Having safe and stable housing is essential to address the root causes of homelessness. It is Lookout Housing and Health Society’s vision to transform the lives of people with few, if any, housing options. We go beyond traditional solutions regarding homelessness by fostering growth and change through innovative service delivery and collaborative partnerships. Our goal is to help people move into permanent housing which will support their needs.
Lookout’s clientele includes individuals living with low or no income, people with multiple barriers including: poverty, addictions, disabilities, health and mental health issues, and Aboriginal Peoples struggling with identity and social integration issues. Individuals move along the continuum of housing based on their individual needs and abilities.
Emergency shelters are often the first step in helping people stabilise and avoid or escape homelessness. There will always be life crises that temporarily force people into emergency shelters if they have no other options. However, homelessness should not be viewed as a permanent state, but rather a temporary situation that can be prevented or overcome with more options along the housing continuum, such as adequate supportive, non-market and rental housing.
Breaking the Cycle
Lookout began to primarily support people in emergency shelters and transitional housing – however, to break the cycle of chronic homelessness we have witnessed over the years, our permanent housing has grown to account for 50% of our housing options.
Lookout’s clientele includes individuals living with low or no income, people with multiple barriers including: poverty, addictions, disabilities, health and mental health issues, and Aboriginal Peoples struggling with identity and social integration issues. We recognize that people become homeless for a variety of reasons, but at its core, people become homeless because they lose their homes.
Causes of Homelessness
An estimated 4,821 people identified as homeless in Metro Vancouver, according to results from the 2023 Metro Vancouver Homeless Count, which is a point-in-time count conducted every three years across the region. The 2020 Metro Vancouver Homeless Count identified a total of 3,634 homeless individuals, representing an increase of 32% over a three year period. While each one of these people has their own story of how they became homeless, there are some common causes.
Lack of income rank as the leading causes of homelessness. Substance use and mental health are also significant factors. When asked to provide a reason or reasons for what cause them to lose their most recent housing, 35% of the respondents reported not enough income, 24% said substance use and addictions, 16% said mental health, landlord/tenant conflict was cited by 16% and 15% said conflict with spouse/partner.
Mental health and substance use are treatable conditions but these findings show that these needs are often unmet and can prevent a return to housing.
Provided Reasons for Most Recent Housing Loss
Further proof that our higher cost of housing is leading to homelessness is confirmed in the Lookout’s 2014-2015 intake interviews of the 5,879 shelter guests. The majority reported a housing crisis and poverty were factors leading to their homelessness:
Factors Leading to Homelessness by % of Respondents
The Cost of Homelessness
The cost of homelessness to Canadians is estimated at $7 billion annually, according to the 2013 report The State of Homelessness in Canada. The estimate is based on the cost of reacting to homelessness instead of addressing the root causes of it and taking a proactive approach. Canada’s reactionary solutions are expensive, typically involving a greater use of emergency services – law enforcement, courts and prisons, emergency healthcare, longer hospital stays, emergency shelters, etc.
There are also longer term costs associated with chronic homelessness. Those who spend longer periods on the street have a higher likelihood of suffering mental and physical health problems, addictions and disabilities.
Some useful comparisons provided in the report illustrate the higher costs that result from not taking affirmative action. For example, the average monthly cost of housing in facilities and institutions is as follows:
Also worth noting is a report conducted by the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction. The 2008 study, Housing and Support for Adults with Severe Addictions and/or Mental Illness, estimates B.C. taxpayers yearly contribution to homelessness is $644.3 million.