Study highlights lives of Winnipeg homeless

The stark day-to-day realities of hundreds of Winnipeg's homeless have been documented in an in-depth study highlighting its many causes.

60 per cent of Winnipeg's homeless are aboriginal, report states

The stark day-to-day realities of hundreds of Winnipeg’s homeless have been documented in an in-depth study highlighting its many causes.

The Winnipeg Street Health Report  also looks at ways of preventing homelessness.

The report presents the experiences of 300 homeless Winnipeggers and lays out stark findings about their health, security and ability to correct the problem.

The study states economics – and economic discrimination - are the main reasons people become and stay homeless, but other factors, such as mental illness and relationship issues also play roles.

Among the 46-page report’s findings are:

  • 60 per cent of Winnipeg’s homeless are of aboriginal descent.
  • 43 per cent were in the care of the child-welfare system as a youth.
  • 40 per cent said they were physically assaulted in the last year, but 76 per cent of victims didn’t report the violence to police.
  • 43 per cent of those interviewed had difficulty cleaning their clothes.
  • 23 per cent had difficulty finding a place to bathe.
  • 22 per cent has difficulty finding a place to use a washroom.

Homeless women also faced alarming conditions in terms of their personal safety, the report states:

  • 46 per cent of women surveyed said they were physically assaulted in the past year. 
  • 43 per cent said they had been sexually harassed in the past year.
  • 40 per cent of women felt unsafe in shelters, compared to 28 per cent of men.

Karen Flett, 43, told CBC News she’s been homeless on and off for the past two years. She said she took part in the survey in hopes it would convince government the problems she and others face can be fixed.

"We're not helpless and hopeless, we're trying to help ourselves," she said.

The study's authors said with the sample size of 300, results are accurate to plus or minus five per cent, 95 per cent of the time.

In order to be eligible for the study, participants had to be "absolutely" homeless, the report states. "This was defined as having stayed in a shelter, public place or other site not intended for human habitation for at least 10 of the last 30 nights."

Each participant was paid an honorarium for their participation.