Good information can be very helpful in terms of addressing health and social problems. The federal government provides an optional information system to be used by shelters called HIFIS (London is in the process of adopting it). By having a common information system used across many municipalities, there is an opportunity to note particular trends. The National Shelter Study does just this, looking at trends in shelter usage from 2005-2009.
There are a number of interesting stats here, but I found stats about length of stay to be most telling about the challenges we are facing in in this sector:
What we note here is that although the majority of individuals still continue to have only one stay in shelter over any given year, they are staying in shelter longer. This is very consistent with our concerns that there are limited affordable housing options to help move people out of shelter. Previous research shows that 0% of people who are homeless would choose homelessness as their ideal housing status (C. Forchuk), therefore these individuals are staying in shelter for lack of housing.
As I have discussed previously, shelter is a much more expensive option administratively than moving people into affordable housing. These stats show how we need to continue to put pressure on federal, provincial, and municipal governments to expedite new affordable housing (with supports).