Youth Blog: The Misconceptions of Houselessness

By Jaimie Arrigo & Cece Fajardo

In the past decade, it has become prevalent that British Columbia has been experiencing a social crisis with houselessness. Vancouver currently stands at the third highest city for its houseless population in Canada. In the Metro Vancouver area alone, there are upwards of 3,600 people living without a house. With an insufficient amount of affordable housing and vacancy rates below 1%, people and families are forced into houselessness. The cost of living is very expensive and not always easy to manage for people living below the poverty line. What happens is that folks are having to make exceptionally difficult decisions between rent, food, childcare, clothing, medical care, heating, and more because of their financial state. Additionally, there are many factors that coin into houselessness that people may overlook. We often carry biases or have misconceptions when it comes to people who are houseless, which can be damaging as the reason is unique for each individual. Today, we will cover the common misconceptions of houselessness in hopes to eradicate the negative outlook.

A lot of people carry the common misconception that most individuals who are facing the struggle of houselessness, are facing it as a result of substance abuse, and furthermore, that they are at fault for their being houseless. These misconceptions cause many to lack empathy towards the houseless community and as a result lack interest in offering their support. The people who don’t properly understand the difficult and unfortunate reality of the situation often don’t take the time to become educated about it, and are therefore left not wanting to take any part in helping to improve the situation. The truth is, houselessness is a very serious and widespread issue that results from a number of causes. One substantial factor involved in the struggle with houselessness is mental illness. A lot of people who struggle with mental illnesses fall victim to houselessness for reasons such as not being able to earn a stable income, having increased struggles in carrying out daily tasks, and overall not having the proper support to overcome these challenges.  Job loss is another common cause of houselessness and can happen due to various reasons and circumstances, the pandemic being one of them. Some other unfortunate factors involved in the result of houselessness include people suffering from domestic violence and having difficulty finding a proper way out of their situation, the occurrence of a natural disaster resulting in the loss of homes and jobs for many, and substance abuse without the proper help and support. There is also a very disproportionately high number of Indigenous peoples suffering from houselessness and this is often rooted in Canada’s history of colonialism. Houselessness is clearly not a simple problem with a simple solution, a concept that can hopefully become more understood.

It is hard to think that so many fellow British Columbians are experiencing houselessness in our community. If you are interested in helping the houseless, we’ve found a few ways to contribute.


Three Ways to Support houseless individuals in BC:

  1. Drop off basic essential items for care kits – If you live in the Vancouver area this may be a great idea for you! Through Union Gospel Mission (UGM), you are able to drop off essential items for them to create care packages for the houseless. For more information and the address, go to https://www.ugm.ca/summer-most-needed/
  1. Donate to Affordable Housing Campaign – The lack of affordable housing is a leading cause of houselessness in British Columbia. By donating to the 50 Women of Options campaign, you are contributing to affordable houses being built, therefore, accessible homes for people in need. For more information and where to donate, go to https://womenofoptions.ca/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwhr2FBhDbARIsACjwLo2mx58wygIuTrvNX8I9VTQt75sDKwZrHHe2cyWr-r8V6y-j-JBNbKkaAg6mEALw_wcB 
  1. Give your old clothes to local homeless shelters – A great way to recycle old clothing is by donating it to your local homeless shelters. This way, it will be given to people directly in need.

Hopefully this informs you that there are many factors of houselessness beyond what many people typically choose to believe, and as a community we should do our best to empathize for these individuals and help them and the rest of the community where we can. Through researching and educating ourselves about this topic, it has broken our hearts to realize the situations many people are put in due to their mental health, job loss resulting from the pandemic, and other factors. Many of us are very privileged in different ways and it’s important that we use our privilege to help others.


Reference List

Union Gospel Mission. (2018, October 25). Help Homeless Poverty Addiction Vancouver. Union Gospel Mission. https://www.ugm.ca/help-homeless-poverty-addiction-vancouver/?gclid=CjwKCAjw47eFBhA9EiwAy8kzNLA2nDlXn4ljz__Z5Y-CL4YdxvHUxoDvGl-PwmHuz9A_qYPP3ac7gRoCwikQAvD_BwE
Leach, A. (2008). The Roots of Aboriginal Homelessness in Canada. Aboriginal Housing Management Association. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/573e02ab62cd943531b23633/t/5

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