (19.1%) and ‘conflict with spouse/partner (14.5%).

Figure 1: Addiction and substance use as a reason for recent housing loss
Reason for recent housing lost

Source: Everyone Counts 2018

Figure 1 – Text version
ASU and housing loss Proportion of respondents
Attributed ASU to housing loss 25.1%
Did not attribute ASU to housing loss 74.9%

Additional reasons for housing loss

For those who reported ASU, the next most frequently reported reason for housing loss was ‘unable to pay rent or mortgage’. Compared to non-ASU respondents, those who reported ASU were more likely to report health issues as factors that contributed to housing loss. ASU respondents were more likely to report ‘illness or medical condition’ (12.6%) than non-ASU respondents (10.7%), and were more than twice as likely to indicate ‘hospitalization or treatment program’ (6.9%) compared to non-ASU respondents (3.1%). Further, ASU respondents were also more likely to report ‘incarceration’ (9.6%) compared to non-ASU respondents (8.7%) as a contributing factor for their housing loss.

For non-ASU respondents, ‘unable to pay rent or mortgage’ and ‘conflict with spouse/partner’ were the most frequently reported reasons for housing loss. Respondents who did not report ASU were generally more likely to report financial issues such as ‘unable to pay rent or mortgage’ (20.2%) compared to respondents who attributed ASU to their recent housing loss (15.9%), and were more likely to report ‘unsafe housing conditions’ (11.4%) compared to ASU respondents (6.7%). Non-ASU respondents were also more likely to report interpersonal issues such as ‘conflict with: spouse/partner’ (15.7%) compared to those that did report ASU (10.8%).

Figure 2: Additional reasons for housing loss
Reasons for housing lost

Source: Everyone Counts 2018

Figure 2 – Text version
Financial issues
Reason for housing loss Did not attribute housing loss to ASU Attribute housing loss to ASU
Unable to pay rent or mortgage 20.2% 15.9%
Job loss 13.8% 13.6%
Unsafe housing conditions 11.4% 6.7%
Health issues
Reason for housing loss Did not attribute housing loss to ASU Attribute housing loss to ASU
Illness or medical condition 10.7% 12.6%
Hospitalization or treatment program 3.1% 6.9%
Interpersonal issues
Reason for housing loss Did not attribute housing loss to ASU Attribute housing loss to ASU
Conflict with spouse or partner 15.7% 10.8%
Conflict with parent or guardian 10.5% 8.7%
Experienced abuse by spouse or partner 9.6% 5.7%
Experienced abuse by parent or guardian 5.3% 4.1%
Corrections
Reason for housing loss Did not attribute housing loss to ASU Attribute housing loss to ASU
Incarcerated (for example jail or prison) 8.7% 9.6%

Regional variation

There was some geographic variation in reporting of ASU as a reason for housing loss. Respondents in Western provinces (29.3%) and Northern territories (26.5%) were more likely to report ASU compared to Central (23.5%) and Atlantic provinces (22.3%) (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Geographic distribution of respondents reporting ASU
Substance use by regional variation

Source: Everyone Counts 2018

Figure 3 – Text version
Region Proportion of respondents attributing recent housing loss to ASU
West (BC, AB, SK, MB) 29.3%
Central (ON, QC) 23.5%
Eastern (NB, NS, PEI, NL) 22.3%
Northern (YT, NWT, NT) 26.5%

There were little observed differences in the prevalence of ASU across small, medium and large communities (Figure 4). Respondents in mid-sized communities, with populations between 100,000 and 500,000, were most likely to identify ASU as a factor for housing loss (26.6%). Conversely, respondents in large communities with populations over 500,000 were least likely to identify ASU as a reason for housing loss (24.2%).

Figure 4: Community size by respondents reporting ASU
Respondents reporting ASU by community size

Source: Everyone Counts 2018

Figure 4 – Text version
Community size Proportion of respondents attributing recent housing loss to ASU
Small (less than 100,000) 25.9%
Medium (100,000 to 500,000) 26.6%
Large (500,000 and more) 24.2%

Demographic characteristics

Gender, age and family status

Males were most likely to report ASU as a reason for housing loss (27.6%), compared to female (21.0%) and gender diverse (22.7%) respondents (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Gender distribution of respondents reporting ASU
Respondent reporting ASU by gender

Source: Everyone Counts 2018

Figure 5 – Text version
Gender Proportion of respondents attributing recent housing loss to ASU
Female 21.0%
Male 27.6%
Gender diverse 22.7%

