Integrating homeless people
Integration into society is a very good way to help people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, get out of that situation. Everyone can contribute to finding new ways to support, and show solidarity with, the homeless, in order to encourage their participation and inclusion in society.
Understand the homeless and their life trajectories
Homeless people have numerous life trajectories. Their faces testify to a wide variety of situations often fraught with drug addiction and mental disorders. Recognizing the diversity among the homeless and their life trajectories is a first step towards understanding and integrating them into society. For more on this subject, read Profile of homeless people.
Fight prejudices against the homeless
Various prejudices exist about the homeless. For the majority of the Québec population, life on the street is a departure from the norm. Many people believe that those who live on the street are a menace to the established order or to their own safety. This is why homeless people are often the target of general inspections, which can lead to fines or stints in prison. These interventions can increase their social exclusion, especially when they are motivated by discrimination based on their social condition. This type of discrimination is called “social profiling”. Even if these kinds of inspections are sometimes the only way to intervene and can even be helpful, there are other solutions.
It must not be forgotten that homeless people have strengths and abilities just like other people. The situation in which they find themselves does not define who they truly are as persons. These prejudices must be fought, and homeless people must be treated fairly and respectfully. This begins with choosing not to ignore them. Homeless people are citizens and must be regarded as such.
Indeed, the homeless have the same rights as all other people, including:
- The right to health
- The right to security
- The right to exercise citizenship, such as the right to vote
- The right to housing
- The right to education
Out of respect for these rights and human dignity, the realities and needs of homeless people deserve everyone’s attention and interest.
Recognize the value of homeless people and encourage them to contribute to the community
Homeless people can contribute to community life and must be given opportunities to do so.
The act of participating in community life can help homeless people develop a sense of belonging to that community.
Also, encouraging the social integration of homeless people allows all citizens to live together harmoniously in public places.
Social participation of the homeless depends on their being recognized by other citizens. The general population must regard the homeless as full citizens who have the same rights and the same responsibilities as all other citizens.
Recognizing the value of homeless people depends a great deal on the efforts that each member of society makes in this regard.
Make room for the homeless and fostering inclusion
The streets do not have the same significance to all who share them. For most people, meaning residents, workers, consumers and tourists, it is a transit area. For the homeless, it is a space for socializing and a living environment.
Ignoring the needs of the homeless, hiding their presence, chasing them away from public places or limiting their access only contributes to alienating them further.
As a citizen, you can do your part in order to encourage harmonious cohabitation on the street.
Offer the homeless companionship and support
In order to fight homelessness, companionship and support must be offered to the homeless. If you know someone who is homeless, here are a few things you can do to help him or her:
- Maintain a relationship of trust with the person so that he or she can accept your help.
- Accompany the person in his or her efforts to acquire official documents, such as a health insurance card.
- Encourage the person to consult resources for help and, when necessary, accompany him or her for appointments. See the section on Help and resources for the homeless to learn more about available resources.
Last update: February 28, 2019