Income Research Paper Series
A profile of workers in the homelessness support sector

by Kiran Toor

Release date: September 23, 2019

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Abstract

This study aims to profile workers in the homelessness support field. This group was defined by classifying workers based on specific occupations and industry of employment. Using data from the 2016 Census of Population, various socio-economic characteristics for these workers are presented. The study profiles these individuals by geography, age, sex, educational attainment, Aboriginal identity and visible minority status. The study also addresses their work patterns, earnings and low income status. Some discussion of the limitations of available data and insights into potential future areas for research follow.

Introduction

Every Canadian deserves access to safe and affordable housing. However, some Canadians still experience homelessness. The Canadian Observatory of Homelessness defines homelessness as "the situation of an individual, family or community without stable, safe, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it".Note 1

While much of homelessness research is, deservedly, focused on identifying and understanding the causes of homelessness, or the evaluation of intervention programs, little investigation has been done to understand who the individuals are that are providing services targeted towards homeless individuals. Labour market analysis is conducted for other industries and occupations, however little to no analysis has been conducted specifically on the group of workers supporting the homeless which will be called in this paper the homelessness support sector.

Staff in the homelessness support sector face many challenges including managing complex clients and dealing with trauma. The nature of their work can lead to burnout, traumatic stress, compassion fatigue and staff turnover. These challenges affect the individual as well as the homelessness support sector organization. The associated mental health consequences are worth mentioning in this context as they can play a role in the demographic and employment characteristics observed in the sector.Note 2

The objective of this paper is to profile workers in the homelessness support sector by identifying occupations and industries which provide support to the homeless. The analysis will examine the demographic, education and employment characteristics to draw a portrait of the individuals working in the sector. To better understand the quality of response received by homeless clients in different regions, the number of skilled and experienced staff in the support sector will be used as a proxy.

As explained further below, the homelessness support sector is defined as the intersection of the industry ‘Community food and housing, and emergency and other relief services’ and either of the two occupations ‘Social workers’ and ‘Social and community service workers’. This definition has shortcomings since it may include some workers who do not render services to homeless individuals, and exclude some who do. However, this industry and occupation combination clearly overlaps with the sector of interest and would include homelessness support sector workers, and no alternative method is presently available to identify more specifically these workers.

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This work was done in partnership with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).

In 2018, ESDC commissioned Statistics Canada to prepare some statistical tables and a short text that describes what is known about the characteristics of workers in the homelessness support sector. These findings have been collaboratively edited to better present the results and should be useful to the wider audience interested in this area.

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Using the 2016 Census to profile the homelessness support sector

The 2016 Census of Population, used in this study, collects labour data on the long-form questionnaire from a 25% sample of private households in Canada. The large sample size allows for detailed analysis on relatively small sectors of the labour force, including the homelessness support sector. The Census includes demographic characteristics, along with a variety of labour related variables, which provide a better understanding of the sector.  

The homelessness support sector provides support to individuals experiencing homelessness, and to individuals accessing services that are targeted towards those at risk of facing housing crises. Labour market variables were employed to create a proxy for the homelessness support sector by using the two standard industry and occupation classification systems: the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and National Occupation Classification (NOC). NAICS and NOCs were used to identify workers depending on the characteristics of the employer and of their job respectively.

Homelessness support sector workers can be found in the “Community food and housing, and emergency and other relief services” industry (NAICS 6242), which provides food, shelter, medical aid, and counselling services to those requiring emergency aid, victims of domestic or international disasters or conflicts.Note 3 There are also homelessness support sector workers employed in the “Social workers” occupation (NOC 4152), and their main activities typically entail providing therapy and counselling to respond to the social needs and issues individuals, families and communities experience. Finally, “Social and community service workers” (NOC 4212) are included in the definition of homelessness support sector workers because they administer and implement social assistance programs and community services.Note 4

Workers in these industry and occupation categories clearly provide support to homeless persons in Canada. However, it is also clear that they may also provide support for individuals who may not be facing homelessness. Taking that into consideration, a homelessness support sector worker was defined as someone working in the “Community food and housing, and emergency and other relief services” industry, as either a “Social worker” or a “Social and community service worker”. This combination of industry and occupation more clearly overlaps with services that are targeted towards supporting Canada’s homeless. For the remainder of the paper, any discussion of the homelessness support sector refers to jobs that fit this particular intersection between industry and occupations. Industry and occupation data are not available for second or third jobs. This definition, therefore, may not capture workers employed in homelessness support sector industries who had more than one job, workers temporarily hired through agencies or other contractors, or volunteers.

It should also be noted that narrowing down the population to this intersection provides an approximation of the targeted homelessness support sector population, however, employing a method based solely on labour market variables may lead to the exclusion of workers in other occupations that may in fact be providing services to homeless individuals as a result of focusing only on the intersection of specific NAICS and NOCs.

