How Homelessness Happens: Substance Use and the Opioid Crisis

Oct 2021 | Homelessness Housing Other Resources

Canada is facing a substance use and opioid crisis; a complex social and health issue that’s causing 20 deaths in Canada every single day. Substance use and homelessness have a long history and are well connected, but the opioid crisis is worsening the situation and significantly increasing the risk and negative impacts for vulnerable Canadians.

What are opioids?

Opioids are legal and illegal drugs that help relieve pain. They affect your mind and how you process pain, giving a feeling of euphoria. They can also be highly addictive.

Fentanyl, specifically is an extremely powerful synthetic opioid that’s prescribed to treat severe pain. Because fentanyl is so strong, just a few grains can kill someone.

Facts about opioids in Canada

Substance use and homelessness

In 2018, the Government of Canada held Everyone Counts, the second nationally coordinated Point-in-Time Count to survey people facing homelessness across the country; 19,536 people in 61 communities.

The survey results highlighted what was already suspected:

The survey also found that 50% of people who reported addictions and substance use as their cause for losing their housing, also had their first experience with homelessness in their youth. Those who experienced substance use later in life were less likely to lose their housing because of addictions and substance use.

Substance use in Nanaimo

In 2020, Nanaimo held its own Point-in-Time Homeless Count. The data from this survey reflect the findings of the Canada-wide Everyone Counts, with some slight differences:

Access Nanaimo services and resources for substance use

Impact of COVID-19

While Canada has been focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid crisis has continued to worsen.

Naloxone Cut for Police

Last month, it was reported nationwide that British Columbia’s Naloxone supply for police forces is depleted.

Naloxone has saved countless lives since the opioid crisis was declared a health emergency in BC in 2016. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist, blocking the effects of opioids and preventing death in the case of overdose.

The Victoria Police Department has been funding the purchase of its own Naloxone kits for the past year from its Human Resources budget. The kits retail for $130 to $140 each.

Other police departments, like Saanich, indicated they have enough Naloxone to last until the end of the year, but there is no provincially funded budget after that. Up to now, many detachments have paid for their Naloxone supply through provincial funding.

In response to the media coverage, Premier Horgan promised the funding will be restored to police departments.

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
Find help in Nanaimo with HelpSeeker. Access supports 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.