Homelessness is a multifaceted problem; it encompasses more than individuals who are “sleeping rough” (on the streets, in parks), or people who are staying at emergency shelters—although these numbers are used as proxy measures. Raising the Roof, an organization working to end homelessness in Canada, estimates that up to 80% of those experiencing homelessness are "hidden homeless" (couch surfing, living in cars/abandoned buildings, or staying in a dangerous situation for lack of other options).
Shifting to a Housing First approach presents an opportunity to move the focus away from band-aid solutions to interventions that get at underlying issues and prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place. This is more cost effective and represents a shift to ending homelessness, instead of managing it.
“It’s time for Canadians to shift gears from managing homelessness to ending it”
-Tim Richter, President of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.
In 2013, 338 people used an emergency shelter in Saint John. Shelters were used a total of 10,518 times in the course of the year.
“Housing First is a recovery-oriented approach to ending homelessness… The basic underlying principle of Housing First is that people are better able to move forward with their lives if they are first housed. This is as true for people experiencing homelessness... as it is for anyone.”
(Housing First in Canada, 2013)