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Just who are homeless people and how did they get that way?

Ron Walter looks at the facts surrounding unhoused people
Trading Thoughts by Ron Walter

A popular perception of the homeless, or houseless as some now call them, views these people as lazy bums and drug addicts.

This Trading Thoughts column tries to discover just who makes up the growing number of homeless people in Canada and the United States and why.

One often hears the phrase, “they should get a job,” when the homeless issue comes up in conversation.

That glib comment aside, would you hire anyone whose address is a tent in a park or back alley? Of course, most employers would stick such an application in file 13.

For one thing, homelessness doesn’t just affect people of working age. Fourteen per cent, according to Statistics Canada, are aged 65 and over. Some are military veterans.

Nearly one in five — 23 per cent — are aged 15 to 34, likely with low education and skill levels.

On any night in Canada between 25,000 and 35,000 people have no place to sleep except on a street or under a bridge.

In 2021, the Prairies had 19.1 per cent of Canada’s homeless, and 17 per cent of the population.

Not all homeless persons live in big cities. In Quebec half of them live in rural areas.

One in four Quebec homeless persons reached that situation by eviction when they could not pay the rent or lost their jobs.

The “get a job” attitude is way out in left field. Forty-one per cent of the homeless are employed but with few hours or lower paid jobs.

The Calgary Foundation for Homelessness lists main social causes of homelessness: poverty, economic change, unaffordable housing, lack of co-ordination between groups helping the homeless, and long tern effect of colonialism on Indigenous people.

Forty-one per cent of Calgary’s homeless are Indigenous.

Personal circumstances causing descent into hopeless homelessness involve past and current trauma, chronic medical conditions, domestic violence and family conflict where the youth is kicked out of the house.

Ron Walter can be reached at   

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication. 





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