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Results of 2nd Homeless Study Released

(Tuesday April 5, 2005) - Volume II of a major study - Homelessness in HRM, Portrait of Streets and Shelters-- will be tabled this evening before HRM Regional Council.

The study is a broad-based look at homelessness facilitated by HRM research staff. It utilizes a mix of methods, including literature review, 2001 Census analysis, qualitative interviews with homeless individuals and a one-day snapshot survey of the homeless in the metro area.

The first survey was conducted in June 2003 and served as the basis of the original Portrait report. Its findings called for a greater collaboration between community organizations and the three levels of government; a swift implementation of the Canada-Nova Scotia Affordable Housing program; and establishment of a harm reduction facility for individuals with addictions and mental illness disorders currently not served by the shelter system.

The latest report presents data on the second point-in-time survey of homelessness conducted on June 17, 2004. It draws comparisons between the 2003 and 2004 results, and provides additional analysis of some of the themes that emerged from the surveys – Vulnerable Families, Youth Homelessness, Diversity, Income and Housing. The latest findings largely confirm the results of the 2003 survey and validate the Portrait survey as a community-based benchmarking tool for monitoring broad local trends regarding homelessness.

While community organizations and government collaborated on several important initiatives over the past year, this report suggests that homelessness continues to be unabated and important gaps remain in the continuum of supports. Specifically:

• A temporary ‘‘Out of the Cold Program’’ was established in December 2004 in the metro area, but no financial commitment has been made to continue the program in future years. New supportive housing for individuals with dual mental illness/addictions (“shelter of last resort”) has not been established in HRM.
• Research indicates that supportive housing is a cost-effective option of serving those hard-to-house, as compared to emergency care.
• Currently, the Nova Scotia government committed to funding 281 new units (154 in HRM) through the Canada-Nova Scotia Affordable Housing program. Phase II of the program is expected to provide more flexibility to meet the needs of individuals with lowest incomes in HRM (the bottom 20%).
• Income growth in HRM over the past decade has been stagnant for most households, and lowest income households have lost ground (FCM, 2003) while living cost have increased.

Highlights of findings:

266 absolutely homeless individuals were surveyed through the 2004 survey, compared to 234 in 2003. The gender split was exactly the same as in 2003 (67% male and 33% female).
Homeless respondents to the survey ranged from 14 to 74 years of age. The average age was 35 years old. Women and those surveyed outside the shelter system tended to be younger and only a third (33 %) of the youth was surveyed through the shelter system.
34% of respondents were under 24 years of age; 39% were between 25 and 44; and 28% were over 45 years of age. There was a marked increase in the proportion of youth and older adults between 45 and 64 years of age.
Half of the respondents reported receiving some form of government assistance, and less than 10% engaged in panhandling and related activities.
Family violence, conflict and breakdown was cited by 32% of respondents as the immediate cause of homelessness, followed by substance abuse (26%); unable to find accommodation (23%); lack of income (19%); and mental illness (14%).
58% of respondents reported having a health condition; 33% reporting addiction; 20% mental illness; 15% medical condition; and 4% disability (many individuals were affected by more than one health problem).

HRM received a grant from the federal Supporting Communities Partnerships Initiative (SCPI) in 2003/04 and 2004/05 to investigate housing and homelessness issues in the municipality, increase community capacity, and explore opportunities for municipal involvement.

The report will be available on the HRM website at:

Paul Dunphy
Director, Planning and Development Services
(902) 490-6247

Barbara Nehiley
Senior Policy Analyst
(902) 490-4612

Kasia Tota
Research Coordinator, Project Study




Above content last modified Tuesday, March 21, 2023 at 1:55pm.