The terms “homeless” and “marginalized” are often used in the same sentence—but the two terms require some clarification. Marginalized individuals are not necessarily homeless, but often the impact of being marginalized can lead to future homelessness. And once someone is homeless, they can be considered a marginalized person. To better understand the barriers marginalized groups are facing, and how we can support them as a community, we’ll clarify how marginalized populations are defined, and then look at how marginalization impacts our society at large, while identifying some opportunities to respond to the associated challenges.
The Government of Canada’s report, Unlocking the Potential of Marginalized Youth defines traditionally marginalized groups as those who are “exposed to barriers that inhibit their active participation in various facets of society.” The report identifies groups like aboriginal and immigrant youth as particularly at-risk of marginalization. Other marginalized groups include persons with disabilities, and refugees—who are often experiencing many of the same challenges of those who are at risk of homelessness. The barriers that marginalized groups face have an impact on their quality of life and feelings of inclusiveness, and the report explains that the systemic, institutional and societal barriers they face get integrated into their relations with their larger community, leading to “a loss of shared talent, a decrease of skilled human capital, and an increase in social and justice spending.” Marginalized populations feel the effect of marginalization most acutely, but the larger community also feels negative impacts as a result. Our workforce, education system and political landscape can benefit from differing opinions, backgrounds and experiences—and often marginalized groups don’t have a voice or the same access to work and education than the rest of the population. Beyond feeling like they have barriers to leap over, marginalized groups can be inherently or unintentionally blocked from participation in society, and lose out on opportunities to develop and grow in the same way that larger, more dominant groups do.
Homelessness can affect anyone—no matter where they come from, the language they speak or their level of education. According to the Homeless Hub, 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.” Unforeseen changes, like the loss of a job, or longer-term challenges, like mental illness, can lead to families and individuals becoming homeless. Once homeless, these people also face marginalization: without a fixed address or shelter, homeless individuals face barriers that make active participation in day-to-day life increasingly difficult.
Recognizing the experience of marginalized groups and creating new opportunities to consider and include them in our communities is integral to removing the barriers that keep them from fully participating in economic, cultural and political spheres. The Government of Canada recognizes that various groups need to come together to find solutions to ensure marginalized groups have opportunities to see their capacities fully utilized—by improving education, the labour market and our social systems.
WorkWithUs is joining with other community partners to get ready-to-work marginalized individuals through work-readiness programs and back in the workforce. Together we can remove the barriers that are keeping individuals from reaching their potential, contributing to the economy, and feeling like active members of our communities.
To learn more about one of WorkWithUs’ founding Vancouver-based organizations, download the Streetohome annual report and outcome in response to their call to address homelessness.