Media Release

Lakehead University and TBDSSAB release report on migration and homelessness

November 14, 2022 – Thunder Bay, Ont.

Today, Dr. Ravi Gokani from Lakehead University and representatives from the District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board released the results of their research into migration and homelessness.

According to TBDSSAB, approximately 60 per cent of people experiencing homelessness in the city of Thunder Bay migrated from somewhere else.

“This study gives us a preliminary answer to the question of why so many people who experience homelessness in the city are from out of town,” said Dr. Gokani, Assistant Professor in Lakehead’s School of Social Work.

The research suggests, among other things, that a large number of people migrate to the city of Thunder Bay for assistance with housing, health care, and social services.

Many individuals come to the city for social factors such as family or friends who live in Thunder Bay, or they come for a sense of community. Many people also travel to Thunder Bay for economic reasons, such as the promise of employment or education.

“Some of the findings were suggested by previous research, while other results were quite novel and surprising,” Dr. Gokani said.

“I think the study also raises several other questions for research and policy that might be investigated in the future. Overall, we have an evidence-base and set of lessons on which to build,” Dr. Gokani said.

The research team used machine-learning models to try to understand what factors predict if a person stays or leaves a shelter.

“If a clearer picture is realized on why some people come to Thunder Bay and then become homeless, then it opens the door to seeking opportunities to avoid the situation,” said Ken Ranta, Director, Integrated Services, TBDSSAB.

“It may, for example, involve linking newcomers to the city with supports and developing a plan to support their needs.”

This research stemmed from TBDSSAB’s 2018 Point-in-Time count of the homeless population, which suggested two out of three people experiencing homelessness migrated from outside the city of Thunder Bay and 20 per cent were from outside Ontario.

The partnership with TBDSSAB also involves Lakehead researchers Dr. Rebecca Schiff, Dr. Vijay Mago, and Dr. Travis Hay, as well as students from Social Work, Computer Science, and Health Sciences.

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Connections program provided $22,000 for the study.

You can read the full report here.