Preliminary Point in Time Connection (PiTC) findings shows shifts in profile of those experiencing homelessness in Hamilton

Press Release

March 7 2022

HAMILTON, ON – Hamilton’s most recent Point in Time Connection (PiTC) survey of individuals experiencing homelessness in the city highlights a shift in the demographic profile of those experiencing homelessness, identifies key barriers to maintaining or obtaining housing, and shows specific groups are overrepresented in their experience of homelessness.

Officially called Everyone Counts, this most recent PiTC held November 15 to 19, 2021, is the third nationally-coordinated count since 2016. Locally, it is jointly coordinated by the City’s Housing Services Division and the local Indigenous community through the Coalition of Hamilton Indigenous Leadership (CHIL). The information collected complements existing local efforts to collect and report on key data on the state of homelessness and helps to ensure available resources are used as efficiently and effectively as possible to prevent and end homelessness.

Service staff from community-based social service organizations conducted 545 surveys over the five-day period at emergency shelters, drop-in programs, community agencies, and in unsheltered locations to better understand the needs of people experiencing homelessness in our community.

The preliminary results of the survey, released today, highlight:

  • A shift in the demographic profile of those experiencing homelessness throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including an increase in the percentage of respondents who identify as a woman (53 per cent), which was higher than in 2018 (32 per cent) and 2016 (28 per cent).
  • Key barriers to maintaining or obtaining housing, such as impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, housing affordability, low income/low income assistance, landlord/tenant conflict, poor housing conditions and discrimination
  • Overrepresentation of specific groups experiencing homelessness, in particular, Indigenous persons; 23 per cent of all respondents identified as Indigenous or as having Indigenous ancestry
  • A majority of respondents in November reported they had most recently stayed in an emergency shelter or a City funded hotel/motel.
  • The 2021 PiTC engaged a larger number of people staying in outdoor (60) unsheltered locations and encampments (35) compared to 2016 and 2018 initiatives. (In 2016, 34 survey respondents were in unsheltered and/or encampments compared to 25 survey respondents in these locations in 2018)

Other key findings include:

  • 23 per cent of all respondents identified as Indigenous or as having Indigenous ancestry
  • 40 per cent of those surveyed reported having a chronic illness or health condition;
  • 270 respondents had been to an emergency department in the last 12 months, with a cumulative total of 787 emergency department visits;
  • 10 per cent of all respondents identified as 2SLGBTQ+;
  • A majority identified that they were staying alone when surveyed;
  • Most respondents (74 per cent) were between the ages of 31 and 64;
  • 78 per cent of all respondents indicated that they have lived in Hamilton for more than one year;
  • 77 people reported their most recent housing loss is related to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Respondents continue to identify the need for enhanced income supports to address housing affordability;
  • Top reasons identified for recent housing loss included: not enough income; landlord/tenant conflict; and unfit housing conditions; and
  • Top barriers and challenges to finding housing included: rents too high; low income assistance; poor housing conditions; and discrimination.

The information collected on unhoused residents through the PiTC complements existing local efforts to collect and report on key data on the state of homelessness and helps to ensure available resources are used as efficiently and effectively as possible to prevent and end homelessness.  Housing Services and community partners continue to prioritize collaborative work with local Indigenous leadership to develop connections to housing and supports that are culturally appropriate, rooted in the spirit and actions of reconciliation that recognize the values of autonomy and self-determination. In addition, enhanced gender-specific responses and housing options for women, trans-feminine, trans-masculine and non-binary adults remain an important local priority. In addition to recent investments to expand capacity within the women’s homeless serving system, the Housing Services Division continues to consult with the sector planning tables including the Women’s Housing Planning Collaborative, the Street Youth Planning Collaborative and the membership of the Men’s Emergency Services Coordination Committee.

Investments specifically targeted towards housing-focused interventions in Hamilton to prevent and end people’s experience of homelessness total $26 million annually in regular funding. In addition, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City has sustained an emergency response across the homelessness-serving system directing an additional $63 million in additional pandemic response funds. These funds ensured for a responsive and flexible response throughout the evolving demands of the pandemic. Through the pandemic, additional investments have enabled the temporary expansion of shelter space across the system from 341 to up to 548 beds plus additional overflow space, as well as a new temporary women’s shelter operated by Mission Services. In addition, these investments have enabled community drop-in programs to expand and maintain services for vulnerable residents, including: meals, showers, harm reduction supplies, and overnight access to drop-in services including the Wesley Day Centre, YWCA’s Carole-Anne’s overnight drop-in space for women, Mission Services Willow’s Place Daytime drop-in for women, a youth drop-in at Living-Rock, and recently investments in Cold Alert response at The Hub. These investments have also supported the expansion of the City’s Housing Focused Street Outreach team operating seven days per week to engage with and build trust with unsheltered individuals to find safer, humane, and supportive housing options while coordinating referrals to available supports in the community.

