Canadian Observatory on Homelessness
November 21, 2017

Does the term “demonstration project” excite and motivate you? It’s okay to say no. I’ll admit that I was inexperienced when it came to demonstration projects before joining the Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab (MTS) team. But now I feel pretty confident in saying that we at the MTS Lab are so excited to officially launch the first of our Housing First for Youth (HF4Y) demonstration projects this month. A lot of hard work has brought us to this point; without sounding too cliché, this is when the Lab goes from an “idea” to a system of community-based programs that directly impact the lives of vulnerable young people.

What is a demonstration project?

Let’s back up for a minute – what do I mean by a “demonstration project”? As I insinuated earlier, it is a research term. Demonstration projects are large-scale studies focused on a theory or concept that has already gone through an initial testing process to sort out any logistical and/or core issues. The focus of the demonstration project then is, as the name suggests, to demonstrate the value of the theory or concept by allowing as much relevant information as possible to be collected. This information is then evaluated by researchers and used to assess the effectiveness of the theory or concept.

Demonstration projects are a necessary step in evaluating program implementation and outcomes, which is what the MTS Lab is seeking to do with the HF4Y research trial. Not only do demonstration projects provide researchers with critical data about their theories, they also bridge the gap between theory and practice. For MTS, this means implementing actual programs in community settings. This allows both qualitative and quantitative analysis to take place at the same time, providing a well-rounded knowledge base.

Demonstration projects and pilot projects

Another admission – I used to believe that demonstration projects and pilot projects were basically the same thing. And in non-technical terms, pilot projects are fairly similar to demonstration projects: both are conducted to test theories in real-life scenarios. There are, however, significant differences between the two. Generally, pilot projects are small introductory studies to learn about key factors associated with research topics like time, costs, and size. Before researchers are able to conduct larger and longer studies – such as demonstration projects – they benefit from information gathered during the pilot project phase. Pilot projects contain assessments that are designed by researchers to see if what works in theory actually works in practice, sort of like a test drive for new concepts and approaches.

So, the differences are pretty clear – pilot projects test the waters of new, yet-to-be tested topics (for those of you in Toronto, the King Street pilot is a recent example) while demonstration projects are larger, longer studies of topics that have already gone through an initial screening phase. The evaluation process attached to demonstration projects is another major distinction.

Where does HF4Y fit in?

The demonstration project that we are launching next month in Ottawa – and in Toronto and Hamilton, beginning in 2018 – is designed for the HF4Y intervention. Although there has been other research done in the Housing First realm, this project is focused directly on espousing the value of the HF4Y model outlined in the new Program Model Guide. In each of our HF4Y projects, the evaluation of the impact of services and the overall program is being handled by a team of researchers. This research is a critical for establishing a strong evidence base for HF4Y in Canada which, as you might remember from an earlier post in this blog series, is one of the fundamental goals of the MTS Lab.

The HF4Y intervention is taking place at the agency level; in each community, different youth-serving organizations are partnering to provide housing and services to their youth clients – consistent with the HF4Y intervention model. Primarily, this means following the HF4Y core principles and especially promoting the voices and expertise of the youth involved throughout the process. In practical terms, it means that a number of young people who are either currently experiencing homelessness, or are at serious risk of becoming so, are going to be provided with housing and widespread supports to help them stay housed and achieve other critical outcomes focused on well-being and a healthy transition to adulthood.

Takeaways

This is an exciting time for the MTS Lab. We are not only launching the first of numerous demonstration projects that will yield valuable data for researchers, communities, and policy makers, but we are also on the cusp of taking real, practical steps to aid young people who need it. When all is said and done, we are working hard to ensure that all young people have exactly what we would want for our own children – the tools and supports they need to thrive.

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The “THIS is…” blog series is a monthly look into the concepts and ideas at the heart of the Making the Shift Youth Homelessness Social Innovation Lab project. This blog is the third installment of the series; click to read the first and second installments.

