Homelessness is defined by the federal government as:

An individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence; and an individual who has a primary night-time residence that is...

  • a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill);
  • an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or
  • a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.

Cost of chronic homelessness in Waco:

Cost per person per year $39,000
Total estimated annual cost $3.5 million

Strategy for Survival

For Outcomes

Develop plans to end, rather than manage, homelessness

  • Collect better data on chronic homelessness
  • Follow a planning process that focuses on the outcome of ending homelessness and brings policy makers that can make this happen to the table
  • Improve systems for measuring and reporting client outcomes.

Close the Front Door

Prevent future homelessness
  • Improve discharge practices so that persons exiting public institutions are not discharged to the streets
  • Provide incentives for "mainstream" programs (e.g. "welfare", mental health, public health, criminal justice and child protective services €" including foster care) to help chronically homeless persons with complex problems.
  • Invest in long-term prevention by helping low income and “at risk” families remain healthy and intact.

Open the Back Door

To help people exit homelessness
  • Use a “Housing First” approach to move people out of shelter and into housing as quickly as possible
  • Provide chronically homeless persons with Permanent Supportive Housing ‐ affordable housing with services
  • Provide homeless persons with the services they need to exit homelessness

Build the Infrastructure

Address the systemic problems that lead to poverty and homelessness
  • Support efforts to create revenue sources for more affordable housing and services
  • Provide individuals with the opportunity to earn a living wage
  • Implement policy changes to remove barriers to housing, employment and services

More on Supportive Housing

Supportive housing is affordable housing linked to accessible mental health, substance addiction, employment, and other support services. Supportive housing provides people who are homeless for the long term with a way out of expensive emergency public services and back into their own homes and communities.

Supportive Housing Works

Nationally, the data shows that 80% of the people who are given the chance to live in supportive housing stay at least one year ‐ even those who are disabled by mental illness or addiction and have lived on the streets or in shelters for years.

Supportive Housing is Cost-Effective

Supportive housing is the soundest available investment of public and private resources to end long-term homelessness.

After living for a year in supportive housing, participants in the Corporation for Supportive Housing’s Health, Housing and Integrated Services initiative reported:

  • 57% decrease in emergency room visits.
  • 58% drop in the number of inpatient days.
  • 100% drop in usage of public residential mental-health program facilities.

By providing decent safe housing to our unfortunate chronic homeless, this will save our community costs in many ways including items mentioned above.

Facts & Myths

(Taken from: "Get a job!" Eight myths and misconceptions about people who are homeless PHILLIP HOZER, A MEMBER OF VOICES FROM THE STREET: The Toronto Homelessness Speakers Bureau, spoke with homeless people at the Parkdale Activity and Recreation Centre in Toronto.)

These myths and misconceptions are based on recurring themes that emerged through the discussions.

1. Myth: People become homeless because they are lazy.

Fact: There are many reasons why people become homeless. The homeless community includes teenagers who have been kicked out of home or who are running away from abusive parents and women escaping abusive relationships and fearing for their safety and that of their children. It includes the working poor who live in their cars or in shelters. It includes people who cannot work for health reasons. Being homeless is not easy--homeless people often spend their days trying to find a place to stay, access services or find enough food. It takes an enormous amount of creativity, energy and persistence to survive.

2. Myth: People who are homeless should just "get a job."

Fact: It is very difficult, if not impossible, for homeless people to get meaningful employment without a fixed address and access to a telephone. Many potential employers hear "no fixed address" or "homeless" and right away buy into the stigma and misconceptions surrounding homelessness, so they won't offer work. Others won't or can't hire someone they can't easily get in touch with via a phone call. When homeless people are offered work, it is often dangerous manual labour and very low paying, making financial security impossible.

3. Myth: Many services exist for homeless people.

Fact: Services are indeed available, but accessing them is difficult. Many homeless people have no idea what is available or whom to contact. Often, no one is guiding them through the system--they are left alone to navigate the maze themselves. Housing providers are often spread throughout the city; yet homeless people often have difficulty with transportation. Even when they know who to call, that contact is often unavailable. And because they don't have easy access to a telephone, homeless people often can't call back, or the potential employer can't contact them. The situation is made more confusing and frustrating by the application process to get housing. The applicant might have to give the same information over and over. We need a standardized application process for all housing providers. They need to share this information with one another so clients do not need to go from place to place, filling out the same information. Housing providers need to work with other service providers so potential clients know what options are available.

4. Myth: Homeless people are drunks/addicts/crazy people who can't be helped.

Fact: Homeless people with substance abuse or mental health issues do not represent everyone who is homeless. Many of these people are in treatment of some sort and are trying to improve their lives. But any significant recovery is impossible without a safe, stable home life. As a result, many who successfully complete treatment relapse. Stability at home is often overlooked by service providers who deal with substance abuse or mental health issues. Much more must be done in this area to make recovery possible and long lasting. Stability in housing is critical in the success of any treatment model.

5. Myth: It is easy to identify homeless people.

Fact: There are many people you would never suspect are homeless--they often look and act like the average person. These people often have a hard time getting the help they need because they fear the stigma attached to homelessness or they are turned away by service providers because they do not look as though they need help. Often, these "hidden homeless" fall through the cracks until their situation worsens to the point where they develop serious mental health or addiction issues.

6. Myth: Homeless people are not capable of leading productive lives.

Fact: Many homeless people have been teachers, lawyers, accountants, and so on, who were, at some point in their lives, well-respected members of society. Then there are the working poor, who are living in their cars or on someone's couch, but who do work. Everyone is capable of making a contribution to society, but many people lack the opportunity to prove themselves, due to the stigma attached to homelessness.

7. Myth: Service providers are trained to deal with homelessness, so they are the experts.

Fact: Although service providers are trained and usually mean well, they often don't really understand the issues and problems homeless people deal with every day. It's hard to call someone an expert on homelessness unless they have experienced the crisis firsthand. This is what we would like to see--homeless people included in the policymaking process so services can be more appropriate and effective.

8. Myth: Homeless people are not my responsibility.

Fact: Homeless people are part of the community. And everyone is responsible for the community where they live. If we start a healthy dialogue between members of the community, together we can build the kind of community in which we all want to live. Please join us in making our community a better place.

Helpful Information:

Equal Housing Opportunity