In a study of 22 Canadian rural communities, Jeannette Waegemakers Schiff and Alina Turner researched the dynamics behind rural homelessness and tried to discern what exactly makes it distinct from its urban (and much more visible) counterpart.
So, what's so different about rural homelessness?
5. When disasters hit.
In the past few years, we have witnessed and experienced major weather events and natural disasters across the country. Whether the forest fires, floods, or storms, when disasters hit, vulnerable populations feel the effects keenly - especially in rural communities. The 2011 Alberta Slave Lake fire resulted in massive housing loss and 30% of the population was still without homes in 2014. This points to the importance of considering homelessness in future planning and emergency preparedness work.
Where do we go from here?
Because of the unique circumstances at play, solutions specific to rural homelessness need to be developed that account for these local dynamics. Approaches need to be developed that take on a regional lens as well: accounting for migration, but not solely relying on it as a solution. With leadership, innovation, and strategic use of resources, ending homelessness in rural communities is absolutely possible. Rural Canada is poised to take a leadership role driving the national agenda on homelessness and social innovation.
To read more about proposed solutions to rural homelessness, read Jeannette Waegemakers Schiff and Alina Turner's national report. Also see Steven Gaetz' blog on the feasibility of Housing First in rural communities.