Homelessness doesn’t discriminate—job loss, unforeseen financial challenges, addiction, or mental health can affect any of us. According to the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Report, the term homelessness describes “the situation of an individual, family or community without stable, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it.” The report identifies many causes for our current homelessness crisis in Canada, including societal barriers, a lack of affordable and appropriate housing, and cognitive, behavioural or physical challenges.
In Vancouver, homelessness has increased 30% since 2014, according to the 2017 Metro Vancouver Report. Of that group, 16% are youth under the age of 25, and 21% are over the age of 54, meaning more than half are working age. In Vancouver, part of the homelessness issue lies in the disparity between income and cost of living. The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Report identifies the following income sources among the current homeless population, “most respondents received income from income assistance (42%), followed by a disability benefit (28%), part- or full-time employment (22%), and/or binning/bottle collecting (15%)”. The problem is that disability payments and income assistance aren’t always enough to put food on the table and to pay the notoriously high rent in the city. CBC News recently reported that “housing costs and a lack of income are driving up the numbers of Lower Mainland homeless, 22% of whom were employed full- or part-time, according to the latest count conducted by Metro Vancouver.”
Streetohome, a Vancouver organization dedicated to enhancing the systems of support that address individual housing, addiction recovery, education and employment needs of those who are homeless, believes that employment is an integral pillar for supporting our homeless community. Once individuals have accessed necessary medical care and secured supportive—even if temporary—housing, the next step to rebuilding their lives is re-entering the workforce, where they can work towards starting the next chapter of their lives in permanent housing. Streetohome explains that “employment is a critical element for mental health and well-being and provides marginalized individuals a broadened social network, a sense of belonging, an opportunity to participate more fully in society, and a door to increased income, independent living and self-sufficiency…”. Streetohome, and other local organizations like the Salvation Army, are moving those who are ready and willing to re-enter the workforce into work-readiness programs that help them update their soft skills. Helping candidates build resumes, communicate effectively through emails, and plan their schedules, helps build confidence and get them prepared to take on the structure of the professional workplace.
Helping our homeless and marginalized communities in Canada requires public, private and nonprofit sectors to come together to create sustainable, long-term solutions for medical care, housing, and employment. As a registered non-profit, WorkWithUs is supporting Streetohome’s mission to provide sustainable employment and purposeful activity for marginalized populations. Starting in Vancouver, BC, with a goal to extend across Canada—and we are looking to work with companies who want to foster thriving citizens through community inclusiveness and meaningful employment. If you have temporary staffing needs, learn more how you WorkWithUs can to help.