Comparing the proportion of respondents reporting ASU across age groups, the highest rates were reported by adults (28.2%), followed by youth (23.7%), older adults (20.6%) and seniors (13.8%) (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Distribution of age group for respondents reporting ASU
Respondents reporting ASU by age group

Source: Everyone Counts 2018

Figure 6 – Text version
Age Group Proportion of respondents attribution recent housing loss to ASU
Youth (13 to 24) 23.7%
Adults (25 to 49) 28.2%
Older adults (50 to 64) 20.6%
Seniors (65 and over) 13.8%

The reporting of ASU as a reason for housing loss was significantly lower among adults with dependents (8.1%) compared to single respondents (25.3%) and couples without dependents (27.1%) (Figure 7). Among families, the likelihood of reporting ASU as a reason for housing loss declined as family size increased. For instance, single parent families with 1 dependent (family size of 2), were more likely to report ASU as a reason for housing loss (9.4%) compared to those with 3 or more dependents (4.3%).

Figure 7: Types of families
Respondent reporting ASU by type of familiy

Source: Everyone Counts 2018

Figure 7 – Text version
Family type Adults with dependants Couples without dependants Single respondants
Attributed housing loss to ASU 8.1% 27.1% 25.3%
Did not attribute housing loss to ASU 91.9% 72.9% 74.7%

Newcomers to Canada

Respondents who came to Canada as an immigrant (11.4%), refugee (7.9%), or refugee claimant (3.3%) were less likely to report ASU as a contributing factor for housing loss than those who identified as non-newcomersFootnote 9 (27.4%) (Figure 8). Among all respondents who identified as a newcomer, the longer they had been in Canada, the more likely there were to report substance use as a contributing factor for housing loss. Those who had been in Canada for 5 or more years (12.7%) reported substance use as a reason for housing loss more frequently than those in Canada for 1 to 5 years (2.9%), and those who had been in Canada for less than 12 months (0.6%).

Figure 8. Newcomer status of respondents reporting ASU
Respondents reporting ASU by newcomer status

Source: Everyone Counts 2018

Figure 8 – Text version
Status Non-newcomer Immigrant Refugee Refugee claimant
Proportion of respondents attributing recent housing loss to ASU 27.4% 11.4% 7.9% 3.3%

Indigenous identity

The proportion of IndigenousFootnote 10 respondents who reported ASU use as a reason for housing loss (27.7%) was similar to non-Indigenous respondents (27.2%). Among those who self reported as Indigenous, a slightly higher proportion of First Nations (28.5%) and Métis (28.4%) respondents reported ASU use as a reason for housing loss than Inuit (24.4%) and those with Indigenous ancestry (24.1%).

A higher proportion of women who identified as Indigenous (27.9%) reported ASU as a reason for housing loss compared to non-Indigenous women (21.4%). Conversely, the proportion of male respondents who reported ASU as a reason for housing loss was lower for Indigenous males (27.8%) than non-Indigenous males (30.0%). While men were more likely than women to report substance use among non-Indigenous respondents, both female and male respondents who identified as Indigenous were comparably likely to report ASU as a reason for housing loss.

Figure 9: Indigenous identity of respondents reporting ASU
Respondent reporting ASU by Indigenous Identity

Source: Everyone Counts 2018

Figure 9 – Text version
Indigenous Identity First Nations Métis Inuit Indigenous ancestry Not Indigenous
Female 29.1% 27.7% 30.4% 19.6% 21.4%
Male 28.3% 28.8% 21.1% 26.5% 30.0%

Veteran status

Respondents who identified as either a military veteran or a RCMP veteran represented 3.5% of all those who reported ASU as a reason for housing loss. Veterans (19.0%) were less likely than non-veterans (25.4%) to attribute their housing loss to ASU (Figure 10). This is consistent when looking across age groups, except for seniors, whose rates for veterans (15.4%) were comparable to non-veterans (13.7%). However, the number of veterans reporting substance use, particularly among seniors or women, is too low to reach meaningful conclusions.

