Perspectives of homeless people on their housing needs and approaches to ensure success
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.