How Homelessness Happens: Family and Relationships

Oct 2021 | Homelessness Other Resources

The people around us who we love and care for are the most important people in our lives. What happens when you don’t have those people? Or you can’t rely on them for support? Or they harm you?

Across Canada, thousands of people every year find themselves facing difficult relationships and having to choose between homelessness and abuse.

Domestic Violence

When someone says they’re experiencing domestic violence, the question they often face is, “Why don’t you leave?” It’s never as simple as that. Intimate partner violence is not always physical. It also includes financial control, intimidation, threats, coercion, isolation and denying freedom. How can you leave when you have young children, no credit cards or cash, no transportation and you’ve cut off contact from all family and friends?

Statistics Canada took a snapshot of Canadian residential facilities for victims of abuse in 2018.  They found that on a single day 3,565 women with 3,137 children were living in these facilities because of abuse.

Approximately 30% of Canadians facing homelessness are women, and of those women 91% have experienced some form of violence or assault in their lifetime.

These are the numbers we know, but in reality these numbers are probably much higher. Many people who leave abusive situations are considered the hidden homeless. They sleep in their car, stay with friends or crash in a motel while they try and re-establish their lives. They often aren’t tracked or counted in the data on homelessness because they’re not accessing resources or staying in supportive housing.

Every year thousands of people, mostly women, in Canada are left with the tough choice of staying in an abusive relationship or facing homelessness.

Learn more about Domestic Violence and Nanaimo resources

Youth Homelessness

It’s estimated that in Canada between 35,000 and 40,000 youths aged 13 to 24 experience homelessness each year. Every night 6,000 to 7,000 youths sleep on the street, in shelters, in cars and on couches, with no permanent home to go to.

According to Leaving Home: Youth Homelessness in York Region, the causes of youth homelessness are varied. While 92% of youth facing homelessness cited conflict with their parents or caregivers as a contributing reason for leaving home, nearly 60% identified emotional, physical, or sexual abuse as a contributing factor to their eventual homelessness.

Sadly, a disproportionate number of youths facing homelessness identify as LGBTQ2+. They may have had to leave home because of rejection or violence from their family in response to their identity.

Youth who experience homelessness face much different challenges than adults. Their inexperience in life gives them little to go on for education, employment, and relationships, limiting their opportunities to get out of poverty.  

Learn more about youth homelessness and Nanaimo resources

Foster Care

In Canada, children are removed from their families when authorities determine they are at risk of harm. These children are placed under the care and protection of a legal guardian and become the legal responsibility of the government. Some remain there, in foster care, until they “age out of care.” In B.C., that happens at 19 years old.

The 2011 Census reported that 47,885 children were in foster care in Canada, with 7,005 in B.C.

The 2020 Nanaimo Point-in-Time Homeless Count included a new question addressing the connection between foster care or group homes and youth homelessness. In Nanaimo, it was found that nearly half of youth respondents were homeless within five years or less of leaving care. This same percentage is reflected across Canada.

Youth leaving care are at a much higher risk of poverty and homelessness. They likely have not completed high school and may be facing mental health challenges (more so than others their age) and probably have experience with substance use. On top of that, their young age leaves them without the proper coping skills to deal with the transition.

While the BC Government provides extra supports for youth ageing out of care, 50% will experience homelessness at some point.

If you need support, as a youth facing homelessness, contact BC Crisis Centre.

Indigenous Children in Foster Care

In 2016, the Canadian Census reported the over-representation of Indigenous children in foster care. In Canada, 52.2% of children in foster care are Indigenous but account for only 7.7% of the child population. Results from the 2011 National Household Survey also show that 38% of Indigenous children in Canada live in poverty, compared to 7% for non-Indigenous children.

In response, the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families came into force on January 1, 2020. Co-developed by the Government of Canada with Indigenous peoples, provinces and territories, this new legislation aims to reduce the number of Indigenous children and youth in care and improve child and family services.

Living without the support of family

Life is full of the unexpected and when the unexpected happens, like job loss or illness, family is there to help you to get back on your feet. When you don’t have family to turn to, or worse, your family turns on you, the only help available are the overburdened non-profit and government supports in your community.

Unfortunately, Canada is at a crisis point, without enough resources available to help everyone in need. Housing costs and living costs keep increasing. Covid-19 has pushed thousands living in poverty into homelessness. Isolation has increased mental health challenges and heightened instances of domestic violence. The number of opioid deaths is a crisis in itself. And, of course, the number of people facing homelessness trends upwards, year over year.

 Every community needs more support and more investments to help those in need.

Learn more about Nanaimo’s Health & Housing Action Plan.

Resources in Nanaimo

Haven Society – Located in Nanaimo, Haven Society is guided by feminist ideals and offers a range of services, public education, and campaigning to advance the integrity and safety of women, children, youth and families.

Cedar Woman House – a purpose-built institution in Nanaimo for Indigenous women and children who have undergone or are in danger of facing violence. It is staffed 24 hours a day. This facility was built with Indigenous values, cultural interests, and programming in mind.

Nanaimo Youth Services Association – a non-profit that provides support to young people between the ages of 15 and 24 who are living independently of parents and/or caregivers. Their services range from providing housing, mental, physical and emotional support, life skills training and employment assistance.

Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre – Strives to improve the quality of life for Aboriginal people living in an urban environment by promoting justice, fairness and equality through a holistic approach to programming and services.

Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre – Offers a variety of educational and cultural opportunities for toddlers to youths, as well as housing and outreach programs. 

HelpSeeker – Register your organization on the HelpSeeker app so that people in need can find support and information right when they need it.

Find help in Nanaimo with Helpseeker for support and services

Resources to help you

Do You Need Help?

If you’re looking for mental health support, shelter, addictions treatment, food banks and more, BC 211 can help.

Or search HelpSeeker for access to over 770 services, programs and resources in Nanaimo.