The City of Hamilton has a comprehensive Housing and Homelessness Strategy, which is guided by the Council approved 10-year Housing and Homelessness Action Plan to make sure everyone in Hamilton has a home. In Hamilton’s Systems Planning Framework: Coming Together to End Homelessness, our community has laid out a roadmap for ending chronic homelessness by 2025. The City thanks our partners and frontline staff across the homeless-serving system for their ongoing engagement, work and support in the service of unhoused residents of Hamilton.

In keeping with the principles of Indigenous data sovereignty, as directed by the Indigenous Community Advisory Board (ICAB), CHIL will lead the analysis of Indigenous respondent data and the City of Hamilton will not use this data without the approval of the ICAB. Upon finalizing analysis of PiTC data staff will report back to Council in April with a more comprehensive update on the influences and experiences of homelessness in our community.

View the preliminary findings from Hamilton’s, 2021, 2018, and 2016 Point-in-Time initiatives are available here: www.hamilton.ca/pointintime

Quick Facts

  • Hamilton was the second community in Ontario to undertake homelessness enumeration in 2016 and one of the first to put in place a Coordinated Access system underpinned by a By-Name Priority List.
  • From January 2020 through September 2021, 485 households representing more than 1059 individuals moved from homelessness to housing.
  • Between January 2020 and October 2021, Housing Service’s Street Outreach program interacted with over 565 individuals in encampments. Of those individuals, 81 have been housed by housing support programs directly from encampments and over 430 of those individuals accessed shelter.
  • In 2021 the City prevented homelessness and provided housing stability for 683 households through the Rent Ready program for residents impacted by the loss of employment or federal benefits due to the pandemic and who may face eviction due to missed rent payments.
  • Over the past 18 months Hamilton has received and leveraged $34.45 million through the Government of Canada’s Rapid Housing Initiative. Through the tremendous efforts of staff, partner agencies, leveraging other funding pots and municipal investments, 155 new affordable housing units will be generated. These units will be completed by end of 2022 and will house people from Hamilton’s Access to Housing Waitlist and the By-Name Priority List.
  • In 2021, the City committed an additional $950,000 in annual funding (year over year) towards a new shelter focused on addressing the unique needs of women, Indigenous women, trans-feminine, trans-masculine, and non-binary community members experiencing homelessness.
  • Since 2004, the City has allocated a minimum of 20 per cent of its program budget from Federal homelessness funding to the Indigenous community, with allocations to projects determined by Indigenous leadership.
  • The City has allocated $1 M annually for 10 years (2018-2027) to an Indigenous Poverty Reduction Fund to support the Indigenous community’s poverty reduction priorities affecting housing and homelessness.
  • In December 2021, Hamilton Council approved the creation of an Emerging Needs Fund to prevent and address homelessness experienced by Indigenous community members of Hamilton to respond to needs arising as a result of COVID-19
  • Through the Council-approved Winter Response Fund, the City of Hamilton is providing financial support to the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre for the creation of an Indigenous Drop-in Centre in the downtown core.
  • In June 2021, Hamilton City Council approved further interventions in its post-COVID adaptation and transition plan for Hamilton’s housing and homelessness system which includes a one-time investment of $2 million for housing allowances for clients of City funded Intensive Case Management (ICM) programs.

“Hamilton’s Point in Time Connection survey is a crucial tool for the City, community organizations, and residents to better understand the changing and diverse needs of homeless residents. This third annual survey greatly assists us to develop programs to respond to those needs. We are grateful to all the residents who shared their lived experience for this important survey, and our thanks to City staff and service partners who facilitated.”

– Mayor Fred Eisenberger

“Hamilton has a strong history of coming together as a community to address homelessness, and the Point-in-Time Connection remains an example of this critical coordination, collaboration, and sustained commitment in our local context. The results of this initiative allow us to more deeply examine the impact of our work to end homelessness, while directly centering the voices of unhoused residents to ensure that their needs are further prioritized and reflected in the approaches taken and decisions made in the context of planning and investment.”

– Angie Burden, General Manager, Healthy and Safe Communities Department

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