That being said, given that social workers and social and community service workers cover a substantial portion of the homelessness support sector, comparisons of these two occupations across all industries will be made to the homelessness support sector in order to address industry differences, as well as to better contextualize worker characteristics in the support sector.

Shelter residents were mostly located in large urban population centres

To obtain a general illustration of which areas required support services that could have been provided by the homelessness support sector, the number of individuals who were living in a shelter at the time of the 2016 Census was examined.

The count of shelter residents from the Census do not necessarily correspond to individuals who received services provided by the homelessness support sector. However, among the 22,190 recorded shelter residents, 7 out of 10 reported staying in a shelter for persons lacking a fixed address (15,505).Note 5 It is likely that residents staying in these types of shelters received services from workers employed in the 'Community food and housing, and emergency and other relief services' industry. As a comparison, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) conducted a study, using data from the Homeless Individual and Families Information System (HIFIS), indicating that an estimated 129,000 people used emergency shelters at some point in 2016.Note 6

From Table 1, it can be seen that in May 2016, two out of five shelter residents (39.6%) were counted in Ontario and one in five (19.1%) were counted at a shelter in Alberta. The vast majority of shelter residents (81.2%) were located in large urban population centres like Toronto (22.4%), Calgary (11.2%) and Vancouver (10.2%).

Comparing the number of identified homelessness support sector workers to the number of shelter residents, Ontario had 2,235 homelessness support workers, the most of any province or territory, for its 8,790 shelter residents. British Columbia had 1,385 homelessness support sector workers while having 4,025 shelter residents. Quebec ranked third in homelessness support sector workers with 1,090 while having 3,035 shelter residents. Alberta, despite having the second most shelter residents (4,235) ranked fourth in homelessness support sector workers (795).

It is difficult to make reasonable inferences in regions where the counts of homelessness support sector workers or shelter residents are relatively low such as some of the Atlantic provinces and in the territories.


Table 1
Distribution of workers by geography, for selected industries and occupations, 2016
Table summary
This table displays the results of Distribution of workers by geography All workers, Homelessness support sector, Social workers and Social and community service workers, calculated using count and percentage units of measure (appearing as column headers).
All workersTable 1 Note 1 Homelessness support sectorTable 1 Note 2 Social workersTable 1 Note 3 Social and community service workersTable 1 Note 4
count percentage count percentage count percentage count percentage
Canada 19,956,250 100.0 6,305 100.0 62,235 100.0 155,625 100.0
Atlantic provinces 1,299,080 6.5 335 5.3 4,650 7.5 10,480 6.7
Newfoundland and Labrador 286,035 1.4 95 1.5 1,250 2.0 1,940 1.2
Prince Edward Island 85,270 0.4 15 0.2 205 0.3 995 0.6
Nova Scotia 514,080 2.6 115 1.8 1,650 2.7 4,830 3.1
New Brunswick 413,695 2.1 110 1.7 1,545 2.5 2,715 1.7
Quebec 4,529,765 22.7 1,090 17.3 14,125 22.7 30,760 19.8
Ontario 7,579,080 38.0 2,235 35.4 24,400 39.2 56,785 36.5
Manitoba 710,835 3.6 220 3.5 2,750 4.4 7,945 5.1
Saskatchewan 633,325 3.2 175 2.8 2,160 3.5 5,500 3.5
Alberta 2,467,410 12.4 795 12.6 7,020 11.3 17,920 11.5
British Columbia 2,670,700 13.4 1,385 22.0 6,805 10.9 24,870 16.0
Territories 66,060 0.3 80 1.3 320 0.5 1,365 0.9
Yukon 23,495 0.1 10 0.2 170 0.3 480 0.3
Northwest Territories 25,570 0.1 55 0.9 110 0.2 420 0.3
Nunavut 17,000 0.1 15 0.2 40 0.1 465 0.3
Population centre sizes
Large urban population centres 12,091,895 60.6 4,080 64.7 37,215 59.8 85,025 54.6
Medium population centres 1,743,955 8.7 625 9.9 6,390 10.3 18,605 12.0
Small population centres 2,431,240 12.2 760 12.1 8,205 13.2 22,800 14.7
Rural areas 3,689,165 18.5 840 13.3 10,425 16.8 29,195 18.8
Selected census metropolitan areas (CMAs)
Montreal 2,308,565 11.6 575 9.1 6,320 10.2 13,885 8.9
Toronto 3,404,195 17.1 870 13.8 9,300 14.9 18,575 11.9
Vancouver 1,449,815 7.3 805 12.8 3,060 4.9 10,980 7.1

Homelessness support sector workers tended to live in Ontario and British Columbia

Homelessness support sector, social worker, and social and community service worker information at the geographic level is summarised in Table 1. Nationally, the 2016 Census counted 6,305 workers employed in the homelessness support sector. These individuals accounted for 2.9% of all social workers (62,235) and social and community service workers (155,625) combined.

