The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a growing crisis: Homelessness. Lockdowns and social distancing limited access to shelters. Just to survive, many people turned to homeless encampments using tents or other informal structures.
Having faced systemic barriers that now deepen their housing need, some communities have been disproportionately impacted by this crisis. This includes racialized people, people with disabilities, Indigenous Peoples and members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
This Solutions Lab aims to improve the complex rights issues that are highlighted in homeless encampments. This project will identify and use 3 learning cities. A diverse group of experts and partners will create a gender-based analysis (GBA+) approach to addressing encampments in each city. Findings will be valuable to other cities facing similar challenges related to encampment rights.
3 Key Findings
Co-develop a system for a rights-based, GBA+ approach to addressing encampments in municipalities across Canada.
Co-develop an effective approach to fostering governmental collaboration in response to encampments. Ensure this approach is centred on human rights and GBA+.
Support the elimination of homelessness by providing a roadmap to offer guidance to better address homelessness and encampments in Canadian municipalities.
Project scope and expected outcomes
A Rights-Based Approach to Housing
There is an urgent need to transform municipal and provincial/territorial government responses to homeless encampments in Canada. The lack of coordination between agencies, departments and governments has turned a housing crisis into a human rights crisis. Canadian cities are struggling to develop an ethical, effective or rights-based approach to address this issue.
Indigenous Peoples are disproportion>ately affected by homelessness. In Toronto, Indigenous Peoples are just 2.5% of the overall population. However, they are 15% of the population experiencing homelessness and 23% of the population living outdoors. These figures are similar in other Canadian cities.
In 2019 the National Housing Strategy Act established adequate housing as a human right in Canada. This project aims to improve housing and services for people experiencing homelessness and living in encampments. It will directly address human rights issues of populations that are a priority under the National Housing Strategy. This includes Indigenous Peoples. It will also provide a pathway to change for Canadian municipalities.
This project will build on a series of rights-based principles. These principles come from the United Nations Special Report on the Right to Adequate Housing and The Shift in 2020.
The main goal of this Lab is to increase collaboration between:
- support organizations
- advocacy groups
- people with lived experiences of homelessness
This will help make sure the rights-based principles are more widely used.
Another outcome of this Lab is to reduce homelessness across the country. In the long term, more people will be able to find social and economic inclusion in their communities. This means fewer people will need to turn to encampments to find housing.
The Lab will be completed in 5 phases:
The Definition Phase includes:
- establishing agreement on the project approach
- identifying stakeholders
- establishing the baseline understanding of human rights.
A lived experienced Leadership Table and 3 key learning cities will be selected. Solutions will be tested and workshopped in these cities to serve the needs of encampment residents.
- The Discovery Phase includes gathering research to understand key challenges and issues in regions within the selected learning cities. A diverse set of focus groups will study these challenges. From their findings, they will develop a set of scenarios that highlight the greatest issues in each of these regions. Best practice research will be identified and collected based on the key challenges identified in the focus groups.
- The Development Phase includes building potential solutions with a diverse set of stakeholders. These solutions will be tested and implemented in regions of the learning cities in the next phase.
- The Prototype and Test Phase includes testing potential solutions in the learning cities. Each city will review the proposed solutions developed in previous phases and apply them to its region. They will determine the helpfulness of these suggestions in the short, medium and long term and create improvement plans. Each learning city plan will be reviewed by human rights experts and the Leadership Table.
- The Roadmap Phase includes the creation of case studies on each region and a lessons-learned document. These materials will lay the groundwork for the improvement plans to be potentially implemented by municipalities post-Lab.
- Julieta Perucca – The Shift
- Sam Freeman – The Shift
- Leilani Farha – The Shift
- Kaitlin Schwan – Women's National Housing & Homelessness Network
- Stephen D'Souza – Homelessness Services Association of British Columbia
- Patricia Masur – Homelessness Services Association of British Columbia
- Alexandra Flynn – Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia
- Dana Granofsky – BGM Strategy Group
- Estair Van Wagner – Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Get More Information:
Visit the National Housing Strategy’s Innovation page.
Search our Housing Knowledge Centre for important updates on the progress of this lab.