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Snapshot of an object in motion: quantifying homelessness

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Politicians and planners increasingly require statistics to justify expenditures on social issues such as housing and homelessness. The federal government is now requiring communities that receive federal homelessness funding to develop local portraits of homelessness. Communities across Canada have shifted their goals from managing towards ending homelessness. This study explores the most useful way to measure homelessness for developing solutions to it and measure progress on reducing homelessness. Key issues are identified from expert interviews and four case studies. Three methods of homeless enumeration are assessed. Cost and implementation complexity, and comprehensiveness emerge as a major trade-off. Conducting infrequent comprehensive point-in-time counts is the recommended approach, along with establishing locally integrated administrative homelessness management information systems to track trends using administrative data. Also important are considerations of contextualizing homelessness within broader socio-economic trends, measuring dynamics of homelessness such as average duration, and using enumeration results to guide funding priorities.
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