Homelessness is a complex issue in Canada, with an estimated 100,000 to 300,000 people experiencing homelessness each year. The Homelessness Counts project, led by researchers from Western University Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing, aims to better understand homelessness by using both qualitative and quantitative methods. Researchers used healthcare administrative data to identify cases of homelessness and generate insights into the health and well-being of homeless individuals. The project has provided important policy insights, such as the impact of COVID-19 on homeless populations and the need for prioritizing vaccinations for homeless individuals.
The Homelessness Counts project recognizes that there are no simple solutions to homelessness. However, it aims to be a part of a larger movement to address the issue by quantifying and generating evidence on homelessness and related variables. By using data analytics, researchers can quickly and accurately quantify homelessness and other factors, such as healthcare utilization and individual health. This allows for a better understanding of the situations faced by homeless individuals and can inform targeted and proactive solutions. The project has already identified emerging trends, such as the burden of Alzheimer’s disease and opioid-toxicity mortality among homeless populations.
The collaboration between the Western University Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing and ICES, an independent research institute, has been crucial in completing the Homelessness Counts project. Using administrative data from the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, researchers have been able to create cohorts of people who have experienced homelessness and examine various phenomena in homeless populations, including COVID-19 infection rates and vaccination coverage. The project’s findings have influenced policy decisions, with homeless individuals being prioritized for early COVID-19 vaccination in Ontario after the publication of the project’s research on COVID-19 and homelessness.
Overall, the Homelessness Counts project highlights the importance of data-driven approaches in understanding and addressing homelessness. By quantifying and analyzing homelessness and related factors, researchers can provide valuable insights for policymakers and work towards more targeted solutions for this vulnerable population.