Rural Homelessness in Canada: Directions for Planning and Research

Jeannette Waegemakers Schiff, Rebecca Schiff, Alina Turner, Karine Bernard


Until recently, there was little acknowledgement that homelessness existed in rural areas in Canada. With a few exceptions, most research and intervention has concentrated on individuals and families living in urban areas; consequently homelessness has most often been framed as an urban phenomenon. Rural homelessness was unacknowledged, until reports from diverse rural areas began to emerge in the last decade which shed light on the unique context of the issue. The aim of this research was to examine and describe the dimensions of rural homelessness across Canada, the locations and contexts that have been studied, and assess the extent of common themes across provinces and regions. In this process, we were able to provide a preliminary assessment of: obstacles to identification and intervention; the challenges in determining prevalence of rural homelessness and its
characteristics; determining access to shelter, food and support services, and what factors contribute to housing crises in rural areas. As there is still a scarcity of information about rural specific elements, planning and implementation responses would be enhanced through the development of a combination of a research network to facilitate knowledge mobilization and a research agenda on rural homelessness.
Recommendations suggest the need for a fulsome research agenda on rural homelessness in Canada be developed to capture common emerging themes from a provincial rather than community-by-community perspective. This can, and should be coordinated with international and local efforts to examine rural homelessness.

Keywords: homelessness, housing, rural, Canada, housing first, migration

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