Figure 10: Veteran status
Respondent reporting ASU by veteran status

Source: Everyone Counts 2018

Figure 10 – Text version
Status Non Veteran Veteran
Did not attribute housing loss to ASU 74.6% 80.7%
Attribute housing loss to ASU 25.4% 19.3%

Experience of homelessness

Location

ASU and non-ASU respondents were both most likely to report being in sheltered locations on the day of the count (Figure 11). However, respondents who did not report ASU as a reason for their recent housing loss were more likely to report being sheltered (45.8%) compared to those that did report ASU (34.6%). Respondents who attributed ASU as a reason for housing loss were more likely to report staying in systems (10.4%) or unsheltered locations (12.6%) compared to their non-ASU counterparts (2.5% and 9.5%, respectively). Systems refer to facilities that are regulated by either federal, provincial or municipal bodies such as hospitals, treatment centres, prisons, jails and detention centres.

Figure 11: Reported location on day of the count
Respondents reporting ASU by locations

Source: Everyone Counts 2018

Figure 11 – Text version
Locations Unsheltered Sheltered Transitional Motel or hotel Systems Hidden Unknown
Attributed housing loss to ASU 9.5% 45.8% 16.8% 3.5% 2.5% 16.5% 5.4%
Did not attribute housing loss to ASU 12.6% 34.6% 16.2% 2.0% 10.4% 17.1% 7.0%

Location of those who reported ASU varied by gender (Figure 12). Male ASU respondents (12.3%) were nearly twice as likely to be in systems compared to female respondents (6.2%). In contrast, male ASU respondents (15.1%) were less likely to report being in transitional locations (15.1%) or experiencing hidden homelessnessFootnote 11 (15.4%) compared to female ASU respondents (19.2% and 21.2%, respectively).

Female ASU respondents (12.5%) were more than twice as likely to stay in unsheltered locations compared to non-ASU female respondents (5.4%). Moreover, women who reported ASU (21.2%) were more likely to be experiencing hidden homelessness compared to those who did not (16.3%). Both men and women who indicated ASU as a reason for housing loss were more likely to be staying in systems and less likely to be staying in sheltered locations compared to their non-ASU counterparts.

Figure 12: Comparison of locations for each gender
Respondents reporting ASU by location and by gender

Source: Everyone Counts 2018

Figure 12 – Text version
Men
Status Unsheltered Sheltered Transitional Motel or hotel Systems Hidden Unknown
Did not attribute housing loss to ASU 12.00% 45.50% 14.20% 2.70% 3.20% 16.70% 5.70%
Attributed housing loss to ASU 13.00% 35.40% 15.10% 1.40% 12.30% 15.40% 7.50%
Women
Status Unsheltered Sheltered Transitional Motel or hotel Systems Hidden Unknown
Did not attribute housing loss to ASU 5.10% 47.20% 20.40% 4.80% 1.40% 16.30% 4.80%
Attributed housing loss to ASU 11.80% 32.50% 19.20% 3.40% 6.20% 21.20% 5.70%

First homelessness experience

Almost half of those who reported ASU as a reason for their most recent housing loss had their first experienced homelessness in their youth (49.5%) compared to 42.0% of those who did not report ASU (Figure 13). The proportion of respondents to first experience homelessness as a child (aged between 0 and 12 years old) was similar for those who did and did not report substance use (7.3% and 7.2%, respectively). Respondents who first experienced homelessness later in life were less likely to report ASU as a contributing factor to their housing loss (13.8% of older adults and 11.3% of seniors). Of those respondents who reported ASU as a reason for housing loss, most identified that they first experienced homelessness as a youth (28.3%), followed by child (25.2%) and adult (24.9%). Comparatively fewer identified older adult (13.8%) and senior (11.3%) as first age of homelessness.

Figure 13: Age of first homelessness experience by age group
Age of first harmlessness by age group

Source: Everyone Counts 2018

Figure 13 – Text version
Age groups Child
(0 to 12)
Youth
(13 to 24)
Adult
(25 to 49)
Older adult
(50 to 64)
Senior
(65 and over)
Did not attribute housing loss to ASU 7.2% 42.0% 37.4% 12.0% 1.3%
Attributed housing loss to ASU 7.3% 49.5% 37.0% 5.7% 0.5%

Respondents who indicated ASU as a reason for housing loss were more likely to report a longer duration since their first experience of homelessness (Figure 14). The median time since first homelessness experience was higher for those who reported ASU (9 years) compared to those that did not (6 years). Almost half (45.8%) first experienced homeless 11 or more years prior to their current episode of homelessness, and 17.1% first experienced homelessness 6 to 10 years ago. This compares to 38.4% and 13.5% of those did not report ASU, respectively. Those who did not report ASU were more likely to have first experienced homelessness less than a year ago (25.5%) compared to 14.9% for respondents who reported ASU as a reason for their housing loss.