How do we know the services and supports we provide to youth experiencing homelessness make their lives better in the long run? Any organization serving youth is prone to assume their interventions are making a difference. But how do we critically measure that impact? Do we open space for young people and their allies to identify the benchmarks on what an improved quality of life means to youth? How can we address evaluation differently, doing “nothing for youth without youth,” decolonizing our approaches, and building accountability into our communities?

A New Outcomes Framework  

These questions have become so important at Eva’s Initiatives for Homeless Youth, and we’ve noticed that other youth-serving partners in Toronto have been asking them as well. So Eva’s connected with the research and evaluation team at the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness to take a crack at developing a new outcome measurement framework for our work with youth experiencing homelessness. We started the process by reviewing of the literature on:

a) factors related to youth exiting homelessness; and

b) existing outcome frameworks.

We applied the learnings from the literature reviews to guide our exploration at Eva’s through: a focus group with youth residents at Eva’s transitional housing facility; a focus group and visioning session with Eva’s staff team members; and a consultation with Executive Directors of sister youth-serving agencies.

The voices of young people and their allies gave us valuable insights. For instance, when we asked youth what outcomes mattered to them, they certainly addressed financial and housing security. But they also mentioned that having a workplace free of racism and the ability to work out problems with their landlords were important to them too. It reminded us that youth don’t just need jobs and a place to live. They need quality, life-affirming engagement in employment, housing, and community.

Circle of Courage

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Along the way, we were inspired by the Circle of Courage model developed by Brendtro, Brokenleg, and Van Bockern (2007). It is a model of positive youth development focused on emotional health and well-being, integrating the wisdom of Indigenous teachings, the knowledge of professionals who’ve worked with youth, and youth development research. The model is a holistic one, incorporating an understanding of the individual in the context of community, and it identifies key domains that enable any young person to thrive: a sense of belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity.

What We Developed

All of this groundwork allowed us to create our own new outcome measurement framework. You might be surprised by what it includes.

“You Can Only Give What You’ve Got” 

Our framework begins with an acknowledgement of organizational capacity to actually achieve outcomes, something we noticed is often a missing in the research and literature, but is a big concern of service providers. We also learned that organizational capacity and focus should be guided by the following principles: 

  1. Positive youth development
  2. Inclusion and respect for diversity
  3. Addressing systemic barriers (housing, employment, and education)
  4. Anti-oppression/anti-discrimination
  5. Harm reduction
  6. Therapeutic alliance (young people and their workers are a team that is only as good as the relationship they have)

“Youth Are Whole People, And They Matter”

Our framework also includes primary and secondary youth development outcomes that fall under the Circle of Courage’s domains of Belonging and Mastery/Independence.

Main outcomes:

  1. Connection to the Land and Culture;
  2. Social Relationships;
  3. Community Engagement/Belonging;
  4. Intrapersonal Growth; and
  5. Wellbeing (Physical and Mental).

Secondary outcomes: 

  1. Role Models;
  2. Leisure Activities;
  3. Safety;
  4. Employment;
  5. Education; and
  6. Financial Security.

Main outcomes are foundational to secondary outcomes; that is, if the main outcomes are achieved, the secondary outcomes will also emerge. For example, employment skills should be pursued in an empowering manner to build self-esteem. 

“Home is So Much More Than a Building” 

Finally, our framework incorporates a definition of “stable housing” developed by youth themselves. It includes the following components:

  1. a mix of housing options;
  2. financial security to maintain housing;
  3. preparedness to work with landlords;
  4. availability of supports;
  5. safety in one’s housing and belonging in one’s neighbourhood;
  6. quality housing;
  7. allowing for multiple moves;
  8. pet-friendly; and
  9. chosen by youth. 

Everything is Linked 

We learned that it’s a cycle: strong organizational capacity will lead to a growing sense of Belonging and Mastery/Independence within young people we work with, which will ultimately lead to stable housing, and all these things reinforce and bolster each other.

