New research from The Salvation Army finds Canadians are struggling to meet their basic needs with inflation, food affordability and housing security persisting as top issues. Single parents, caregivers and single-person households are facing the most pressure, demonstrating how these struggles are not felt equally by all Canadians. 

The Salvation Army surveyed more than 1,500 Canadians to produce the 2023 Canadian Poverty and Socioeconomic Analysis in order to better understand their attitudes, behaviours and experiences on issues such as the availability of housing and food, general affordability and related health outcomes. As one of the largest non-governmental direct providers of social services in Canada, this data helps The Salvation Army to quantify the demand for ongoing social services provided and helps the organization to better serve those in need.

Download the report.

The research shows Canadians rank inflation, housing security and food affordability as their top concerns. These findings are in line with The Salvation Army’s internal data, which reveal an increase in the number of households seeking assistance, as well as individuals seeking clothing, furniture, emergency housing and winter coats.

The report finds that single parent families are facing the highest degree of hardship across the country. While 25% of Canadians fear they do not have enough income to cover their basic needs, that number climbs to 40% for single parent households, single person households (31%) and caregivers (30%). Twenty-one percent of respondents reported skipping or reducing the size of at least one meal because they cannot afford to buy groceries, but that number jumps to 45% among single parents. Twenty-two percent of parents also reported eating less so their children or other family members could eat (44% among single parents). 

“The figures from our research are troubling and show that Canadians are struggling in every corner of this country and they are worried about their families’ futures, with nearly 60% of Canadians extremely concerned about the rising cost of living and inflation,” says Lt-Colonel John Murray, territorial secretary for communications. “The situation is dire for single parent families where parents are going without food to make ends meet.” 

Single parent families are facing the highest degree of hardship.

In 2023, due to the ongoing impact of inflation, support for priority communities, individuals and families is as important as ever. While The Salvation Army offers assistance across a broad range of services, most supports provided were related to food assistance and meal programs. Canadians also report a sense of pessimism around their personal finances, with 31% saying they are concerned about their personal finances for the next two years. Over 40% say they are struggling with mental health, while nearly one-third report struggling with their physical health. 

“We understand this is a very difficult time for many Canadians,” says Lt-Colonel Murray. “The general lack of affordability is having a toll on the emotional, mental and physical well-being of our communities. These are our friends, family and neighbours, and an increasing number of them are turning to The Salvation Army for support.” 

The report finds that Canadians are hoping to see financial pressures ease somewhat over the next six months, but they are still expecting food security, limited financial resources, health issues and housing insecurity to persist. As a result, The Salvation Army expects to sustain current levels of service to support Canadians dealing with these ongoing challenges and will continue to leverage this data and internal metrics to help direct resources where they’re needed most. 

Last year, The Salvation Army helped more than 2.7 million people across Canada, providing 3.9 million meals, assisting 359,000 with Christmas food hampers and toys, and over 1.5 million people with food, clothing or practical help.

Survey Methodology: The study was conducted from October 12-19, 2023, among a nationally representative sample of 1,515 Canadians who are members of the online Angus Reid Forum, balanced and weighted on age, gender and region. Note: Canadians living in Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut were not included in the survey. The survey carries a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. 

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