Our Community

Homelessness in Winnipeg

Source: Winnipeg Street Census 2018

The Winnipeg Street Census 2018 marks the second attempt to gain a comprehensive view of homelessness in Winnipeg. In order to end homelessness we need to understand it. The Street Census is not an attempt to count the total number of people experiencing homelessness but provide a snapshot of who is experiencing homelessness, some of the reasons for it and barriers to exiting it. Between April 17 and 18, we surveyed approximately 1500 individuals experiencing homelessness. The 2018 Street Census was tailored to provide more information on those experiencing hidden homelessness than in 2015. However, as in 2015, we excluded those under 16 because they were below the age of consent.

Over a 24 hour period almost 300 volunteers and staff collected data from 69 emergency, domestic violence and youth shelters, transitional housing sites, bottle depots, and community agencies and/or drop-in locations. Surveyors also walked almost 119 km of inner city streets and outreach teams conducted surveys along 99 km of streets outside of the inner city. For this large-scale survey, we asked everyone we encountered about their housing situation to evaluate the magnitude of homelessness in the city. Everyone whose circumstances fit the definition of homelessness was asked to complete a 20 question interview about themselves and their experiences.

Winnipeg Street Census 2018 built on the similar survey done in 2015, updating and improving the methods based on what we learned. This means that the results will not be directly comparable with 2015. We hope that the 2018 results will provide a baseline for future street census surveys.

Where people stayed

On April 17 & 18, 2018, surveyors encountered approximately1,500 people experiencing homelessness in Winnipeg.



14.3% were unsheltered, that is, staying in a public space like a bus shelter or park, in a tent, a car, or walking around all night to stay safe



23.7% used an emergency shelter, domestic violence shelter or youth shelter


Another's Home

25.4% stayed at a friend’s, family’s or stranger’s place temporarily because they didn’t have a home of their own



17.4% stayed in transitional housing for people who have been, or would otherwise be, homeless



14.0% stayed in an institutional setting and did not have a permanent home to return to (includes addictions, mental health, and detox. programs)



3.4% stayed in a hotel or motel.


in absolute homelessness


provisionally accommodated

1.8% of respondents who were experiencing homelessness did not specify where they stayed


The age and gender breakdown includes both survey responses and administrative data. No one under the age of 16 was surveyed, though children and youth who were in family, women’s or youth shelters were included where data was available.

Median Age

The median age of people experiencing homelessness was39.


14.0% stayed in an institutional setting and did not have a permanent home to return to (includes addictions, mental health, and detox. programs)

Under 18

94 were children under 18.


There were 20 seniors, aged 65 or older.


LGBTTQ* community

23.7% used an emergency shelter, domestic violence shelter or youth shelter



80.2%of youth were Indigenous



There were 20 seniors, aged 65 or older.

  • 50+ Years 21.4% 21.4%
  • 42-49 11.7% 11.7%
  • 36-41 8.2% 8.2%
  • 30-35 9.2% 9.2%
  • 24-29 7.8% 7.8%
  • 18-23 6.1% 6.1%
  • 16-17 0.8% 0.8%



23.7% used an emergency shelter, domestic violence shelter or youth shelter

  • 50+ Years 7.8% 7.8%
  • 42-49 4.7% 4.7%
  • 36-41 4.9% 4.9%
  • 30-35 5.8% 5.8%
  • 24-29 5.4% 5.4%
  • 18-23 3.4% 3.4%
  • 16-17 1.4% 1.4%

1.5% of participants identified as other gender identities.

Length of time homeless

Throughout their lifetimes, people had experienced homelessness:


10-19 Years

The average length of time over the past year people spent in homelessness was 7 months.


  • Graduated Degree 0.4% 0.4%
  • Post-Secondary Grad 9.1% 9.1%
  • Some Post-Secondary 10.1% 10.1%
  • High School Graduate / GED 26.7% 26.7%
  • Some High School 31.3% 31.3%
  • Primary School 21.5% 21.5%
  • No Formal Education 1.1% 1.1%




  • First Nations Status 65.9% 65.9%
  • Indigenous (not specified) 17.3% 17.3%
  • Métis 11.1% 11.1%
  • Non-Status or have Indigenous Ancestry 4.2% 4.2%
  • Inuit 1.5% 1.5%

Events leading to homelessness

Those experiencing homelessness in their youth are more likely to experience homelessness throughout their lives. The median age at which people first became homeless was 20 and the most frequent age was18 years. Of those who experienced homelessness for 10 or more years throughout their lives, the majority (63%) first experienced homelessness when they were 18 years old or younger.

Key circumstances


foster care or group homes

50.0% of people spent time in foster care or group homes



10.7% are part of LGBTTQ* community


military or RCMP

5.9% have served in the military or RCMP.


immigrants or refugees

1.8% are recent immigrants or refugees.
(in Canada 5 years or less)

The Winnipeg Street Census

The Winnipeg Street Census is a survey conducted over a 24 hour period to gather information about the extent and nature of homelessness in Winnipeg. This information can be used to improve decision-making for funders, governments, and community organizations. Over time, it will be used to track progress on ending homelessness.

The Street Census follows an approach used by cities around the world. The method has been adapted to Winnipeg’s local context based on input from local researchers, service providers, outreach teams, police and safety patrols, and people with experience of homelessness. Trained volunteers went to Winnipeg’s emergency shelters to survey the individuals and families spending the night. They also surveyed people in places where people who are homeless spend their time: breakfast and lunch programs, libraries, resource centres and many other locations. They walked 27 routes to survey everyone they encountered about their housing needs.

Methods, Data & Limitations

The Winnipeg Street Census utilized the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness definition and typology of homelessness and housing exclusion. In addition to survey data, administrative data about bed use on the night of April 17-18, 2018 has been gathered from emergency shelters, youth shelters, shelters for individuals and families impacted by domestic violence, and interim housing for people who are homeless (transitional housing). Some data has been provided by institutional, residential treatment, and community mental health residential programs for individuals who were homeless upon entering the residential setting, lost housing while in the setting, or will exit the program to homelessness. More data from these residential settings is still being gathered and analyzed.

Though the methods used in this project were comprehensive, it is virtually impossible to get an exact count of the homeless population. Invisibility is a survival strategy for people experiencing homelessness. This was a voluntary survey and data is self-reported.

The locations and routes where surveys took place were concentrated in the inner city and decided based on feedback from outreach teams, community agency staff and people who have experienced homelessness, however people experience homelessness and spend their time in other neighbourhoods too. The method vastly undercounts those who are staying temporarily with family, friends, or strangers. Moreover, the survey missed many others staying in hotels who do not have a permanent home. Results should not be seen as an estimate of the hidden homeless population.

Data and assistance provided by Homelessness Information Partnership of Winnipeg.

More details about methodology, limitations and definitions will be available in a comprehensive report in fall 2018. 

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