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CHHEnglish: Homelessness
Homelessness is an extreme form of poverty characterized by the instability of housing and the inadequacy of income, health care supports and social supports. This definition includes people who are absolutely homeless (those living on the streets, sometimes referred to as "rough sleepers"); shelter dwellers (people staying temporarily in emergency shelters or hostels); the "hidden homeless" (people staying temporarily with friends or family), and others who are described as under housed or "at risk" of homelessness.

When people lose their housing, they often move in temporarily with friends or family, a practice known as "couch surfing". If the option of moving in with friends and/or family is not (or is no longer) available because of weak social capital or a lack of steady income, many people will stay in temporary emergency shelters, or end up absolutely homeless. Emergency shelters exist in medium- and large-sized urban centers, but are not generally ava...
ilable in rural areas and small towns.

If they are able to generate money, people who experience homelessness may rent motel rooms, move into rooming houses, or with friends, temporarily. Others will sleep "rough" in parks, along alleyways, on rooftops, or under bridges. Most people who are homeless move through a variety of temporary and unstable living situations, which makes generating income, maintaining health, keeping safe, nurturing healthy relationships and obtaining permanent housing extremely challenging.

Homelessness, then, is not defined strictly by an absolute lack of shelter (though this is the most obvious manifestation of it), but rather by the intersection of a range of social exclusionary factors that exacerbate poverty, limit opportunities and create barriers to full participation in Canadian society. Real political solutions to homelessness rest not only in addressing the inadequate supply of affordable housing in Canada, but also in improving income security, equitable access to health care supports (including mental health and addictions) and justice, for example.

AUTHOR: Gaetz, Stephen, (2008) Homeless Hub.
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A program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services