Homeless people in the city

What Causes Homelessness in Canada? Unearthing The Root Cause

Homelessness is a significant problem in Canada. Currently, the estimated number of homeless people stands at 235,000 people. So it’s no surprise that the causes of homelessness are varied and complex.

Donating items such as mattresses to organizations and initiatives that address homelessness can profoundly impact the lives of those in need.

However, addressing homelessness requires a multifaceted approach, and while donating can make a difference, it is only one part of the solution. Understanding the root causes of this problem is essential if we want to find meaningful solutions.

You will be shocked that homelessness stems from both individual and structural factors.

Let’s demystify the causes of homelessness in Canada.

What Does Homelessness Mean?

Homeless man sitting in street corner

Homelessness means individuals or families lacking stable, safe, and suitable housing. It encompasses people living on the streets, in a homeless shelter, or in temporary accommodation, and people who are “hidden homeless.” (Hidden homelessness means staying temporarily with friends or relatives, in cars, or other precarious situations.)

Lack of permanent residence is a complex issue influenced by economic and societal issues, systemic or societal barriers, lack of adequate housing, etc.

As we said above, Canada’s homeless population is off the chart. And it affects anyone from diverse backgrounds, including youth, veterans, Indigenous peoples, refugees, or even individuals with disabilities.

What Causes Homelessness In Canada?

Lack of Affordable Housing in Canada

The most prevalent cause of homelessness in Canada is the lack of affordable housing options. Unfortunately, there’s a severe shortage of affordable housing, which the population increase has only exacerbated.

This means that the competition for limited housing units is often fierce. Hence, the most vulnerable, like indigenous women, are left without a roof over their heads.

Furthermore, people with disabilities or mental health issues cannot compete with higher-income tenants in bidding wars, reducing their chances of finding stable homes.

Extreme Poverty and Income Inequality

Another cause of homelessness in Canada is poverty and income inequality. Canada may have one of the highest standards of living in the world, but there are still people who cannot make ends meet.

At least 1 out of 10 Canadians are living below the poverty line. So, Canadians are struggling with rising housing costs and unaffordable rents.

These income inequalities can be seen in many communities across the country, creating a cycle of poverty that is difficult to break.

Many individuals lack permanent housing and are homeless without access to resources or support systems to help them recover financially.

Mental Health and Addiction Issues

Mental health and addiction issues have also caused an uptick in the homeless population. In addition, problems like anxiety, depression, and substance-compound social isolation are known causes of increased homelessness.

In fact, according to recent statistics, approximately 30-35%of people experiencing homelessness have a mental health issue.


Junkie homeless couple using drug

Addictions can cause people with limited economic resources to turn to begging or other illegal activities to sustain their habits. It also leads to a downward spiral where a person’s precarious housing situation becomes more difficult to escape.

And even when these individuals can find support and assistance, they often struggle with their mental health and addiction issues.

Mental Health Issues

Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety drive difficulty in maintaining employment or engaging in meaningful activities. People who don’t have access to adequate support may be left feeling socially isolated and eventually homeless.

Addiction and mental health problems are deeply interconnected with homelessness in Canada. Thus, investing in solutions that combine effective treatment programs with safe housing options is vital—for instance, more emergency shelters or supportive housing programs—for those facing these problems.

Domestic Violence

When you think of the root causes of homelessness, domestic violence or family violence is likely not the first thing that comes to mind.

But it’s a shocker—domestic violence significantly bumps homelessness in Canada.

Statistics show that several people experiencing homelessness in Canada have cited domestic violence as one of the primary causes of their unhoused status.

Typically, when someone experiences domestic violence, their desire to leave rises even though they don’t have anywhere stable and safe.

So what’s worse is that when they fall into homelessness after being abused, they remain vulnerable and exposed. This way, they are more likely to be victimized again by abusers or strangers.

Furthermore, survivors cannot recover financially from trauma without access to health care or mental health services.

Health Issues and Disabilities

Did you know that health issues and disabilities can affect homelessness? For example, mental illness and physical disabilities increase the risk of homelessness because of difficulties accessing treatment or because it’s harder to stay employed.

For example, people with mental illness may struggle to understand or manage their finances or create an adequate budget. They may also work with communication and interaction, affecting their ability to find housing or maintain employment.

This problem isn’t an easy problem to solve—it involves investing in mental health services and disability support programs.

Aging Out of Care: Youth Homelessness in Canada

Young homeless people sleeping in a basement

Youth homelessness is all the rage, as young people are often thrust into the world with little support or resources.

So what is aging out of care? It’s when a child reaches adulthood without having found stability in their life.

This could happen because they aged out of foster care, left an orphanage, or were evicted from subsidized housing before being prepared to be independent. And it’s estimated that up to 40% of homeless youth in Canada have aged out of care.

There’s also an alarming racial disparity in aging out of care rates. In some areas, indigenous and black youth may experience age-out rates up to seven times those of their peers.


Overall, a combination of personal, systemic, and foundational factors are responsible for creating and maintaining the problem of homelessness in Canada.

To truly make a difference in the lives of people experiencing homelessness in Canada, we need to address the root causes of homelessness. Good thing Canada’s homelessness strategy is effective in fighting this endemic.

Because it’s only when we shift our focus to the systemic and foundational causes we will be able to move beyond individual homelessness to create sustained change.

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