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What We’ve Learned and How You Can Help

Accurately capturing outcomes for youth that are meaningful, flexible, and youth-driven is complicated, but worth it! Still, we got the sense that even the most comprehensive outcomes framework cannot capture the unique identities and trajectories of young people in all their diversity. That’s why we know that, moving forward, we have to situate ourselves in a learning mindset, refining our outcome frameworks and ultimately listening to youth and their allies to set the agenda for us. 

We know we need to put this framework to the test to understand its true effectiveness. If you provide services for youth experiencing homelessness and have struggled with nailing down outcomes, will you consider working in partnership with Eva’s to test this approach?

Click here to access the full report, Youth at the Centre of Impact: Toward an Outcomes Measurement Framework

Circle of Courage image source: https://www.starr.org/training/youth/aboutcircleofcourage

Contact Eva’s: Andrea Gunraj, Director of Communications and Public Education, 416-977-4497 x141 | agunraj@evas.ca


Community Veterinary Outreach
November 07, 2017

“My relationship with Mack … is the best I ever had … having my dog around I find it more comforting than having my girlfriend around … 'cause he always knows when I’m feeling bad ... I don’t always have to sit around explaining to him what I mean cause he already seems to know … having Mack is easy 'cause I can talk about my problems to him and he doesn’t judge me. 1” –Terence-

This quote is a familiar refrain in the world of Community Veterinary Outreach (CVO). Terence, a street-involved youth, describes his relationship with his dog as “unconditional love.” This love is the reason many of us have pets, and for those experiencing homelessness, street-involved and/or marginally housed, pets can be their lifeline.  

When talking about homelessness, it’s important to remember that homelessness is more than a lack of accessible and secure shelter; it is inadequate income, limited access to health care and social service supports, and social exclusion. Those experiencing homelessness have a lower life expectancy and higher rates of illness across a wide spectrum of disease.2 This is often related to the social determinants of health, including preventable illness from lack of basic health care, including common vaccines, poor nutrition, tobacco use, and other addictions.3

CVO is a unique veterinary-based organization that provides pro-bono health services to both pets and their owners. Our mandate is to improve the health and welfare of both animals and people, to create multilateral collaborations with community organizations, to contribute to the scientific knowledge base on social issues involving animals, and to develop program models that can be reproduced in other communities.

The issues of pets while experiencing homelessness

In Canada, up to 19% of those experiencing homelessness  own pets.4 The benefits of pet ownership include increased social, emotional and physical health. For example, pet ownership can also lower the prevalence of depression. 5,6 Pets also may reduce risk behaviour, drug and alcohol use, and avoidance of incarceration.1

On the other hand, this strong human-animal bond can lead homeless or vulnerably-housed clients to place their animal’s needs ahead of their own. 1,7 Risks associated with pet ownership include difficulty in finding stable pet-friendly housing or accessing shelters, ability to work or go to school (without a place or person to leave their pet), and the financial strain of feeding and providing health care for a pet.1,5

CVO’s mission is to create healthy communities through collaboration and social innovation for vulnerable people and their pets. We lead through service and inspire social change in community health.

a cat with its owner
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Our programs

We serve communities in Halifax, various places in Ontario (Ottawa, Toronto, Guelph, Hamilton, Kitchener- Waterloo, and York region), Winnipeg and Vancouver. Veterinary care is combined with human health and welfare service provision at each clinic.

Our programs include:

1. Veterinary Care Program

The Veterinary Care program provides free preventative veterinary health clinics for animals of those experiencing homelessness, street-involved and/or marginally housed. Between April 2016 and March 2017, the Veterinary Care Clinics served 566 clients, provided wellness examinations for 290 dogs and 422 cats, and provided spay or neuter for 295 animals.

Pets are examined, vaccinated for rabies and other infectious diseases, treated for internal and external parasites, and implanted with a microchip. Free spay/neuter surgeries (for dogs and cats seen at the clinics) are also offered in several communities. The veterinary team educates and offers advice to owners on their pet’s nutrition, dental care, behaviour, and the benefits of spay / neuter. In Vancouver, Community Veterinary Outreach partners with Paws for Hope Animal Foundation to provide the veterinary care.

