A spike in the number of families accessing homeless shelters in Waterloo Region can be attributed to the aftereffects of the economic downturn that began in 2008, regional officials say.

"There is often a lag from when there is a recession and people lose their jobs to when they access emergency shelter," said Marie Morrison, manager of social planning for the Region of Waterloo.

"People lose their job, use their unemployment insurance and then they use up their savings, stay with family and friends and, as a last resort, come to a shelter."

Adequate housing, income and support are required in order to avoid homelessness, Morrison told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris in an interview on Monday.

"It's like a three-legged stool and if you don't have all of those legs its going to fall apart," she said.

On Friday, a joint report from the region's department of social services and housing showed a 229 per cent increase in the number of families and children accessing emergency shelter from 2008 and to 2012.

In addition, there was a 300 per cent increase in children under the age of 16 using emergency shelters, up from 105 children in 2008 to 420 in 2012.

"For children, we know that it affects their behaviour, their mental health, their physical health and certainly their success in school," Morrison said.

Regional staff from both the housing and social services department will present their findings to council Tuesday during the community services committee meeting.

"We know that if housing is an issue on the agenda... and it's an issue provincially and federally perhaps it will make a difference for investment in the future," Morrison said.