Figure 14: Time since first homelessness experience
Respondents reporting ASU by number of years of homelessness

Source: Everyone Counts 2018

Figure 14 – Text version
Number of years 0 to 1 year 2 to 5 years 6 to 10 years 11 and more years
Did not attribute housing loss to ASU 25.5% 22.6% 13.5% 38.4%
Attributed housing loss to ASU 14.9% 22.2% 17.1% 45.8%

Chronic and episodic homelessness

In the 2018 PiT count, respondents who reported 6 or more months of homelessness over the past year were considered to be experiencing “chronic homelessness”, and respondents who reported having at least 3 separate episodes of homelessness in the past year were considered to be experiencing “episodic homelessness”. Survey respondents who indicated ASU as a reason for housing loss were more likely to be experiencing chronic homelessness (67.7% compared to 58.3% for those not reporting ASU) and episodic homelessness (23.6% compared to 18.6% for those not reporting ASU).

The proportion of individuals reporting ASU as a reason for housing loss increased with time spent homeless over the last year, from 19.0% at 0-2 months to 28.2% for those who reported over 6 months of homelessness in the past year (Figure 15). Similarly, the proportion of respondents reporting ASU as a reason for housing loss increased as the number of homeless episodes increased, from 22.6% for one episode, to 29.4% for 3 or more episodes (Figure 16).

Figure 15: Chronic homelessness among respondents reporting ASU
Respondents experiencing homelessness over the past year

Source: Everyone Counts 2018

Figure 15 – Text version
Number of months experiencing homelessness over the past year 0 to 2 months 3 to 5 months 6 or more months
Proportion of repondents attributing recent housing loss to ASU 19.0% 23.4% 28.2%

Figure 16: Episodic homelessness among respondents reporting ASU
Number of episodes of homelessness over the past year

Source: Everyone Counts 2018

Figure 16 – Text version
Number of episodes 1 time 2 times 3 times or more
Proportion of repondents attributing recent housing loss to ASU 22.6% 27.3% 29.4%

Sources of income

For this section, respondents indicated all the sources of income they were receiving from the response options in question 15 of the PiT count survey (Annex B). Based on the data collected, welfare or social assistance was the most reported source of income for all survey respondents (Figure 17). However, those reporting ASU as a reason for housing loss (58.3%) were more likely than their non-ASU counterparts (44.4%) to identify welfare or social assistance as a source of income. The second most prevalent income source among all respondents was Disability benefits, for which there was no difference between ASU and Non-ASU respondents.

There were some differences in reported employment income between the two groups. Respondents who reported ASU (9.5%) were more likely to report informal or self-employment than their non-ASU counterparts (6.8%). In contrast, respondents who reported ASU (8.0%) were less likely to report formal employment income than those that did not (11.7%).

Figure 17: Reported sources of income
Proportion of respondents reporting ASU source of income

Source: Everyone Counts 2018

Figure 17 – Text version
Source of income Did not attribute housing loss to ASU Attributed housing loss to ASU
Welfare, social assistance 44.4% 21.3%
Disability benefit 85.3% 21.3%
Informal employment, self-employment 6.8% 9.5%
Employment 11.7% 8.0%
GST Refund 8.9% 7.9%
Money from Family/Friends 4.3% 4.9%
Seniors' Benefits 6.3% 4.8%
Employment Insurance 3.5% 2.4%
Child and Family Tax Benefits 5.4% 1.8%

Comparisons between the 2016 and 2018 Point-in-Time counts

An advantage of conducting PiT counts periodically is that it provides a means to compare changes over time and monitor evolving trends among people experiencing homelessness. Of the 32 communities that conducted the nationally coordinated PiT count in 2016, 31 also participated in 2018, facilitating a comparison between years.

Comparing results for the 31 communities that participated in the 2016 and 2018 PiT counts, the proportion of respondents who reported ASU as a reason for housing loss increased from 20.9% in 2016 to 26.0% in 2018. This increase was apparent across all age groups, with marked growth in the youth (aged 13 to 24) and adult (aged 25 to 29) age groups (Figure 18). In both surveys, ASU as a reason for recent housing loss was more common in youth (aged 13 to 24) and adult (aged 25 to 49) age groups, than for older adults (aged 50 to 64) and seniors (aged 65 and over).