The clients are accepted on a referral basis from community partnerships that we have developed, including area shelters, municipal public health, community health and youth centres, and mental health organizations.

2. One Health Program

“One Health” is a term used to describe the collaboration between multiple health disciplines to achieve optimal health for humans, animals and the environment. 

CVO’s innovative One Health program combines veterinary teams with social services and human healthcare providers. This improves the health, welfare, and social service delivery for both humans and animals.

Each of our veterinary clinics has at least one human health service offered, including smoking harms reduction, vaccination (including influenza), primary health care needs, dental care access, and harm reduction including naloxone kit provision and training. Our partners in the community for One Health include the various public health units in Ottawa, Toronto and Golden Triangle, the Canadian Mental Health Association, Somerset West Community Health Centre team in Ottawa, UBC School of Nursing and Pharmacy, the University of Manitoba School of dental hygiene, the Capital Dental Hygiene team in Ottawa, and Pharmasave Respect Rx pharmacy team, to name a few.

As we expand into more regions, our One Health partnerships are growing. Over time, we hope to offer more services involving support for healthy living and nutrition, addiction, and mental health. 

Goals

We believe that all people and animals are entitled to a high standard of care, regardless of their socioeconomic status. Together with human health partners, our aim is to provide access to quality services to improve the overall health and welfare of animals, humans, and the community at large.

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Find out more at: vetoutreach.org

To volunteer, contact us at info@vetoutreach.org

References

  1. Lem M, Coe JB, Haley DB, et al. Effects of Companion Animal Ownership among Canadian Street-involved Youth: A Qualitative Analysis. J Sociol Soc Welfare 2013;40(4):285-304.
  2. Hwang S, Wilkens R, Tjepkema M et al. Mortality among residents of shelters, rooming houses, and hotels in Canada: 11 year follow-up study,  BMJ 2009;339:b4036.
  3. Young S, Dosani N, Whisler A, et al. Influenza vaccination rates among homeless adults with mental illness in Toronto.  J Prim Care Community Health 2015;6(3):211-214.
  4. Stephen Hwang (2011) & Bill O’Grady (2012), St Michael’s Hospital, University of Guelph.
  5. Lem, M, Coe, J, Haley D, et al. The protective association between pet ownership and depression among street-involved youth: A cross-sectional study. Anthrozoös, 2016;29(1):123-136.
  6. Rhoades, H, Winetrobe, H, Rice E. Pet ownership among homeless youth: Associations with mental health, service utilization and housing status. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev 2015; 46(2):237-44.
  7. Williams DL and Hogg S. The health and welfare of dogs belonging to homeless people. Pet Behaviour Science 2016;1:23-30.

 

Calgary Homeless Foundation
November 02, 2017

Evelyn Peters and Julia Christensen recently wrote an edited book on homelessness among Indigenous peoples in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Excluding the Introduction and Conclusion, more than half of the chapters are either authored or co-authored by an Indigenous person. A useful contribution to researchers, students, consultants and policymakers in all three countries, it should be required reading for anyone wanting to learn more about homelessness experienced by Indigenous peoples.

Here are 10 things to know about this book.

