Trauma Informed Care

Trauma Informed Care

Traditionally, responses to homelessness in Canada have placed a great deal of emphasis on emergency services, such as shelters and temporary housing. However, since the challenges that many people experiencing homelessness face are complex, the need for different approaches to address their needs have become more evident. One example of this includes the integration of trauma informed care (TIC) practices into service delivery and housing programs.

Trauma informed care is an approach that embraces an understanding of trauma at every step of service delivery. Research has found that temporary housing is not effective in addressing the needs of trauma survivors. Rather, individuals who have been through traumatic experiences need programs that can directly address their needs. Housing alone cannot be the sole solution in these instances, although ensuring that individuals have permanent, supportive housing is a crucial step. 

In addition to providing permanent supportive housing for trauma survivors, individuals with serious mental illnesses (SMI) need programs that directly address their mental health needs. One suggestion involves the developmental assessment of children, and mental health assessments for all members of families. Mental health services that address the needs of both mothers and their children are a recommendation for trauma informed care approaches. As research has indicated the experiences of trauma in early childhood are different from trauma experienced later on in life, trauma informed care takes into account the necessity of age-appropriate service delivery. For mothers, these services may include dealing with major depression and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). For children, services should include therapy or supportive services to address their learning and emotional needs, a safe and supportive environment, and the presence of continuous and nurturing caregivers.

Furthermore, case management should address both individual, short-term needs along with the long-term needs of clients. Some examples of short term needs include: income, education, and employment, whereas long-term needs may involve addressing histories of trauma, health/ mental health, and emotional difficulties.

It has also been suggested that organizations make a number of changes to their overall service delivery structure, in order to incorporate a Trauma Informed Care approach. Organizations should include written statements and policy implementation that express their commitment to delivering Trauma Informed Care, such as:

Overall, housing that quickly stabilizes families while also ensuring that the individual needs of those accessing serviceshave better outcomes for the long-term stability of families; that includes taking the affordability of the placement into consideration.