The majority of homelessness support sector workers tended to be in Ontario (35.4%) and British Columbia (22.0%). Among the Atlantic provinces (5.3%), Nova Scotia (1.8%) and New Brunswick (1.7%) had the most homelessness support sector workers. While in the territories (1.3%), the Northwest Territories (0.9%) had the largest proportion. Across all industries, most social workers tended to be in Ontario (39.2%) and Quebec (22.7%). A similar trend followed for social and community service workers, who were predominantly in Ontario (36.5%) and Quebec (19.8%).

The provinces with larger numbers of homelessness support sector workers tended to be more populated provinces. The majority of homelessness support sector workers were in large urban centres (64.7%), followed by rural areas (13.3%).Note 7 Similarly, most social workers reported being in large urban centres (59.8%) and rural areas (16.8%), as well as social and community service workers in large urban centres (54.6%) and rural areas (18.8%).

Toronto (13.8%), Vancouver (12.8%) and Montreal (9.1%) were among the CMAs with the largest percentage of homelessness support sector workers. Toronto (14.9% and 11.9% respectively) and Montreal (10.2% and 8.9% respectively) also tended to have the largest percentage of social workers and social and community service workers.

Women led the way in the homelessness support sector

Table 2 provides a summary of the homelessness support sector, social worker, and social and community service worker data at the age and sex level. Three out of four homelessness support sector workers (76.5%) were female, exceeding the 48.2% share females held among all workers in all occupations. Social workers (84.9%) and social and community service workers (77.6%) across all industries also tended to have a large representation of females.

Among all homelessness support sector workers, more than one in four (28.0%) were between the ages of 25 and 34. Moreover, one in five support workers were between the ages of 35 and 44 (20.4%), and 45 and 54 (20.8%). Among younger support sector workers between the ages of 15 and 24, females were the majority (80.0%). More than one in four females (28.3%) were between the ages of 25 to 34 years among the homelessness support sector. Female social workers (28.6%) and social and community service workers (26.7%) in this same age group were similarly represented in their respective occupations.


Table 2
Distribution of workers by age and sex, for selected industries and occupations, 2016
Table summary
This table displays the results of Distribution of workers by age and sex All workers, Homelessness support sector, Social workers and Social and community service workers, calculated using count and percentage units of measure (appearing as column headers).
All workersTable 2 Note 1 Homelessness support sectorTable 2 Note 2 Social workersTable 2 Note 3 Social and community service workersTable 2 Note 4
count percentage count percentage count percentage count percentage
Total - Sex
15 years of age and over 19,956,250 100.0 6,305 100.0 62,235 100.0 155,625 100.0
15 to 24 years 2,982,790 14.9 625 9.9 1,490 2.4 18,335 11.8
25 to 34 years 4,063,170 20.4 1,765 28.0 17,100 27.5 40,960 26.3
35 to 44 years 4,006,255 20.1 1,290 20.4 17,025 27.4 34,620 22.2
45 to 54 years 4,344,380 21.8 1,315 20.8 14,410 23.2 32,520 20.9
55 to 64 years 3,432,795 17.2 1,065 16.9 9,725 15.6 23,620 15.2
65 years and over 1,126,865 5.6 250 4.0 2,485 4.0 5,570 3.6
Female
15 years of age and over 9,613,285 100.0 4,825 100.0 52,845 100.0 120,800 100.0
15 to 24 years 1,464,995 15.2 500 10.4 1,400 2.6 13,750 11.4
25 to 34 years 1,977,815 20.6 1,365 28.3 15,110 28.6 32,225 26.7
35 to 44 years 1,963,500 20.4 930 19.3 14,670 27.8 26,910 22.3
45 to 54 years 2,137,435 22.2 1,050 21.8 12,070 22.8 25,710 21.3
55 to 64 years 1,623,680 16.9 790 16.4 7,840 14.8 18,240 15.1
65 years and over 445,865 4.6 195 4.0 1,760 3.3 3,975 3.3
Male
15 years of age and over 10,342,970 100.0 1,480 100.0 9,390 100.0 34,825 100.0
15 to 24 years 1,517,795 14.7 125 8.4 90 1.0 4,590 13.2
25 to 34 years 2,085,360 20.2 395 26.7 1,990 21.2 8,740 25.1
35 to 44 years 2,042,755 19.8 360 24.3 2,355 25.1 7,710 22.1
45 to 54 years 2,206,945 21.3 265 17.9 2,345 25.0 6,805 19.5
55 to 64 years 1,809,120 17.5 280 18.9 1,885 20.1 5,380 15.4
65 years and over 680,995 6.6 55 3.7 730 7.8 1,595 4.6

The largest concentration of males in the homelessness support sector were between the ages of 25 and 34 (26.7%), which was similar to males employed as social and community service workers (25.1%) and less than those employed as social workers (21.2%). It could be that among occupations which support the homeless, a younger cohort of males and females tended to work specifically in the homelessness support sector when compared to other industries.