  1. The book contains lots of useful information. In Chapter 1, Christensen—citing research done previously by Yale Belanger, Olu Awosoga and Gabrielle Weasel Head—notes that on any given night in Canada, approximately 7% of Canada’s urban Indigenous population is homeless, compared to fewer than 1% for Canada’s total population. Chapter 8, authored by Yale Belanger and Gabrielle Lindstrom, includes a succinct, three-page section titled “Understanding Indigenous Homelessness” that provides a useful history of the Canadian context. And in Chapter 9—co-authored by Rebecca SchiffAlina Turner and Jeannette Waegemakers Schiff—we learn that many Indigenous people in Canada migrate from urban to rural areas (as well as between rural areas). By contrast, it is commonly believed that Indigenous migration in Canada happens only from rural to urban areas.
  1. The book includes contributions from three countries with similar social welfare systems. The book looks at Canada, Australia and New Zealand, allowing readers in each respective country to learn from other countries’ experiences and perspectives. What’s more, many researchers will appreciate the opportunity to compare the experiences of these particular countries because all three are considered “liberal welfare states.” That means their social welfare systems are considered stingier than those of many other OECD countries—they have relatively low rates of taxation, relatively low levels of public social spending (including spending on housing for low-income households) and relatively high levels of income inequality (the United States, while not a focus of this book, is also considered a liberal welfare state). At the other extreme of the spectrum are social democratic welfare states (e.g. Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden); they’re known for having relatively generous social welfare systems—relatively high tax rates, relatively high levels of public social spending (including spending on housing for low-income households) and relatively low levels of income inequality.[1]
    book cover
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  1. The book’s account suggests that the history of Indigenous peoples in all three countries is similar. As Dr. Peters notes in the book’s Conclusion: “All of the [book’s] authors situate their analysis within the ongoing legacy of Western colonialisms that dispossessed people of their lands, waters and resources, attempted to destroy Indigenous cultures, and resulted in intergenerational individual and collective trauma…Indigenous homelessness cannot be understood without recognition of this legacy” (p. 390).
  1. One of the book’s chapters which I found very empirically-grounded was Chapter 4 which makes the case that police often relocate Indigenous peoples from affluent areas of Edmonton to poor areas of the city. Chapter 4, written by Joshua Freistadt,is a condensed version of the author’s PhD thesis, which can be downloaded here[2] and which is now available in book format here. (I suspect that people involved with the Homeless Charter of Rights project in Calgary will find this chapter especially interesting.)
  1. Chapter 13, by Kelly Greenop and Paul Memmott, calls for the need to rethink the concept of crowding for Indigenous peoples. Indeed, the authors suggest that, rather than think of crowding in simple mathematical terms (e.g., number of rooms per person, square footage per person), we should consider asking Indigenous people to personally define how crowded they actually feel. To make this point, the authors draw on previous research done by Robert Gifford. The authors also note that, for some Indigenous people, too few people in a house can be a problem. (This information is useful to the Calgary Homeless Foundation as we continue to plan and design culturally appropriate housing with and for Indigenous peoples. In 2016, for example, we began surveying tenants about their own perception of the quality of their housing unit.)
  1. I find the book pays insufficient attention to each country’s social welfare system—including the macroeconomic factors that shape it. In fact, even though all three countries are classified as being in the same family of social welfare systems (as discussed in point #1 above) the editors make no explicit mention of this. Do the editors not believe the amount of public social spending (as a percent of GDP) in each country can have a major impact on Indigenous homelessness? What about social housing stock in each country (as a percentage of total stock)? How about the amount of money each country provides to people—both Indigenous and non-Indigenous—receiving social assistance?
  1. The book could have benefited from a discussion of advocacy approaches in each country. Canada has gone through an interesting evolution of advocacy approaches to homelessness; I’ve previously discussed them here. What have advocacy campaigns looked like in Australia and New Zealand? Do advocates in those countries seek to “end homelessness?” To what extent have Indigenous and non-Indigenous advocates worked collaboratively in each country to end homelessness?[3] I would have liked to have seen these questions addressed.
  1. The book could have benefited from some quantitative analysis. My colleague and friend, Michael Shapcott, once said: “Qualitative research engages the heart. Quantitative research engages the mind.” With that said, I would have liked to have seen a bit more quantitative research in this book.  For example, in 2014, Jalene Tayler Anderson and Damian Collins authored this journal article; it looks at the prevalence and causes of urban homelessness among Indigenous peoples in all three countries considered in this book. A modified version of that article would have therefore made for an excellent contribution.[4]
  1. Chapter 1, which focuses on the Canadian context, ought to have made at least passing reference to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Indeed, Canada’s federal government hascommitted to “fully” implementing all 94 of the final report’s Calls to Action. These “calls to action” include calls pertaining to child welfare, health, and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (all of which have important ramifications for homelessness experienced by Indigenous peoples).
  1. The book lacks content from the United States (likely because very little has been written about homelessness among Native Americans). The book includes nine chapters of Canadian content, five of Australian content, three from New Zealand and none from the United States. Trouble is, there does seem to be a shortage of research on homelessness among Indigenous peoples in the United States (one of the only recent exceptions I’m aware of is this report). The editors could have taken this issue head on by discussing this important research gap in the book’s preface (especially since the United States is also one of the so-called liberal welfare states discussed above).