Figure 18: Age distribution and ASU (2016 and 2018)
Proportion of respondents by age and year

Source: Everyone Counts 2018

Figure 18 – Text version
Age groups Youth
(13 to 24)
Adult
(25 to 49)
Older Adults
(50 to 64)
Senior
(65 and over)
Communities in 2016 17.7% 24.2% 17.1% 9.8%
Communities in 2018 23.2% 30.0% 20.1% 10.9%
Figure 19: Gender composition of respondents reporting ASU from 2016 and 2018
Proportion of respondents reporting ASU by gender

Note: based on survey data from Everyone Counts 2018 and the 2016 Coordinated PiT Count of homelessness in Canadian Communities.

Figure 19 – Text version
Gender Female Male Gender diverse
Communities in 2016 16.1% 23.8% 19.4%
Communities in 2018 23.0% 28.1% 23.8%

Summary

The nationally coordinated Point-in-Time counts provide an opportunity to study homelessness in communities across the country and contribute to the development of a national picture of homelessness in Canada. By looking at respondents who identified ASU as a reason for their most recent housing loss, this report provides insight into the impact of addiction and substance use on homelessness in Canadian communities.

Based on data from the 2018 PiT count, ASU was the most commonly reported reason for housing loss, with 25.1% of all respondents identifying ASU as a reason for housing loss. As a reason for recent housing loss, ASU was most common among adult males and individuals without dependents. Conversely, veterans and newcomers to Canada were less likely to report ASU as contributing to their housing loss. The proportion of respondents who reported ASU and identified as Indigenous (27.7%) and non-Indigenous (27.2%) respondents were very similar. However, a higher proportion of women who identified as Indigenous (27.9%) reported ASU as a reason for housing loss compared to non-Indigenous women (21.4%).

Individuals who identified ASU were more likely to be staying in health or corrections systems or unsheltered locations than those who did not report ASU as a reason for housing loss. Also, those who reported ASU were more likely to have first experienced homelessness in their youth, to have had longer durations since their first experience of homelessness, and to have experienced chronic or episodic homelessness over the past year.

The findings also demonstrate the variability in sources of income between respondents who reported substance use and those that did not. A higher proportion of respondents who attributed their recent housing loss to ASU reported welfare or social assistance as well as informal or self-employment as sources of income compared to non-ASU respondents.

This report sheds light on the characteristics and homelessness experience of those who attribute their loss of housing, at least in part, to addiction or substance use. The findings in this report can be used to support program development and implementation of activities and services for those experiencing homelessness in Canada. Moving forward, this information can be supplemented with additional data from the 2020 nationally coordinated PiT count.

Glossary

Adult
Person between the ages of 25 and 49.
Canadian-born
Person who was born in Canada.
Chronic
Refers to individuals who have experienced 6 or more months of homelessness over the last year.
Episodic
Refers to individuals who have at least 3 separate episodes of homelessness in the past year.
Family
People who report being in the company of 1 or more family members during their episode of homelessness.
Homelessness
The living situation of an individual or family who does not have stable, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring a home.
Hidden homeless
Refers to people experiencing homelessness that are staying with others (for example, couch surfing) because they are unable to secure a place of their own.
Immigrant
A landed immigrant/permanent resident is a person who has been granted the right to live in Canada permanently by immigration authorities. This is self reported at time of shelter entry.
Indigenous homelessness

Refers to Indigenous Peoples who are in the state of having no home due to colonization, trauma and/or whose social, cultural, economic, and political conditions place them in poverty.

Having no home includes:

  • those who alternate between shelter and unsheltered
  • living on the street
  • couch surfing
  • using emergency shelters
  • living in unaffordable, inadequate, substandard and unsafe accommodations, or living without the security of tenure
  • anyone regardless of age, released from facilities, such as:
    • hospitals
    • mental health and addiction treatment centers
    • prisons
    • transition houses
  • fleeing unsafe homes as a result of abuse in all its definitions, and
  • any youth transitioning from all forms of care

For more information regarding homelessness in an Indigenous context, refer to the definition of Indigenous Homelessness in Canada.

