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Four key homelessness stats for Waterloo Region

The Data Is In

The annual Housing Stability Data Summary from the Region of Waterloo has been a crucial resource for the local housing sector for the past five years. In case you missed it, the most recent report was released at the end of June.

Since not everyone wants, or has the time, to dive into the meaning behind the numbers, we’ve selected four noteworthy statistics insights to paint you a picture of what homelessness looked like in Waterloo Region last year.


1. Fewer people are using emergency shelters, but they’re staying longer

The number of people using shelters dropped last year, but the number of ‘bed nights’ was higher. How can that be?

It’s because people using shelters have more complex needs, so it takes them longer to find permanent housing with appropriate supports.

It makes sense. These folks make up a very small portion of people who experience homelessness, but they need more coordinated help  from a variety of services.

We believe that helping them find a permanent home is completely achievable, as long as we follow the next step.


2. The list of the people who need affordable housing with supports skyrocketed

The number of people on the PATHS (Prioritized Access to Housing Support) list rose a whopping 94 per cent. It’s the kind of number that could give you the wrong impression.

Here’s what the increase really means.

The number of people who are homeless hasn’t risen. Rather we’re getting better at identifying and understanding the folks who are experiencing homelessness. Since their needs are complex and they have trouble finding permanent housing, they’re more likely to be chronically and persistently homeless.

Getting to know them is the first step in helping them find a home of their own. So the bigger number just means we’re in a better position to help the people who need it the most.

What may surprise you, is that these folks weren’t the only ones struggling to find housing last year.


3. Families used emergency shelters 20 per cent more

The number of families experiencing homelessness is the same, but their use of emergency shelters is higher.

The reasons for this are complex.

For starters, the rental market in Waterloo Region continues to tighten: the vacancy rate dropped from 2.4 per cent to 2.2 per cent.

Families are also put at risk due to a failure to link them with housing services early enough to prevent homelessness entirely.

And finally, the increase in refugee claimants in Waterloo Region is contributing to the bigger number.

Our final stats point to an increase in homelessness among two other vulnerable populations in need of help.


4. Homelessness among older adults and refugees is significantly higher

More older adults (meaning more than 65 years of age) used emergency shelters last year.

The number rose from 45 to 60 older adults this year, an increase of 33 per cent. This is a big concern for our local housing sector, and they’re already taking steps to address it.

Another concern is the challenge of housing more refugee claimants.

While the number of refugees needing emergency shelter is relatively small, the increase from six to nine people is worth noting: it’s an increase of 50 per cent.


Update: July 28, 2017

We have a clarification regarding the above information regarding refugees and refugee claimants.

While the aforementioned info for refugees is correct — an increase from 6 to 9 people or 50 per cent — we didn’t make it clear that people using shelter who are refugee claimants are counted separately.

Last year, the number of refugee claimants also showed a significant increase, rising from 18 to 45 people, or 150 per cent.

Our profuse apologies for any confusion.


To learn more about the steps the Region of Waterloo is taking to end homelessness, look for  our upcoming post on the 20,000 homes campaign.