Perspectives of Homeless People on their Housing Needs and Approaches to Ensure Success: Discussion of a Study Supported by a Small SSHRC Grant

By Isolde Daiski.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Recently there has been much public discourse on homelessness and its impact on health and quality of life. Housing is a major determinant of health and strategies are sought to get people off the streets. For maximum success it is important to first determine accurately the needs of those to be housed. As they live their own situations, their perspectives should be considered to ensure success. This paper discusses the findings from a research study on perspectives of homeless people regarding their experiences of homelessness. The research question was: What supports are needed for homeless people to get off the street? The study discussed is qualitative, descriptive, exploratory. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with homeless individuals in a large Canadian city in 2005, regarding their needs and possible solutions to end homelessness. A thematic analysis was carried out on the data. Findings show that individuals’ experiences of homelessness deeply impact all aspects of their lives. Many barriers prevent the homeless from escaping the streets. The welfare system in place was often perceived as disabling and dehumanizing rather than helpful. Service provisions were frequently inappropriate and therefore unsuccessful. Those homeless for a long time fell into patterned cycles of shelter / street life, temporary employment / unemployment and sometimes temporary housing. Participants described the fragmented services provided as ineffective. They had many suggestions for strategies to avoid or escape homelessness. For service providers a power with rather than power over model of collaborative advocacy is proposed to serve this population more effectively, preserve / restore their dignity and invest resources wisely.

Keywords: Homelessness, Supportive Housing, Subsidized Housing, Advocacy Model, Qualitative Research, Welfare System

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 3, Issue 6, pp.53-62. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 595.962KB).

Dr. Isolde Daiski

Associate Professor, School of Nursing , Faculty of Health, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Isolde Daiski is an associate professor at York University’s School of Nursing. She teaches courses in holistic nursing with particular attention to environmental / contextual factors affecting health and quality of life of individuals. She volunteers her nursing services on the health bus, an outreach program for homeless people in downtown Toronto. Her doctoral work examined how the cutbacks of services in healthcare in the 90s affected nurses and vulnerable clients. Research includes a) a needs assessment / evaluation of the health bus outreach program with recommendations, b) creation of a news letter by and for homeless people, c) exploring housing needs and impacts of homelessness on health from the perspectives of the homeless, and links between chronic diseases and poverty. She is a co-investigator in ongoing research on a) impact of poverty on health outcomes of people living with diabetes, b) risks of contracting TB and other communicable diseases among homeless populations.

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