Homelessness support sector workers were likely to have a trade school, college or non-university certificate or diploma

As shown in Table 3, more than two out of five homelessness support sector workers (44.4%) obtained a trade school, college or non-university certificate or diploma, and one in four homelessness support sector workers (27.4%) earned a bachelor’s degree.

Given that the homelessness support sector is largely comprised of social workers and social and community service workers, it is valuable to look at these occupations among all industries for comparison. Half of all social workers (49.7%) had a bachelor’s degree as their highest level of education, and approximately one in three social workers (31.0%) had a graduate degree or certificate above the bachelor’s level. These statistics seem to be in line with current education standards, as a bachelor’s degree is a requirement to become a social worker.


Table 3
Distribution of workers by highest certificate, diploma or degree, for selected industries and occupations, 2016
Table summary
This table displays the results of Distribution of workers by highest certificate All workers, Homelessness support sector, Social workers and Social and community service workers, calculated using count and percentage units of measure (appearing as column headers).
All workersTable 3 Note 1 Homelessness support sectorTable 3 Note 2 Social workersTable 3 Note 3 Social and community service workersTable 3 Note 4
count percentage count percentage count percentage count percentage
Total - Highest certificate, diploma or degree 19,956,250 100.0 6,305 100.0 62,235 100.0 155,625 100.0
No certificate, diploma or degree 2,275,265 11.4 300 4.8 25 0.0 6,590 4.2
High school diploma or equivalency certificate 5,212,570 26.1 1,000 15.9 1,875 3.0 23,235 14.9
Trade school, college or non-university certificate or diploma 7,015,930 35.2 2,800 44.4 10,080 16.2 69,775 44.8
Bachelor's degree 3,660,985 18.3 1,725 27.4 30,935 49.7 42,800 27.5
Graduate degree or certificate above bachelor's level 1,791,505 9.0 485 7.7 19,320 31.0 13,230 8.5

The educational attainment breakdown is virtually the same for social and community service workers as it is for the homelessness support sector, where most social and community service workers (44.8%) obtained a trade school, college or non-university certificate or diploma, and a quarter (27.5%) earned a bachelor’s degree. Based on the 2016 Census, social workers tended to have a higher level of education, on average, compared to homelessness support sector workers and social and community service workers.

Homelessness support sector workers with post-secondary education likely to have studied business, management and public administration

From Table 4, it can be seen that among the 5,005 employees in the homelessness support sector with post-secondary education, over one third (37.0%) reported their major field of study as business, management and public administration, which was predominantly made up of individuals who reported studying fields related to public administration and social service professions (30.2%). Furthermore, more than one in four (28.6%) homelessness support sector workers reported studying social and behavioural sciences and law.

Among all social worker occupations, an even larger proportion (73.9%) reported business, management and public administration as their major field of study, followed by social and behavioural sciences and law (15.0%). Nearly one third of social and community service workers (30.4%) reported their major field of study as social and behavioural sciences and law, or business, management and public administration (30.7%), while 15.5% reported being in health and related fields.


Table 4
Distribution of workers with post-secondary education by selected major field of study, for selected industries and occupations, 2016
Table summary
This table displays the results of Distribution of workers with post-secondary education by selected major field of study All workers, Homelessness support sector, Social workers and Social and community service workers, calculated using count and percentage units of measure (appearing as column headers).
All workersTable 4 Note 1 Homelessness support sectorTable 4 Note 2 Social workersTable 4 Note 3 Social and community service workersTable 4 Note 4
count percentage count percentage count percentage count percentage
Total - Workers with post-secondary education 12,468,425 100.0 5,005 100.0 60,335 100.0 125,800 100.0
Education 727,620 3.6 240 3.8 1,265 2.0 8,845 5.7
Visual and performing arts, and communications technologies 490,615 2.5 125 2.0 220 0.4 2,330 1.5
Humanities 639,275 3.2 280 4.4 1,430 2.3 7,085 4.6
Social and behavioural sciences and law 1,449,220 7.3 1,430 22.7 9,030 14.5 38,215 24.6
Family and consumer sciences/human sciences 256,515 1.3 385 6.1 1,505 2.4 12,385 8.0
Psychology 229,130 1.1 335 5.3 3,315 5.3 10,970 7.0
Social sciences 512,315 2.6 490 7.8 3,355 5.4 9,910 6.4
Business, management and public administration 2,671,150 13.4 1,850 29.3 44,605 71.7 38,585 24.8
Public administration and social service professions 193,540 1.0 1,510 23.9 42,840 68.8 28,485 18.3
Business, management, marketing and related support services 2,473,045 12.4 335 5.3 1,755 2.8 10,090 6.5
Architecture, engineering, and related technologies 2,635,120 13.2 135 2.1 240 0.4 2,410 1.5
Health and related fields 1,750,735 8.8 640 10.2 2,465 4.0 19,505 12.5
Personal, protective and transportation services 789,415 4.0 180 2.9 435 0.7 4,525 2.9

Most homelessness support sector workers were married or common-law with children

Household type and census family status provide information on whether there are census families in the household and the family arrangements within each census family. According to Table 5, more than half of workers (56.1%) in the homelessness support sector were in a household with a married or a common-law couple census family. Among these workers living in a couple family, three out of five (60.5%) were living in a family where childrenNote 8 were present.

