Did Billions in Spending Make a Dent in Homelessness? Canada Doesn’t Know.

While other Canadian cities are firmly in the throes of winter, Toronto, after months of balmy weather, finally surrendered to its first snowfall on Tuesday, with more on the way. Winters are a habitual stress test on Toronto’s infrastructure, especially public transit, but also on its constellation of social services for the homeless.

Most nights in Toronto, the shelter system is full and has to turn people away.

The city, like others in Canada, has received millions in federal funding in recent years to build additional housing, and it has adopted other measures to address homelessness. But after about five years, no one can say whether any of these federally funded programs are working to reduce homelessness, because no one seems to be tracking it.

That’s the conclusion that Karen Hogan, Canada’s auditor general, reached in her latest report investigating chronic homelessness, saying that the “federal government does not know whether the efforts put forward so far have improved housing outcomes for vulnerable Canadians.”

The audit covers programs in the National Housing Strategy, which was started by the federal government in 2017, with plans to spend 78.5 billion Canadian dollars over 10 years in an effort to cut chronic homelessness by half by 2028, in part, by funding the construction of 160,000 homes.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, a government-owned company that insures house buyers’ mortgages, is leading the rollout of the national strategy.

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