Indigenous peoples
A person who self reports as being First Nations, Métis, Inuit, status or non status person, regardless of residency or membership status.
Older adult
Person between the ages of 50 and 64.
Partner
Person who is a member of a couple.
Refugee
Person who has been offered refugee protection in Canada who fear persecution and who are unwilling or unable to return to their home country. This is self reported at time of shelter entry.
Refugee claimant
A person who has claimed refugee protection in Canada. This is self reported at time of shelter entry.
Single adult
Person who is not part of a family with a partner and/or children during an episode of homelessness.
Senior
Person aged 65 and older.
Systems

Facilities that are regulated by either federal, provincial or municipal bodies such as:

  • hospitals
  • treatment centres
  • prisons
  • jails, and
  • detention centres
Transitional housing
Facilities that provide temporary shelter, but can be differentiated from emergency shelters by the longer length of stay and greater intensity of support services offered to clients. Transitional housing is an intermediate step between emergency shelter and permanent housing. Stays are typically between 3 months and 3 years.
Veteran
A former member of the Canadian Armed Forces. This is self reported at time of shelter entry.
Youth
Person between the ages of 13 and 24 who identified to be unaccompanied by a parent or guardian during their episode of homelessness.

Annexe A: Participating Reaching Home designated communities

  • Barrie (Simcoe)
  • Bathurst
  • Belleville
  • Brandon
  • Brantford
  • Calgary
  • Charlottetown
  • Drummondville
  • Dufferin
  • Durham (Oshawa)
  • Edmonton
  • Fredericton
  • Gatineau / Outaouais
  • Grande Prairie
  • Guelph
  • Halifax
  • Halton Region
  • Hamilton
  • Iqaluit
  • Kamloops
  • Kelowna
  • Kingston
  • Lethbridge
  • London
  • Medicine Hat
  • Metro Vancouver (Conducted in 2017)
  • Moncton
  • Montréal
  • Nanaimo
  • Nelson
  • Nipissing / North Bay
  • Ottawa
  • Peel Region
  • Peterborough
  • Prince Albert
  • Prince George
  • Québec
  • Red Deer
  • Regina
  • Saguenay/Lac St-Jean
  • Saint John
  • Saskatoon
  • Sault Ste. Marie
  • Sherbrooke
  • St. Catharines / Niagara / Thorold
  • St. John's
  • Sudbury
  • Summerside
  • Sydney / Cape Breton
  • Thompson
  • Thunder Bay
  • Toronto
  • Trois-Rivières
  • Victoria (Capital Regional District)
  • Waterloo Region
  • Whitehorse
  • Windsor
  • Winnipeg
  • Wood Buffalo
  • Yellowknife
  • York

Find additional information on Reaching Home designated communities

Annexe B: 2018 Everyone counts survey

Indicate overnight location:

  • Decline to answer
  • Own apartment, house
  • Someone else’s place
  • Motel, hotel
  • Hospital, jail, prison, remand centre
  • Emergency shelter, domestic violence shelter
  • Transitional shelter, housing
  • Public space (for example, sidewalk, park, forest, bus shelter)
  • Vehicle (car, van, RV truck)
  • Makeshift shelter, tent or shack
  • Abandoned, vacant building
  • Other unsheltered location
  • Respondent doesn’t know (likely homeless)
  1. What family members stayed with you last night? [Indicate survey numbers for adults. Check all that apply]
    • None
    • Partner
    • Other adult
    • Decline to answer
    • Child(ren)/dependent(s)
  2. For the next questions, “homelessness” means any time when you have been without a secure place to live, including sleeping in shelters, on the streets, or living temporarily with others.

  3. How old were you the first time you became homeless?
    • Age
    • Don’t know
    • Decline to answer
  4. In total, how much time have you been homeless over the past year? (Best estimate)
    • Length (days, weeks, months)
    • Don’t know
    • Decline to answer
  5. In total, how many different times have you experienced homelessness over the past year? (Best estimate)
    • Number of times (Includes this time)
    • Don’t know
    • Decline to answer
  6. Have you stayed in an emergency shelter in the past year?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Don’t know
    • Decline to answer
  7. How long have you been in (community name)?
    • Length (days, weeks, months, years)
    • Always been here
    • Don’t know
    • Decline to answer
  8. Where did you live before you came here?
    • Community, province or country
    • Decline to answer
  9. Do you identify as Indigenous or do you have Indigenous ancestry? This includes First Nations, Métis, Inuit, with or without status. (If yes, please follow-up to specify)
    • Yes
    • No
    • Don’t know
    • Decline to answer

    If yes:

    • First nations
    • Inuit
    • Métis
    • Non-status / have indigenous ancestry
  10. Did you come to Canada as an immigrant or refugee?
    • Yes, immigrant
    • Yes, refugee
    • No
    • Don’t know
    • Decline to answer

    If yes, how long have you been in Canada?