When considering all social workers, two out of three (67.8%) were in married or common-law census family households, which was a slightly greater proportion than social and community service workers (61.6%). Among married or common-law census family types, two out of three social workers (66.3%) and social and community service workers (64.6%) were in households where children were present. A possible explanation for the slightly lower proportion of homelessness support sector workers in households with children compared to their counterparts who are social and community service workers or social workers could be due to the homelessness support sector being comprised of a younger cohort.


Table 5
Distribution of workers by census family status, for selected industries and occupations, 2016
Table summary
This table displays the results of Distribution of workers by census family status All workers, Homelessness support sector, Social workers and Social and community service workers, calculated using count and percentage units of measure (appearing as column headers).
All workersTable 5 Note 1 Homelessness support sectorTable 5 Note 2 Social workersTable 5 Note 3 Social and community service workersTable 5 Note 4
count percentage count percentage count percentage count percentage
Total - Census family statusTable 5 Note 5 19,956,250 100.0 6,305 100.0 62,235 100.0 155,625 100.0
Married or common-law couple 13,812,910 69.2 3,535 56.1 42,200 67.8 95,890 61.6
With children 9,151,300 45.9 2,140 33.9 27,960 44.9 61,975 39.8
Without children 4,661,610 23.4 1,400 22.2 14,240 22.9 33,910 21.8
Lone parent 1,995,250 10.0 915 14.5 7,070 11.4 22,330 14.3
Female lone parent 1,208,105 6.1 830 13.2 6,455 10.4 19,360 12.4
Male lone parent 787,150 3.9 85 1.3 605 1.0 2,965 1.9
Multiple census-family household 876,270 4.4 230 3.6 1,825 2.9 6,470 4.2
Non-census family household 3,271,825 16.4 1,625 25.8 11,140 17.9 30,940 19.9
One person household 2,290,860 11.5 1,075 17.0 8,825 14.2 20,925 13.4

Homelessness support sector workers were more likely to be living in lone-parent census family households (14.5%) compared to the working population (10.0%). In particular, homelessness support sector workers were more than twice as likely to be female lone parents (13.2%) compared to all workers (6.1%). The percentage of social and community service workers (14.3%) considered to be lone-parents was virtually the same as that of the homelessness support sector, while only one in ten social workers (11.4%) were in lone-parent households.

More homelessness support sector workers (25.8%) reported living in non-census family households compared to all workers (16.4%), social workers (17.9%) and social and community service workers (19.9%). Non-census family households are composed of individuals living alone, or a group of two or more living together who do not constitute as a census family based on their relations.

More visible minorities, Indigenous persons worked in homelessness support sector

Table 6 summarizes the visible minority status of people working in the homelessness support sector, as well as for social workers, and social and community service workers. One in five homelessness support sector workers (19.6%) reported being visible minorities, which was higher than social workers (14.8%) and social and community service workers (17.6%) among all industries and in line with the total working population (21.3%). One in ten (10.6%) homelessness support sector workers reported an Aboriginal identity, this was virtually the same as for social and community service workers (10.7%), but higher than among all social workers (7.5%) and the total working population (4.0%).


Table 6
Distribution of workers by visible minority status and Aboriginal identity, for selected industries and occupations, 2016
Table summary
This table displays the results of Distribution of workers by visible minority status and Aboriginal identity All workers, Homelessness support sector, Social workers and Social and community service workers, calculated using count and percentage units of measure (appearing as column headers).
All workersTable 6 Note 1 Homelessness support sectorTable 6 Note 2 Social workersTable 6 Note 3 Social and community service workersTable 6 Note 4
count percentage count percentage count percentage count percentage
Total - Visible minority status 19,956,250 100.0 6,305 100.0 62,235 100.0 155,625 100.0
Visible minority 4,245,800 21.3 1,235 19.6 9,240 14.8 27,395 17.6
Not a visible minority 15,710,450 78.7 5,070 80.4 52,995 85.2 128,230 82.4
Aboriginal identity 796,170 4.0 670 10.6 4,690 7.5 16,710 10.7
Non Aboriginal identity 14,914,280 74.7 4,400 69.7 48,305 77.6 111,520 71.7

Homelessness support sector workers were more likely to work part-time

As shown in Table 7, the proportion of homelessness support sector workers working part-time in 2015 (27.8%) was higher than the total working population (22.5%) and social and community service workers (23.3%), and nearly double the percentage of social workers (14.0%) who reported working part-time for all sexes.


