Structural Factors and Social Stigmas Surrounding Homelessness in Canada

As a physician who cares for people experiencing homelessness, Dr. Naheed Dosani sees firsthand the inequities facing marginalized Canadians. But he also sees a way forward.

“A lot of Canadians don’t realize that homelessness is a human-made problem. It was created by humans, and it can be ended through policy choices like ‘housing first’ or ‘housing for all.’”

During the first year of his family medicine residency, Dr. Dosani experienced a devastating and life-changing event: one of his patients passed away.

That patient, Terry, had lived on the streets for 15 years, had terminal cancer, and was repeatedly refused access to proper palliative care. It was too little, too late.

Deeply affected by the loss of his patient, Dr. Dosani realized while we all have equal access to healthcare in Canada, it doesn’t mean we have equitable access. And so, he pledged to inspire change.

“Housing is a human right,” Dr. Dosani said on the latest Episode of REAL TIME.

To complement REALTORS Care® Week 2021, we talked to Dr. Dosani to gain a front-line perspective of the inequities facing homeless, poor, and vulnerably-housed Canadians. We look at housing as a healthcare issue, how we can cure it through policy, and how we can tap into our own vulnerability to ensure no one has to fall through the cracks.

“It’s frustrating. It’s sad. It’s heavy at times. But on the flip side, what drives me is that, in just a short amount of time – just a few years – a few people who care in healthcare and social services have come together to develop a model of care that inspires change. A new way of thinking. A new way of being. And we’re doing it,” Dr. Dosani says.

More from REAL TIME

Dr. Dosani also discussed the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on people experiencing homelessness.

“People experiencing homelessness were hanging on by a thread before the pandemic. And that thread, essentially, snapped,” he said. “COVID has proven that we can cure homelessness if we really want to, and that’s really exciting.”

Dr. Dosani notes the pandemic helped shine a light on inequities in a way we haven’t seen before, which has helped bring more awareness to these issues.

“The silver lining for me is that at least we’re having the conversation. At least inequity is on the radar for people,” he says.

Why is housing a healthcare issue? Dr. Dosani weighs in.
“I think in 2021 we’re pretty much in agreement that the social factors that impact healthcare impact health outcomes…and so homelessness, or houselessness, is a risk factor on health,” says Dr. Dosani.

“When we say ‘housing is healthcare,’ we’re trying to really frame housing as a healthcare issue because it actually has impact on healthcare outcomes.”

REALTORS Care® Week—November 15 to November 21—is a weeklong initiative which invites real estate boards, associations and the REALTOR® community to make a collective impact by volunteering their time in support of housing or shelter-related charities in their communities. See what the REALTOR® community is doing using the hashtag #REALTORSCareWeek on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Don’t miss the latest episode of our French podcast EN DIRECT : L’accession à la propriété au Canada : une perspective plus large.

Sarah Doktor brings her experience as a small-town journalist and national online editor to the Canadian Real Estate Association as a Communications Advisor. Sarah helps facilitate conversations between CREA and our members, boards, associations and the public via our online communities. She also helps coordinate the content presented to you here on the CREA Café. In her spare time, Sarah can be found at the gym, running on a trail or watching Netflix with her cat, Libby.

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