    • Length: (in days, weeks, months, years)
    • Or date: (in day, month, year)
    • Don’t know
    • Decline to answer
  11. Have you ever had any service in the Canadian Military or RCMP? (Military includes Canadian Navy, Army, or Air Force)
    • Yes, military
    • Yes, RCMP
    • No
    • Don’t know
    • Decline to answer
  12. How old are you? Or What year were you born? (If unsure, ask for best estimate)
    • Age or year born
    • Don’t know
    • Decline to answer
  13. What gender do you identify with?
    • Male / man
    • Female / woman
    • Two-spirit
    • Trans female / trans woman
    • Trans male / trans man
    • Genderqueer/gender non-conforming
    • Not listed (specify)
    • Don’t know
    • Decline to answer
  14. How do you describe your sexual orientation, for example straight, gay, lesbian?
    • Straight/heterosexual
    • Gay
    • Lesbian
    • Bisexual
    • Two-spirit
    • Questioning
    • Queer
    • Not listed (specify)
    • Don’t know
    • Decline to answer
  15. What happened that caused you to lose your housing most recently? (Check all that apply. “Housing” does not include temporary arrangements (for example, couch surfing) or shelter stays.)
    • Illness or medical condition
    • Addiction or substance use
    • Job loss
    • Unable to pay rent or mortgage
    • Unsafe housing conditions
    • Experienced abuse by: parent or guardian
    • Experienced abuse by: spouse or partner
    • Conflict with: parent or guardian
    • Conflict with: spouse or partner
    • Incarcerated (jail or prison)
    • Hospitalization or treatment program
    • Other reason
    • Don’t know
    • Decline to answer
  16. Where do you get your money from? (May provide examples. Check all that apply)
    • Employment
    • Informal/self-employment (for example, bottle returns, panhandling)
    • Employment insurance
    • Welfare/social assistance
    • Disability benefit
    • Seniors benefits (for example, CPP, OAS, GIS)
    • Child and family tax benefits
    • Money from family/friends
    • Other source
    • No income
    • Decline to answer

Annexe C: Reaching Home program resources

References

Employment and Social Development Canada. (2019). Everyone Counts 2018: Highlights: Preliminary results from the second nationally coordinated Point-in-Time count of homelessness in Canadian communities. Retrieved from:
https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/homelessness/reports/highlights-2018-point-in-time-count.html

Employment and Social Development Canada. (2017a). Highlights: 2016 Coordinated Point-in-Time Count of Homelessness in Canadian Communities. Retrieved from:
https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/homelessness/reports/highlights-2016-point-in-time-count.html

Employment and Social Development Canada. (2017b). Everyone Counts – Guide to Point-in-Time Counts in Canada – 2nd Edition. Retrieved from:
https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/homelessness/reports/guide-point-in-time-counts.html#TOC1

Grinman, M., Chiu, S., Redelmeier, D., Levinson, W., Kiss, A., Tolomiczenko, Cowan, L., & Hwang, S. 2010. Drug Problems among homeless individuals in Toronto, Canada: prevalence, drugs of choice, and relation to health status. BMC Public Health, 10:94.

Health Canada. (2013). Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey 2012 (CADUMS): Retrieved from:
https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/health-concerns/drug-prevention-treatment/drug-alcohol-use-statistics/canadian-alcohol-drug-use-monitoring-survey-summary-results-2012.html

Khandor, E., Mason, K., Cowan, L., & Hwang S.W. 2009. The Street Health Report 2007 Bulletin #4: Homelessness, Mental Health & Substance Use. Toronto: Street Health.

Thompson, R., Wall, W., Greenstein, E., Grant, B., & Hasin, D. 2013. Substance-use disorders and poverty as prospective predictors of first-time homelessness in the United States. Research and Practice. 103(S2), S282-S288.

Vega, W., Aguilar-Gaxiola, S., Andrade, L., Bijl, R., Borges, G., Caraveo-Anduaga, J., DeWit D., Heeringa, S., Kessler, R., Kolody, B., Merikangas, K., Molnar, B., Walters, E., Warner, L., Wittchen, H. 2002. Prevalence and age of onset for drug use in seven international sites: results from the international consortium of psychiatric epidemiology. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 68(3):285-297.

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