Table 7
Distribution of workers by tenure and sex, for selected industries and occupations, 2016
Table summary
This table displays the results of Distribution of workers by tenure and sex All workers, Homelessness support sector, Social workers and Social and community service workers, calculated using count and percentage units of measure (appearing as column headers).
All workersTable 7 Note 1 Homelessness support sectorTable 7 Note 2 Social workersTable 7 Note 3 Social and community service workersTable 7 Note 4
count percentage count percentage count percentage count percentage
Total - Sex
Total - 15 years of age and over 19,956,250 100.0 6,305 100.0 62,235 100.0 155,625 100.0
Did not work in 2015 595,240 3.0 205 3.3 1,095 1.8 4,100 2.6
Worked full-time in 2015 14,871,495 74.5 4,350 69.0 52,445 84.3 115,280 74.1
Worked part-time in 2015 4,489,515 22.5 1,750 27.8 8,695 14.0 36,250 23.3
Female
Female - 15 years of age and over 9,613,285 100.0 4,825 100.0 52,845 100.0 120,800 100.0
Did not work in 2015 312,135 3.2 165 3.4 930 1.8 3,280 2.7
Worked full-time in 2015 6,484,870 67.5 3,230 66.9 44,365 84.0 88,855 73.6
Worked part-time in 2015 2,816,275 29.3 1,430 29.6 7,550 14.3 28,665 23.7
Male
Male - 15 years of age and over 10,342,965 100.0 1,480 100.0 9,395 100.0 34,825 100.0
Did not work in 2015 283,105 2.7 45 3.0 165 1.8 820 2.4
Worked full-time in 2015 8,386,625 81.1 1,120 75.7 8,075 85.9 26,425 75.9
Worked part-time in 2015 1,673,240 16.2 320 21.6 1,145 12.2 7,580 21.8

Given the participation differences of males and females in the homelessness support sector, observing the part-time or full-time status of employees could provide further insight into the sector. In the homelessness support sector, one in three females (29.6%) and one in five males (21.6%) reported working part-time in 2015.

Relative to the homelessness support sector, a lower percentage of female social workers (14.3%) and social and community service workers (23.7%) among all industries reported working part-time. A smaller percentage of male social workers (12.2%) reported working part-time compared to the homelessness support sector.

Median earnings of homelessness support sector workers were less than median earnings of all Canadian workers

In discussing earnings, wages, salaries and commissions was the main indicator assessed. This category considers types of remuneration that relate more commonly to paid employment such as regular wages or salaries, tips, cash bonuses, commission and other employer or union benefits. For comparability, employment income, which also includes self-employment income, is shown. Table 8 summarizes the earnings and income levels of homelessness support sector workers, social workers, and social and community service workers.

Almost all homelessness support sector workers (96.6%) received employment income in 2015 and 95.6% received wages, salaries and commissions. Social workers (95.7%) and social and community service workers (94.3%) also exhibited virtually the same proportion of workers receiving wages, salaries and commissions as the homelessness support sector.

The median wages, salaries and commissions for homelessness support sector workers was $32,707, which was lower than social workers ($59,494) and social and community service workers ($37,716) employed in all industries. Homelessness support sector workers also earned median wages, salaries and commissions below that of all workers in all occupations ($38,269).

Median wages, salaries and commissions for social workers in all industries were nearly double that of homelessness support sector workers. This could be explained in part due to differences in educational attainment and that part-time employment was more common in the homelessness support sector.


Table 8
Distribution of workers by earnings status and low-income status, for industries and occupations, 2016
Table summary
This table displays the results of Distribution of workers by earnings status and low-income status All workers, Homelessness support sector, Social workers and Social and community service workers, calculated using count, percentage and in dollars units of measure (appearing as column headers).
All workersTable 8 Note 1 Homelessness support sectorTable 8 Note 2 Social workersTable 8 Note 3 Social and community service workersTable 8 Note 4
count percentage count percentage count percentage count percentage
Total - Persons aged 15 years and over 19,956,250 100.0 6,305 100.0 62,235 100.0 155,625 100.0
Persons with income 19,726,915 98.9 6,290 99.8 62,145 99.9 154,940 99.6
Persons with employment income 18,820,750 94.3 6,090 96.6 61,085 98.2 149,670 96.2
Persons with wages and salaries 17,434,920 87.4 6,025 95.6 59,570 95.7 146,735 94.3
Persons evaluated for low-income status 19,750,120 100.0 6,090 100.0 60,970 100.0 149,510 100.0
Persons in low-income (LIM-AT)Table 8 Note 5 1,782,710 9.0 585 9.6 1,710 2.8 12,080 8.1
in dollars
Median employment income ($) 36,693 32,635 59,010 37,452
Median wages, salaries and commissions ($) 38,269 32,707 59,494 37,716

One in ten homelessness support sector workers were in low-income

The Low-income measure, after-tax (LIM-AT) can be used to assess an individuals’ income relative to a fixed percentage (50%) median household income adjusted for household size.Note 9 Individuals with a household income below the low-income threshold are considered to be in low income. Analysing the proportion of homelessness support sector workers considered to be in low income provides labour market insight about the “working poor” population in the sector.

