Getting the data on homelessness


LONDON, ON – A team at Lawson Health Research Institute is hosting forums for communities across the country to better understand homelessness in Canada, including the number of people experiencing it. The first six forums have been scheduled in communities across Ontario, including Thunder Bay, North Bay, Kingston, Chatham-Kent, London and Brantford. These will be followed by future forums in various locations across Canada.

With funding from the Government of Canada, the Homelessness Counts research project is collecting data surrounding the homelessness situation in Canada.

The forums will allow an opportunity for members of the community to come together to discuss issues surrounding homelessness and provide feedback to the research team.

“The homelessness experience varies significantly across Canada, especially within different rural and remote regions of the country,” says Dr. Cheryl Forchuk, Assistant Scientific Director at Lawson. “Developing more accurate sources of data related to homelessness helps ensure the proper supports and services are available.”

This project builds on past work looking at how existing databases, such as provincial health data, could be better integrated and used as a more accurate, accessible and cost-effective way to determine rates of homelessness. This can allow a more accurate picture as numbers continue to rise.

This project has been made possible through funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada and Reaching Home, a community based federal program aimed at preventing and reducing homelessness across Canada.

“Homelessness has a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of every Canadian community and further marginalizes vulnerable Canadians. We value the importance of the data collection by Lawson Health Research Institute, as it helps give us a better understanding of the homelessness situation in Canada,” says The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion. “Our government is committed to helping Canadians who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness which is why we are pleased to support this initiative. By working with other orders of government, non-governmental organizations, Indigenous partners and communities, we can increase the availability of safe, inclusive housing options and work towards reducing chronic homelessness in Canada.”

Since January 2021, the team has collected data from 28 distinct communities with homelessness challenges. They have visited a variety of community shelters and organizations to meet with those with lived experience, as well as service providers.

“We have been to every province and territory in Canada to collect data. We have interviewed more than 400 people experiencing homelessness in each community and have had focus groups with 190 service providers,” says Dr. Forchuk.  

Preliminary data being presented at the forums will highlight issues by community, however nationally the research team has found that the extent of homelessness is a growing problem and has been elevated during the pandemic. The team has also noted a number of regional differences when it comes to homelessness in respect to urban versus rural communities.

“Our ultimate goal is to gather the most accurate numbers of people experiencing homelessness across the country so we can collectively work together towards solutions, “adds Dr. Forchuk. “Solutions such as an increase of services that are targeted to address specific concerns and vulnerable populations in each unique community.”

About Lawson Health Research Institute

Lawson Health Research Institute is one of Canada’s top hospital-based research institutes, tackling the most pressing challenges in health care. As the research institute of London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care London, our innovation happens where care is delivered. Lawson research teams are at the leading-edge of science with the goal of improving health and the delivery of care for patients. Working in partnership with Western University, our researchers are encouraged to pursue their curiosity, collaborate often and share their discoveries widely. Research conducted through Lawson makes a difference in the lives of patients, families and communities around the world. To learn more, visit

Media Contacts
Celine Zadorsky

Communications Consultant & External Relations
Lawson Health Research Institute
T: 519-685-8500 ext. 75664
C. 519-619-3872