People staying in the city's homeless shelters stay for longer than they did five years ago, a new report obtained by CBC News shows.

The number of people who are chronically homeless — without a steady place to stay for more than six months — is also increasing.

"I think it's significant that 58 per cent of people surveyed indicated they are chronically homeless," said Jan Richardson, the city's manager of homeless prevention.

"Let's focus on that group. Let's solve their experience and then look at other support systems for those who are new to the streets."

Richardson will present two reports to the London Homeless Coalition on Monday. You can read both reports at the bottom of this story.

One is called Counting Our Way Home, the results of an annual enumeration event during which volunteers spoke to almost 400 homeless people and families over the course of a week in April.

The other is the Emergency Shelter progress report, which looks at who uses the city's homeless shelters, and how, each year from 2011 to 2016.

Among the findings:

  • In the last five years, 10,782 people have stayed in the city's homeless shelters.
  • In 2016, 13 per cent of those who stayed in shelter were 17 years old or younger.
  • Fewer people used the city's shelters in 2016 than 2011, but those that did stayed for an average of 41 nights, an increase of 21 per cent.
  • The youngest people using homeless shelters are now 16, down from 18 years old.  
  • On average, men stayed in shelters for twice as long as women.
Homeless 1

A snapshot of who has used the city’s homeless shelters from 2011 to 2016. (City of London report)

No 'cookie cutter solution': Richardson

Of the 399 homeless people surveyed in April, 29 per cent were Indigenous. The latest census figures show Indigenous people make up 2.5 per cent of the city's population.

Volunteers who spoke with homeless people also found:

  • Seven per cent of London's homeless were veterans.
  • 58 per cent said they'd been homeless for six months or more in the last year.
  • 60 per cent said their homelessness was caused by the breakup of a relationship.
  • 43 per cent reported chronic health issues.

London has to focus on getting people into homes and then giving them intensive social supports to help keep them from going back on the street, Richardson said.

The approach is called "housing first" — getting people into homes, and then dealing with their other problems, whether substance abuse or mental health.

"Housing first is an evidence-informed practice around the world. It has very specific requirements," Richardson said. "You get permanent housing with wrap-around supports to individuals. You can't have one without the other.

"You can't simply provide housing without those supports. There's no cookie-cutter approach. You have to tailor the programs and supports to the individual."

London Mayor Matt Brown has said he wants to tackle poverty in the city.

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