Defining homelessness is not easy. Just ask Red Deer city council.
It debated for some time on Monday whether to endorse a homelessness definition created by the Canadian Homelessness Research Network.
Council was asked to endorse the definition so that it is on the same page as other communities and organizations when homelessness is discussed.
The network’s lengthy definition says homelessness describes an individual or households “without stable, permanent, acceptable housing or the immediate prospect of acquiring it.”
It is a situation not of their choosing, unless they are leaving a situation much worse. Homelessness also has various forms: unsheltered, emergency sheltered, provisionally accommodated and insecurely housed.
The definition also says that “the problem of homelessness and housing exclusion refers to the failure of a society or community to ensure adequate systems, funding and support are in place so that all people, even in crisis situations, have access to housing.”
Not all councillors agreed the definition was adequate.
Coun. Chris Stephan said the definition assumes homelessness is entirely society’s problem and doesn’t take into account individual accountability.
Coun. Paul Harris felt the definition did not reflect the importance of community relationships in ensuring people have places to live.
The definition passed on a 5-3 vote with Stephan, Harris and Tara Veer against.