In Sum. The publication of this book is a remarkable accomplishment. I consider it a ‘must read’ for anybody interested in understanding what contributes to, and what can end, homelessness among Indigenous peoples. You can order a copy of the book here.

The author wishes to thank the following individuals for invaluable assistance with this book review:  Vicki Ballance, Cynthia Bird, Sally Carraher, Janice Chan, Julia Christensen, Joshua Freistadt, Kahente Horn-Miller, Evelyn Peters, Robert Regnier, Rebecca Schiff, Michael Shapcott, Joel Sinclair, Ken Swift and Billie Thurston.  Any errors lie with the present author.


[1] Building on the work of Richard Titmuss, the early work on categorizing OECD countries into different categories like this was done by Gøsta Esping-Andersen.  Interestingly, Esping-Andersen’s work has been criticized for providing insufficient attention to Indigenous peoples (see chapter 3 in this book).

[2] More recently, it has come to light that Indigenous people in Edmonton are six times more likely than white people to be ‘street checked’ by police.

[3] For more on the importance of weighting macroeconomic and social welfare factors into any consideration of housing and homelessness, see this recent blog post.

[4] To be fair, Christensen does reference this article in the book’s Introduction.

 


You can view a PDF version of this blog post here: Book review – Indigenous Homelessness

This blog post has been republished with permission from the Calgary Homeless Foundation website.

For the Dream Team, Toronto
October 24, 2017

Safe At Home was written by the Dream Team: a peer based non­profit organization dedicated to advocacy, education, and research in the areas of supportive housing, mental health, discrimination, and stigma. This study investigates “Housing Unit Takeovers,” or HUTs: situations in which vulnerable tenants are forced to accommodate unwanted guests in their homes. During HUTs, vulnerable tenants allow people into their homes to fulfill unmet social, economic, and personal needs. In the process, the tenant is threatened physically, financially, or psychologically. People of all genders, races, and age groups are vulnerable to HUTs (Butera, Crime Prevention Ottawa, 2013).  Similarly, people of all races, genders and age groups perpetrate takeovers. Such housing predators tend to be manipulative family members or drug dealers. Often, these predators exploit the tenant’s vulnerabilities, such as addiction, isolation, disability, or poor health. The ultimate outcome is that the targeted tenant’s housing is jeopardized while they are made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe in their own homes. In some cases, HUTs can leave the targeted tenant homeless (Dream Team, 2017).

Some Dream Team members have lived in supportive and social housing where they experienced HUTs themselves. Having survived a predator’s use of drugs and money, and sometimes threat of physical harm, to infiltrate and eventually take over their households, these Dream Team members are uniquely situated to give voice to the lived realities of HUTs in Toronto today. These voices and the voices of other people with lived experience of HUTs, were central to the research carried out in the Safe At Home Project.

Supported by a grant from the City of Toronto, the Dream Team began work on the Safe At Home project in April 2016, using a community-based participatory research model. We began conceptualizing our project using some of the key terms and ideas put forward by Crime Prevention Ottawa (CPO 2013), and acknowledge their ongoing advisory support during the research process. While we concentrated on people in social and supportive housing by the terminal date of the project in June 2017, our research had intersected with regular market and non-supportive housing, and it now provides a fairly good idea of the extent to which HUTs occur in different parts of the GTA. It is also important to note that during our consultations and public roundtables, we found out that almost all housing providers know about HUTS and that most governing bodies were starting to look at them. An interesting fact is that in the absence of a cogent shared definition or measuring technique, no one actually knows how many HUTS happen, though we know they happen in all parts of the GTA and in all types of housing.