It can be seen in Table 8 that among homelessness support sector workers, approximately one in ten (9.6%) were considered to be in low-income, which was similar to the proportion of all workers (9.0%) in low-income. Far fewer social workers (2.8%) were considered to be in low-income, while the proportion of social and community service workers in low-income (8.1%) was not substantially different than that of homelessness support sector workers.

Limitations of the data and analysis

The Census collects labour data on an individuals’ primary job when the individual was employed during the reference week of Sunday, May 1 to Saturday, May 7, 2016. As a result, industry and occupation data do not cover other jobs held by individuals who have more than one job. This issue could be more prevalent for part-time workers, who were more common among homelessness support sector jobs. When an individual did not work during the reference week but had worked at some time since January 1, 2015, the industry and occupation data relate to the job held the longest during that period. Given this, of the 6,305 homelessness support sector workers, 5,635 were employed during the reference week.

Furthermore, turnover rates, job vacancies and permanency of jobs in the homelessness support sector cannot be properly evaluated by solely using labour market variables available in the Census and most other social surveys.

Using industry and occupation codes allowed for the homelessness support sector to be broadly classified, however, that is not to say that all jobs that support the homeless are captured within this grouping of industry and occupations. To some extent, focusing on the specified homelessness support sector underestimates the true size of the sector. There may be other jobs in other industries and occupation classes which provide support to the homeless, however, it is difficult to systematically identify these jobs based on the labour market variables available.

Part-time and full-time status is reported for the year 2015. This means that for individuals who were employed during the reference week, the full-time or part-time status may not correspond to the job held during the reference week. Likewise for income, the reference period is the calendar year 2015. Due to these reporting differences, it does not necessarily mean that an individual’s income in 2015 corresponds to the Census labour variables.

The count of the population living in shelters from the Census is not a true representation of homelessness. People living in cars or couch surfing (hidden homelessness) are not captured in this count. Moreover, those staying in parks or other unsheltered areas, which may be more prevalent given the season on Census day, are also not accounted for by solely looking at the Census Day shelter population count. Counts of shelter residents from the Census are not limited to just shelters for residents lacking a fixed address (that provide short-term emergency shelter), but also shelters for abused women and children, or other shelters and lodging with assistance, where residents may not necessarily receive service from workers from the ‘community food and housing, and emergency and other relief services’ industry.

Conclusion and next steps for analysing the homelessness support sector

Most homelessness support sector workers were located in large urban centres, with notable concentrations in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

The results show that homelessness support sector employees were predominantly female and were comprised of a younger cohort. Homelessness support sector workers tended to have post-secondary education such as a trade school, college or non-university certificate diploma, similar to social and community service workers. Most social workers, however, held a bachelor’s degree or above. Homelessness support sector workers were about as likely to be visible minorities when compared to the total workforce, however, Indigenous persons held a much larger share of the homelessness support sector compared to their share of the total workforce. Homelessness support sector workers typically reported being in married or common-law households with children, and were more likely to be female lone-parents compared to the total workforce. Workers in the homelessness support sector also tended to work part-time and earn less than social workers and social and community service workers in all industries, as well as among all workers.

A next step in this analysis could include conducting Census to Census linkages to observe the longevity of employment in the homelessness support sector. This could shed light on job retention as well as address whether volunteerism is prevalent in the sector. Furthering this analysis could also involve integrating data from T4 Statement of earnings files showing wage levels and employers over multiple years. This would allow historical trends to be observed and information on multiple job holders and tenure with the employer to be added. Additional development can also be made by considering whether the younger age distribution of workers in the homelessness support sector suggests it acts as a feeder group for employment in the broader occupational groups.

It could also be the case that people working in shelters may have previously had lived experience of homelessness. Linking the Homeless Individual and Families Information System (HIFIS), which contains data on shelter usage, with the Census would enable a target population to be identified in order to better understand the homelessness support sector.Note 10 Moreover, this linkage could illustrate which communities are under-supported by looking at the distribution of workers compared to the distribution of homeless individuals.

