What does Christmas mean to me? Parties, baked goods and time spent with loved ones. Well, what happens if your life completely flips and you don’t know if you will even have a house for Christmas, let alone an oven to bake cookies?
Homelessness during Christmas is a reality that many people face: about “1 in 7 (or 4.9 million) people live in poverty in Canada” (Canada Without Poverty) and in 2016, 235, 000 people were reported homeless. Approximately 35, 000 are homeless on any given night and 27.3% of those people are women. Youth aged 16-24 make up roughly 20% of the homeless population, according to Homeless Hub research from 2016.
There are a number of reasons why people become homeless – a few include loss of employment; family break-up; domestic violence; mental illness; poor physical health; substance use or addiction; and physical, sexual or emotional abuse. According to data found on the Fred Victor website, 75% of people experiencing homelessness have a mental illness or are mentally unwell.
Now, I don’t want this article to be focused on homelessness as an epidemic simply because it’s the holiday season and people feel the obligation to give. Homelessness persists long after Christmas and starts long before Thanksgiving. It’s a year-round issue and should be addressed as such. The reason I’m writing this now is because someone close to me almost experienced homelessness in the lead-up to this holiday season.
It’s scary to think that my friend could have been homeless had they not had supportive people in their life to help them when they needed it. Thankfully, she has family and friends who were able to help her get back on her feet, but she easily could have been sleeping in a shelter or spending Christmas on the streets, freezing and hungry.
In this article, I have provided a lot of facts and statistics, but the one thing I haven’t given you is a link to where you can donate. I did this on purpose. Not because I don’t want you to donate – quite the opposite, in fact. I want you to do your research and find an organization that speaks to you. Find something that sparks THAT feeling within you. One that lights your soul on fire and makes you smile. I want you to donate, volunteer or do something not only during the holidays but all year round if you so choose.
I know most of my articles are pretty feel good and make you smile (I hope so anyway) but I really wanted to shed light on a subject that just felt all too real this holiday season. I am overjoyed that my friend won’t have to experience homelessness at this time, and I hope nobody ever has to experience it, but the harsh reality is that 4.9 million Canadians (as mentioned above) do.