Homelessness symposium examines what works, what doesn’t

York will host Without a Home, a research symposium on contemporary issues in Canadian homelessness, that will bring together top academics next week to discuss some of the latest findings.

The symposium will take place Thursday, Oct. 6, from 8:30am to 12:30pm, at 280N York Lanes, Keele campus, followed by lunch from 12:30 to 2pm.

Cheryl Forchuk The presenters will also discuss the “so-whatness” or policy implications of their research.

“Service Preferences of Homeless Youth: Housing First, Treatment First or Both Together?” will be discussed by Cheryl Forchuk (right), acting associate director of nursing research at the University of Western Ontario. Housing-first initiatives focus on interventions designed to move individuals to appropriate and available housing, and ongoing housing supports. It has been found to produce good outcomes for homeless adults with mental illness but has not been specifically tested for youth. With the treatment-first initiative, the individual is not housed until psychiatrically stable.

Forchuk will look at a current study that examined three approaches to service for homeless youth – housing first, treatment first for mental health and addictions, and Jino Distasiosimultaneous attention to both housing and treatment. Youth were given the opportunity to choose which service method they preferred.

Jino Distasio (left), director of the Institute of Urban Studies at the University of Winnipeg, will discuss “Homelessness and Mental Health: Winnipeg’s Approach to Building Capacity and Housing Those in Need”. Distasio’s presentation will provide an overview of a massive five-city study by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, that examined the effectiveness of a housing-first intervention in the Canadian context. Distasio will focus on the Stephen Hwang unique aspects of the Winnipeg approach, which has been built on the strengths of the local Aboriginal community.

Stephen Hwang (right), of St. Michael’s Hospital and a professor at the University of Toronto, will talk about “Health Care Utilization Among People Who Are Homeless”. He will discuss research that measured health care utilization rates among homeless adults in a large Canadian urban centre and compared observed utilization rates to matched controls from the general population. Most of the research on this topic has been conducted in the United States.

Tim AubryUniversity of Ottawa psychology ProfessorTim Aubry (left) will discuss “Lesson Learned from the Implementation of Housing First in a Small Canadian City”. His talk will focus on the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s housing-first studyand the results of the housing-first approach in Moncton, NB.

A key feature of the Canadian response to homelessness is the use of law enforcement to manage its visibility. Stephen Gaetz‘s research presentation, “Can I See Your ID? Policing and the Criminalization of Youth Homelessness in Toronto”, will focus on the interactions that Toronto street youth have with members of the Toronto Police Service. Gaetz, a professor in York’s Faculty of Education and associate dean of research & field development for the homeless hub, will discuss his research Stephen Gaetzwith Bill O’Gradyof the University of Guelph.

Right: Stephen Gaetz

Their research has found that youth who use drop-ins and emergency housing services regularly have encounters with the police. For youth who are severely marginalized, many of these encounters take place because of their public drinking and illegal substance use. But for other homeless youth not involved in crime or illegal drug use, they, too, are under close police surveillance and contact. The presentation will conclude with a discussion on the implications of social profiling and the criminalizing of youth homelessness.

The symposium is presented by the Canadian Homelessness Research Network and the homeless hub. For more information, visit the homeless hub Without a Home symposium web page.

Space is limited. To guarantee a spot, RSVP to Susan Atkinson at satkinson@edu.yorku.ca or ext. 30208. The symposium will also be presented as a webinar. To register for the webinar, click here.