How many?

According to UN-Habitat, 1.1 billion people live in inadequate housing in urban areas – and at least 100 million have no housing whatsoever. This number is expected to increase to 1.6 billion by 2025.1 As many as 4 million Europeans and 3.5 million US citizens experience homelessness every year.

Who are they?

Across the rich nations more women, youth and families are becoming homeless. This chart shows the breakdown of the 235,000 Canadians who experience homelessness in a year:2

Why are they homeless?

Homelessness has complex roots. This chart illustrates the main reasons in Australia.3

★ housing stress, unemployment
◆ housing crisis, inadequate or inappropriate dwellings
✦ time out from family, family breakdown, violence and assault
✶ mental health issues, substance abuse issues
✖ transition from care, custody, lack of support, discrimination

Unaffordable housing

House Price-to-Income Ratio (2016, 2010=100)

House prices are growing faster than incomes in many countries. If we use 2010 as the base year house prices in 2016 outstripped incomes by 35% in New Zealand, 15% in the UK and almost 10% in Australia.

Shelter saves money

Photo: S Swenson/Alamy Stock Photo

Public Health Emergency15

Violence, disasters & development

In 2015, 27.8 million people in 127 countries were forced to flee their homes because of conflict, violence and disasters – more than the total populations of New York, London, Paris and Cairo combined.14

Source: UNHCR

Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters



Women fleeing violence, often accompanied by children, are a significant part of the ‘hidden homeless’, often moving between home, shelters and friends or relatives.


Homeless youth make up a growing portion of the homeless. Children living on the streets are especially vulnerable to victimization, exploitation and abuse.

  1. UN Human Settlements Programme,
  2. The State of Homelessness in Canada 2016,
  3. Australian Broadcasting Association,
  4. UN-Habitat,
  5. ‘Hot in the city’, 2 April 2016, The Economist.
  6. Beyond Housing First, a holistic response to family homelessness in Canada, 2015,
  7. Matthew Desmond, Evicted: Poverty and Property in the American City, 2016.
  8. Justice Connect, ‘Keeping Women and Children Housed’, 2017,
  9. Mental Health Commission of Canada, 2014, At Home/Chez Soi, 2014, MHCCat-home
  10. The cost of youth homelessness in Australia, 2016,
  11. National Shelter Study 2005-2014,
  12. Desmond, see 7.
  13. Australian Government,
  14. IDMC, 2016,
  15. ‘The health of homeless people in high-income countries’, The Lancet, October 2014,
  16. Homelessness Australia, 2013, HA-2013
  17. National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty,
  18. ‘Risk of Death Among Homeless Women’,
  19. Ending Youth Homelessness: A human rights guide,
  20. Covenant House Toronto,