Understanding and Estimating Hidden Homelessness in Saskatoon

February 22, 2023

Using innovative approaches to bring hidden homelessness into the light

The Canadian Centre for Housing Rights (CCHR) is proud to be partnering with CT Labs and several local partners in Saskatoon on a project funded by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) Solutions Lab, to understand and estimate hidden homelessness in Saskatoon. 

Hidden homelessness is experienced by many people across the country, but there has been great difficulty in understanding the extent of the problem as it is an invisible form of homelessness. This is why at CCHR we have developed a pilot project in Saskatoon to understand and enumerate hidden homelessness, in order to better serve the housing needs of those who are invisibly unhoused. Using Saskatoon as a case study, the project will produce a framework for estimating the scope of hidden homelessness that can be used by policymakers and service providers to develop effective solutions. To do this, we have brought together stakeholders from across Saskatoon’s housing system to capture the journeys of those experiencing hidden homelessness and co-develop innovative strategies for collecting data to create evidence-based solutions. The aim of the project is to develop a framework that can be translatable to similar urban centers across Canada.    

CMHC’s Solutions Labs are an innovative approach to tackling complex societal challenges that cannot be solved by one organization or sector. Using bottom-up collaboration, they provide a safe space for diverse perspectives to come together, for assumptions to be questioned, and for community-based solutions to be created. They are one of the tools under the National Housing Strategy being used to inform decision-making at all levels of government. 

Project background 

Using limited data, a 2016 study by Statistics Canada found that nearly 1 in 10 Canadians have experienced hidden homelessness. Some populations are disproportionately experiencing hidden homelessness such as Indigenous Peoples, women, LGBTQ2S individuals, or children involved with the child welfare system. 

The term is commonly used to refer to people who are living temporarily with friends, family, or strangers without a secure place to call home. They may be couch-surfing, sleeping in cars, or living in unsafe situations just to have a roof over their heads. Despite hidden homelessness being prevalent in communities across Canada, there is a lack of data on the scope and nature of the issue. Without accurate data, the needs of this population are often not represented in current housing policies and left out of solutions that can help them find permanent housing. An innovative approach is needed to address current data gaps and deepen understandings of the hidden homelessness experiences.  

Taking place over 14 months, the lab will engage with community stakeholders to understand the issue, identify and prototype solutions, and develop an implementation roadmap that has the participation and buy-in of the housing ecosystem.  

The project to date

Over the next few months, the project team will be speaking with individuals who have lived experience of hidden homelessness. The journeys and experiences collected in these conversations will be the foundation for future phases of the lab and inform the development of solutions.    

The Understanding and Estimating Hidden Homelessness in Saskatoon project received funding from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) under the NHS Solutions Labs, however, the views expressed are the personal views of the author and CMHC accepts no responsibility for them. 

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