Thankfully then, HUTs seem to be getting more attention but have been underexplored in scholarly research and the mainstream media. This means that the narratives surrounding HUTs are very much underdeveloped. We were able to access two prior types of coverage. The first was mostly in the press in the UK, where HUTs were known as “cuckooing,” in reference to the cuckoo bird’s tendency to steal other birds’ nests, and the second was the important research carried out by Crime Prevention Ottawa (Butera, 2013). Although these sources acknowledge systemic issues that contribute to HUTs, the main thrust of their narratives is that the first place we must look to prevent takeovers is the tenants’ “inability” to protect themselves from housing predators. For example, Butera (2013) introduces the notion of a “complicit victim,” proposing that tenants who endure HUTs at the hands of their drug dealers are, to some degree, responsible for those takeovers by virtue of the choice they made to let people into their home. In this compelling narrative, as we understand it, the tenant is at the center of the problem and the solutions.

While The Dream Team Safe At Home Project recognizes the practical need to identify the tenant’s role and potentially protective responses as a part of the problem, our study revisits these assertions very critically. Safe At Home recognizes that HUTs are underpinned by a far more complex system of players. Namely, tenants, housing providers, law enforcement officials, lawmakers, policy designers and many others are all individual parts of a broken system that facilitates HUTs. We offer an alternative “axis of intervention” where HUTs are the dependent variable – at the center of the debates – and tenants, along with police, service providers and so on, all play roles as intervening variables that contribute to make HUTs possible.

We cannot stress strongly enough that focusing solely on tenant-based solutions is a distraction. Even though a tenant might make a bad decision to let a predator into their lives, we found that many tenants do not even recognize how some of their characteristics—including the aforementioned issues of addiction, isolation, and poor health—make them more vulnerable to HUTs. We question what the word responsibility means in the context of people who face a number of challenges that are not common outside of social and supportive housing, and from whose perspectives, the right kinds of supports do not exist.  

Many tenant respondents told us in surveys and interviews that they had never even thought of their experiences as takeovers, though, after participating in the research and seen in a new light, they felt they had been in takeovers before.  While many saw the obvious connection between their decisions and the takeovers they had endured, many others felt they had literally had no choices in the past, wondered what choices they had in the present. These individuals overwhelmingly expressed that they lacked the supports or were not aware of the resources that might have helped them avoid or escape a housing predator. Moreover, we have argued that by focusing on the role tenants play in facilitating predators’ behaviour, existing press coverage and research has yet to delve deeply into the varied and very problematic systemic variables that contribute to HUTs, such as decaying infrastructure, a lack of effective social supports, or legal definitions to support enforcement against predators.

By exploring the patterns and trends that tend to characterize HUTs in Toronto, Safe At Home is part of the foundation for forthcoming strategies that will reduce and prevent them. Amongst a number of important findings, in our final report, and our presentation at CAEH 2017, we discuss tenant and law enforcement perceptions of barriers to HUT interventions, key behavioural and social indicators of HUTS and potential HUTs, strategies for preventing and intervening in HUTs, a potentially useful HUT housing prevention program, and the immediate need for the formation of an interagency council devoted to dealing with HUTs.

Our findings are based on the results of 56 resident surveys, 24 resident interviews, 146 non-resident surveys, 2 staff interviews, and focus group discussions. We also conducted two roundtable discussions and an open dialogue through the City of Toronto’s Specialized Interdivisional Enhanced Response (SPIDER) program. Most importantly, however, Safe At Home prioritizes the voices of those who have lived through HUTs themselves. Thus, the findings, themes, analyses, and recommendations made here aim to bridge the classic divides between systemic actors like law enforcement officials and institutional housing providers on the one hand, and vulnerable individuals with lived experiences in these settings on the other.

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This research is part of this year's National Conference on Ending Homelessness. For program details, see conference.caeh.ca. 

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The analysis and interpretations contained in the blog posts are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness.