Recovering after a Pandemic: Demystifying the Hidden Homeless Among Us

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many of us on the edge, suffering in silence.

Once CERB runs out and landlords are able to evict again, who among us will be affected?

As more jobs open up again, what kind of barriers will keep those needing work from being hired?

Could there be colleagues and friends in our own circles that may be struggling in silence?

According to Stats Canada, 1 in 10 Canadians have faced homelessness in their lifetime. Our 1 in 10 video series is based on the real-life stories, of three Canadians who’ve faced hidden homelessness. One is job hunting, another is currently employed and the third may have even dined in the same restaurant as you.

The Interview: Caroline is a recent business grad who has been job searching during the pandemic without much luck. She doesn’t qualify for CERB and without family support, she has been scraping by through favours from friends. Job hunting has never been so stressful.

If you were a hiring manager and knew that a candidate was in danger of eviction, would their unstable living conditions turn you off?

Oftentimes, people with housing insecurity don’t want to identify themselves. Why? Future landlords and employers may look down on them even if they are good candidates. That stigma makes it harder for people to seek help, and services online are often disjointed and hard to find. Although we made the web-app Chalmers to empower those in need to find help easier, we also want to encourage an open conversation and greater awareness of hidden homelessness. Here’s how you can help:

1. Open up the conversation about hidden homelessness

A good start could be simply sharing this article and identifying yourself as someone willing to lend an ear to those who are struggling. It sounds simple, but shame and isolation is a huge factor that keeps those in need from reaching out for help. While Chalmers is great for finding services, it cannot replace human connection and support from friends and family.

Holiday Party: Dan is an intern at a startup who lives with his family. One evening, his mom discovers a photo of him with his boyfriend. Horrified, she cannot accept her son’s sexuality and disowns him. Dan has no place to go so he decides to sleep at his office for a while. With offices closed because of COVID-19, Dan is scared and doesn’t know where to go for help.

Could you imagine anyone in your circle having faced homelessness?

Even if you honestly can’t, the truth may surprise you. You may have a picture of homelessness in your head in which people are out on the street, but many folks couchsurf, sleep in their cars or their offices. Put them in the same room as your acquaintances, and you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. There isn’t a single face to homelessness and many who’ve experienced it will tell you they successfully hid it from friends or colleagues before.

2. Check-in on friends, family and colleagues when you can

Living with homelessness is a sensitive subject, and most people would not want to admit it even to their loved ones. Show that you care by reaching out and asking how people are. It’s easy to get lost in our own busy lives, but even a mental health check-in can do wonders-especially during COVID-19.

Date night: Lily is a gig worker who has been struggling to find new work during COVID-19. She is making enough for herself, but she cannot afford to cover rent, groceries and support her sick, aging mother in a senior home. She puts her mother's needs first, so she is getting free meals for herself wherever she can, even on dates.

Have you judged someone on a peculiar habit they have?

Sometimes, people are acting based on fear and certain needs that we don’t even know about. It’s easy to jump to conclusions about why someone is acting a certain way, but there may be more to their story.

3. Try to understand first without judging

There is a saying, ‘Before you judge me, walk a mile in my shoes.’ The easiest way to better understand what people facing homelessness are going through is to read their stories. There’s the story behind our team member Simon, our founder CG’s mom and many more online in communities like the subreddit r/almosthomeless.

The rates of homelessness are rising, especially now with the pandemic. We need our community and government to take a smarter, more proactive approach. If you would like to help us bring Chalmers to your city and combat homelessness, email us at general@amplelabs.co.

Our team at Ample Labs is always open to both hosting and participating in lunch and learns with those who have lived experiences. Whether you would like to learn from us, or you have valuable experiences we can learn from, please reach out.