Solutions to Homelessness – Lunch Talk at Innovation Works

CRHESI members, Dr. Abe Oudshoorn and Jule Ryan spoke to Innovation Works co-tenants during a Brown Bag lunch talk this month on Solutions to Homelessness in London.  

Abe’s past clinical work as a community nurse provided the base for his research agenda and desire to work at a higher level, aiming to transform systems to end homelessness in London, Canada and beyond. 

 Historical context on homelessness:

  • Pre WWII, housing instability meant the use of informal dwellings, people built their own shelters, such as shacks (around Carling Heights for example). 
  • Post WWII, around 1965, public, social housing was introduced. 
  • Government built and funded the number of units needed to meet the need at that time. These structures built in 1970’s are the same structures still in use in London today.  
  • Rent was geared to income (30%). 
  • 1980’s: Housing construction stopped in Canada–Global financial crisis + conservative governments = stop spending 
    • Abe noted that in the 2006-2015 era, PM Harper flipped this austerity practice and instead encouraged gov spending to stimulate the economy  
  • Late 1980’s, the first concerns were noted in the House of Parliament about homeless constituents 
  • 1990’s: Canada builds shelters (such as Salvation Army, Mission Services, domestic violence shelters)
    • Abe says: It’s good that we care! But, systemically not good, as shelter living has many deleterious effects and if it is the default solution, people are unwell, unhealthy
  • 2004: Centre of Hope is built, which increased beds but they are filled and the need keeps increasing. 
  • 2008-2016: We introduce the Housing First model: ‘rehouse’ people with supports
  • 2016: With a 4.5 % vacancy rate and more new building, 200 people are rehoused and Centre of Hope transitions some space to rental rooms for substance use recovery. 
  • 2018: We hit a brick wall.  The vacancy rate in London dives and capacity for supporting homeless people is maxed out.  Add in a depressed housing market in London 
  • 2021: London is one of the fastest growing communities in Canada which means high competition in the housing market. 

There are many, too many stories and examples of people losing their housing due to bad faith evictions. 

Study: A portrait of Canadians who have been homeless

“Although a minority of Canadians experience homelessness at a certain point in their life, some groups are at an elevated risk, including sexual minorities, Indigenous people and Black women.

These results are from a new Insights on Canadian Society article released today, “A portrait of Canadians who have been homeless.”

Using data from the 2018 Canadian Housing Survey, the study examines the characteristics of individuals who had previously experienced homelessness.

It also examines the current well-being of these individuals. While the experience of homelessness has immediate detrimental impacts on individuals, those who experienced homelessness in the past are more likely to have poor health and financial difficulties in their present situation.

Given the nature of the data, the results of this study are representative of Canadians who are housing decision makers within their households, but not necessarily of all Canadians aged 15 and older. Despite this limitation, the results of this study contribute significantly to our understanding of this social issue in Canada, particularly because information on unsheltered homelessness is very scarce…” Read full article here


Study Links Lower COVID Vaccine Rates and Homelessness

“In Ontario, COVID-19 vaccine coverage among adults with a recent history of homelessness has lagged and, as of Sept 30, 2021, was 25 percentage points lower than that of the general adult population in Ontario for a first dose and 34 percentage points lower for a second dose. With high usage of outpatient health services among individuals with a recent history of homelessness, better utilisation of outpatient primary care structures might offer an opportunity to increase vaccine coverage in this population. Our findings underscore the importance of leveraging existing health and service organisations that are accessed and trusted by people who experience homelessness for targeted vaccine delivery.” Shariff et al., 2022

Read the full journal article

Read Western News article