Appendix


Table A1
Distribution of workers by census metropolitain area, for selected industries and occupations, 2016
Table summary
This table displays the results of Distribution of workers by census metropolitain area All workers, Homelessness support sector, Social workers and Social and community service workers, calculated using count and percentage units of measure (appearing as column headers).
All workersTable A1 Note 1 Homelessness support sectorTable A1 Note 2 Social workersTable A1 Note 3 Social and community service workersTable A1 Note 4
count percentage count percentage count percentage count percentage
Canada 19,956,250 100.0 6,305 100.0 62,235 100.0 155,625 100.0
Census metropolitain areas (CMAs)
St. John's 122,320 0.6 50 0.8 655 1.1 940 0.6
Halifax 241,390 1.2 75 1.2 850 1.4 1,905 1.2
Moncton 84,650 0.4 20 0.3 305 0.5 540 0.3
Saint John 69,775 0.3 15 0.2 245 0.4 505 0.3
Saguenay 85,170 0.4 15 0.2 430 0.7 595 0.4
Québec 465,845 2.3 105 1.7 1,745 2.8 3,180 2.0
Sherbrooke 115,875 0.6 35 0.6 485 0.8 845 0.5
Trois-Rivières 81,130 0.4 20 0.3 255 0.4 790 0.5
Montreal 2,308,565 11.6 575 9.1 6,320 10.2 13,885 8.9
Ottawa - Gatineau 765,590 3.8 280 4.4 2,340 3.8 4,975 3.2
Ottawa - Gatineau (Quebec part) 190,565 1.0 50 0.8 650 1.0 1,270 0.8
Ottawa - Gatineau (Ontario part) 575,030 2.9 230 3.6 1,685 2.7 3,705 2.4
Kingston 89,545 0.4 35 0.6 325 0.5 905 0.6
Belleville 54,865 0.3 10 0.2 180 0.3 805 0.5
Peterborough 65,190 0.3 65 1.0 285 0.5 940 0.6
Oshawa 214,000 1.1 80 1.3 725 1.2 1,785 1.1
Toronto 3,404,195 17.1 870 13.8 9,300 14.9 18,575 11.9
Hamilton 419,385 2.1 80 1.3 1,620 2.6 2,885 1.9
St. Catharines - Niagara 218,715 1.1 100 1.6 745 1.2 1,755 1.1
Kitchener - Cambridge - Waterloo 308,795 1.5 90 1.4 970 1.6 2,570 1.7
Brantford 74,645 0.4 25 0.4 250 0.4 785 0.5
Guelph 92,835 0.5 35 0.6 340 0.5 665 0.4
London 274,785 1.4 125 2.0 1,075 1.7 2,790 1.8
Windsor 170,430 0.9 35 0.6 745 1.2 1,235 0.8
Barrie 116,855 0.6 40 0.6 345 0.6 935 0.6
Greater Sudbury 91,155 0.5 30 0.5 455 0.7 1,160 0.7
Thunder Bay 66,705 0.3 25 0.4 585 0.9 1,175 0.8
Winnipeg 451,980 2.3 125 2.0 1,935 3.1 5,105 3.3
Regina 143,430 0.7 80 1.3 640 1.0 1,365 0.9
Saskatoon 179,235 0.9 60 1.0 730 1.2 1,400 0.9
Lethbridge 68,155 0.3 30 0.5 225 0.4 835 0.5
Calgary 866,895 4.3 260 4.1 2,515 4.0 5,210 3.3
Edmonton 809,165 4.1 215 3.4 2,565 4.1 6,025 3.9
Kelowna 112,595 0.6 35 0.6 340 0.5 825 0.5
Abbotsford - Mission 101,355 0.5 75 1.2 205 0.3 1,020 0.7
Vancouver 1,449,815 7.3 805 12.8 3,060 4.9 10,980 7.1
Victoria 214795 1.1 95 1.5 710 1.1 2,505 1.6

References

Employment and Social Development Canada. 2019. Highlights of the National Shelter Study 2005 to 2016. Catalogue no. SSD-231-07-19E. Ottawa, Ontario. https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/homelessness/reports-shelter-2016.html (accessed August 20, 2019).

Employment and Social Development Canada. 2019. Homeless Individuals and Families Information System. Ottawa, Ontario. https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/homelessness/hifis.html (accessed August 20, 2019).

Gaetz, S., and al. 2012. Canadian Definition of Homelessness. Toronto: Canadian Observatory on Homelessness Press. 1-5.

McDermott, S., A. Harding and J. Randle. 2019. The characteristics of shelter residents. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 75F0002M. Ottawa, Ontario. Income Research Paper Series. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/75f0002m/75f0002m2019004-eng.htm (accessed June 14, 2019).

Statistics Canada. 2016. National Occupation Classification (NOC). Statistics Canada Classification no. 12-583-X. Ottawa, Ontario. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/catalogue/12-583-X (accessed February 1, 2019).

Statistics Canada. 2016. North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Canada. Statistics Canada Classification no. 12-501-X. Ottawa, Ontario. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/catalogue/12-501-X (accessed February 1, 2019).

Statistics Canada. 2016. Low-income measure, after-tax (LIM-AT). 2016 Census of Population Dictionary. Ottawa, Ontario. https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/ref/dict/fam021-eng.cfm (accessed March 15, 2019).

Waegemakers J. and A. Lane. 2016. Burnout and PTSD in Workers in the Homelessness Sector in Edmonton.Toronto, Ontario. https://www.homelesshub.ca/sites/default/files/attachments/PTSD%20and%20Burnout%20in%20Edmonton%20February%202016.pdf (accessed August 20, 2019).


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