“Take the Story, Take the Needs, and DO Something”: Grassroots Women’s Priorities for Community-Based Participatory Research and Action on Homelessness
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The Women, Homelessness and Community-Based Participatory Research project grew out of a sense that while many CBPR projects addressing women and homelessness existed in communities across the country, information about these activities was not widely known. Hence one of the goals of the project was to create an inventory of such projects as a first step in knowledge exchange and potential networking among project actors. Beyond the creation of an inventory, a second goal was to bring together women who had participated in these projects, in order to deepen the exchange of knowledge and to open the door to future collaborations among such projects across geographic divides. We envisioned knowledge exchange to include not only information about the projects in which they were involved – for example, the findings of their projects and the obstacles and enablers to translating findings into policies and practices responsive to local needs – but also a reflective evaluation of CBPR processes themselves. We were especially interested in bringing together women with lived experiences of homelessness who had participated as peer researchers or in other roles. We saw this as critical both because CBPR processes are rarely evaluated from the perspective of participants with lived experience and because of our shared commitment to ensuring that the expertise of women with lived experience is recognized and valued in crafting research, policies and practices to create safe, affordable, accessible and secure housing for women in Canada. The project was timed to correspond with a groundbreaking conference on women and homelessness in Canada, All Our Sisters National Forum on Housing and Safe Communities for Women, held in London, Ontario, May 9-12, 2011. Importantly, the Conference vision was to build and sustain a national network to improve women’s access to safe, secure and affordable housing. Its organizers understood that the realization of this vision required the bringing together of service providers, community members, policy makers, government officials, academics, and change agents, with significant representation throughout of women with lived experience of homelessness. We saw the conference as an incredible opportunity for women with lived experience of homelessness who had participated in CBPR projects to not only share their knowledge and expertise with each other, but to collectively address the researchers, service providers and policy makers in attendance at the Conference. As our project developed we maintained regular contact with the organizers of the Conference, who were wonderfully supportive of our initiative.
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