Homelessness can happen to anyone. With a dramatic increase in housing costs, it is rapidly becoming a national crisis. Waterloo Region is no different, with a recent count of our homeless population revealing staggering numbers.

Of those who are homeless, 38% are living rough on the street or in tents.

While each person’s experience of homelessness is unique, definitions can create a helpful common ground.

The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness describes homelessness as the lack of “stable, safe, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect means and ability of acquiring it.”

This definition helps us see how poverty, rising housing costs, and a lack of supportive housing options contribute to homelessness.

7,500 households are waiting for affordable housing in Waterloo Region

It is getting harder for the average person to afford to rent an apartment in Waterloo Region. Fewer than one out of five new housing units is intended for rent. What is available is wildly unaffordable and is not accessible for those experiencing, or in danger of experiencing, homelessness. Deeply affordable units, those renting for less than $1025 per month, are rarely available. And the problem is getting worse.

In Waterloo Region, chronic homelessness increased by 34% between November 2020 and May 2021


Individuals experiencing homelessness face many barriers to meeting basic needs. For example, finding employment that can pay for housing becomes more difficult when an individual faces physical and/or mental health struggles and lacks a permanent address. Many of the essential activities that we assume are a simple fix for those experiencing homelessness are obstructed by these extra barriers.

Homelessness may result from one specific cause or a complex mixture of social and economic factors. Whether due to increasing housing prices, mental illness, lack of affordable or supportive housing, or income loss brought on by the pandemic, each person has their own unique story. Let’s remember that as we interact with our neighbours.

Many solutions are needed to respond to the homelessness crisis. Affordable housing options, supportive housing availability, healthcare and addiction support, and other options are all important as we face our regional housing crisis. Below, you will find some  organizations counteracting homelessness in our community, as well as additional resources to help you learn more.


While the local housing crisis contributes greatly to homelessness, there are often many parts to a person’s story. Other root causes include:


Relationships and Violence

Structural and Systemic Factors

Trauma and Mental Health

Example: experiencing prolonged trauma from a young age can lead someone to be hyperaware of potential threats, causing them to act unpredictably or aggressively. This can lead to fractured relationships, so that a traumatized person may not have the social supports they need during future hardships. This leaves them especially susceptible to experiencing homelessness and further trauma.



How to Use Respectful, Instead of Degrading, Language Around Homelessness

Canadian Observatory on Homelessness   Information and educational tools on issues surrounding homelessness in Canada

Engaging People with Lived Experience   Principles for including those with lived experience in discussions on homelessness

Housing First   How the Housing First model targets needs of autonomy and shelter

On The Way Home (Podcast)   Conversations on issues surrounding housing and homelessness in Canada

Statistics and Local Reports

City of Kitchener Affordable Housing Strategy (2020)

Point in Time Count   Data from 2021 research into homelessness in the region

Housing Need and Demand Analysis   A snapshot of Waterloo Region’s housing situation, compiled by the city of Waterloo

Community Housing and Access Fact Sheet   A brief overview of community housing in Waterloo Region

Vital Signs 2023 Report – Affordable Housing 

Local Organizations

A Better Tent City   A community of small, insulated cabins for those experiencing homelessness

oneROOF Youth Services   Provides services and temporary accommodation for youth experiencing, and at risk of, homelessness

Yes in My Backyard   Advocates for accessible and affordable housing

Emergency Shelters   The Region of Waterloo works with a number of organizations to provide emergency shelter

Co-operative Housing   Community-focused housing options

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