Alarming Rise of Homelessness in Quebec: A 44% Surge in Four Years
The province of Quebec is facing an escalating crisis with homelessness surging by an alarming 44% since 2018, presenting a distressing picture that demands immediate attention.
A recent report by the Quebec’s Health Department reveals a significant increase in visible homelessness from April 2018 to October 2022, with a 44% rise province-wide and a 33% increase in Montreal. Researchers cautioned that their survey does not accurately reflect the actual number of homeless individuals, nor does it include the larger group of "hidden homeless," people who are temporarily residing with friends/relatives or in hotels. The scope of this report is confined to the night of October 11, 2022, rather than encompassing the complete four-year timeframe.
On October 11, 2022, the survey identified a staggering 10,000 homeless individuals throughout the province, with 4,690 in Montreal. Contrary to Montreal, where homelessness has declined by 20% since April 2018, the report found that regions such as Mauricie, Estrie, and Outaouais witnessed the most pronounced increases in visible homelessness. Notably, Outaouais exhibited an alarming surge of 389 people living on the streets, a rise of 268%.
In response to these alarming numbers, Quebec's Minister responsible for social services, Lionel Carmant, announced an additional $15.5 million to augment the existing $4.5 million budget aimed at combating homelessness. “We saw the numbers, they’re worrying. However, we were expecting it a little,” he said.
During a municipal summit organized by the Union des municipalités du Québec (UMQ), Carmant underscored that housing inadequacy stands as the central concern contributing to the rise in homelessness. Consequently, a commitment was made to intensify efforts towards fostering more affordable housing to alleviate the burgeoning crisis.
Additionally, in the summit, Valérie Plante, the mayor of Montreal, pointed out the provincial government needs to provide greater financial help for housing. She remarked, "There has to be more housing and there's been a huge lack of funding from the government in terms of housing in the last three years.” Plante advocated the construction of 2,000 housing units annually, commencing from the present year, as an indispensable measure to address the high demands of the city.
In a similar vein, the mayor of Québec City, Bruno Marchand, also called out the government's lack of attentiveness about the situation, asserting that, if the government was open to learning from other societies which have previously achieved this goal, it would be possible for the government to completely abolish homelessness. The mayor cited Finland as an example, which made a commitment to end homelessness a number of years ago. A demanding policy was implemented on the availability of inexpensive and social housing. Statistics for the nation show that the strategy is effective. He also stated that instead of a four year count, an annual count must be done in order to act quickly, if the numbers were to rise again.
Aligning with Marchand’s perspective, Carmant has expressed his commitment to perform a fresh count of the homeless in 2024. At the summit, he stated, "I had initially planned to do it every two years. In 2020, I intended to conduct one, but the pandemic changed everything. The speed at which these counts should be conducted moving forward is something else I would like us to be able to decide today.”
The National Public Health Institute of Quebec mobilized volunteers and social workers to conduct surveys within shelters and penitentiary institutions as part of the data-gathering initiative. Simultaneously, efforts were directed towards identifying individuals residing in open areas. The outcomes of these surveys revealed distinctive demographics within the visible homeless population. Disproportionately represented groups included Native Americans, members of the LGBTQ+ community, individuals with a history of being reared in the child welfare system, those with a history of incarceration, and individuals who had faced eviction.
Furthermore, the surveys shed light on a prevailing pattern—the majority of respondents attributed their state of homelessness to the acute lack of affordable housing options. This research emphasizes how important affordable housing options are in reducing homelessness, highlighting the need for policy measures and resource allocation to deal with this core issue. Such findings from thorough surveys play a critical role in guiding the development of evidence-based strategies to successfully eradicate homelessness.
The escalating crisis of homelessness in Quebec, evidenced by a disquieting 44% surge since 2018, demands an urgent response. The disproportionate rises seen in different locations highlight the seriousness of the problem and the necessity of specific measures. The proactive actions taken, such as increased financing for the fight against homelessness and a clear emphasis on affordable housing, signify a positive development and signal a step in the right direction. However, a sustained and coordinated effort from governmental bodies, municipal administrations, and relevant stakeholders is imperative to address the root causes and effectuate lasting solutions to mitigate the distressing rise in homelessness. Not only does the situation of those impacted require urgent response, but also a long-term commitment to ending homelessness and ensuring that everyone has access to secure housing. We can only aspire to create a society where homelessness is completely abolished and every person has access to secure and permanent housing via a concerted, long-term effort.