Estimating the number of people experiencing homelessness in Canada has been a source of debate for years. The Homelessness Partnering Secretariat (HPS) has regularly used the estimate that between 150,000 and 300,000 individuals experience homelessness in Canada each year, with advocates often employing the higher number. However, there has never been a concerted, coordinated or consistent effort to enumerate homelessness in Canada. Until recently we have relied on ball-park estimates, based on unreliable and incomplete data.
Fortunately, things have begun to change. More communities across the country are using Point-in-Time counts to determine the number of people who are experiencing homelessness on a given night, and we are also now accumulating more reliable data on shelter usage. In 2013, the Government of Canada released “The National Shelter Study: Emergency Shelter Use in Canada 2005-2009” (Segaert, 2012), which for the first time gave us reliable shelter data to inform a national estimate of homelessness. In the fall of 2016, the second national analysis of emergency shelter data was released by the Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS). Finally, we have reliable data to estimate the number of people who experience homelessness.