Leading researchers in homelessness to discuss new approaches

headshots of Stephen Gaetz, Paula Goering and Valerie Tarasuk

What’s new in homelessness research and how can that research be used to inform and support decisions that contribute to solutions? Three experts will come together to discuss what’s next at the City Seminar on Homelessness Research this week.

“This is an important event, and people will have the opportunity to listen to amazing speakers – the top in their field,” saysheadshot of Stephen GaetzStephen Gaetz, director of the Canadian Homelessness Research Network and associate dean of research and professional development in York’s Faculty of Education.

Stephen Gaetz

The seminar will take place Friday, Jan. 11, from 12:30 to 3pm, at 140 Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies Building, Keele campus. Everyone is welcome to attend the event, presented by the Canadian Homelessness Research Network and the City Institute at York.

“What is great is that these are some of the leading researchers in Canada who are focused on how we respond to homelessness, and how we identify new practices and approaches to adopt and implement,” says Gaetz. “The great thing is that we have a good idea of what that looks like, we have ideas and we’re offering solutions. I hope people come away with the idea that we can do things differently. We have to do things differently.”

In his talk, Gaetz will look at transitions from youth homelessness and what the Foyer model – an innovative transitional housing model that is highly successful in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States – offers Canada and how it can be adapted. “In thinking about effective responses to youth homelessness, there are broad concerns about how to provide appropriate accommodation, supports, income and educational opportunities,” he says.

He will also explore how the Foyer model can be updated based on emerging knowledge about housing, including what has been learned through the Housing First approach, which provides homeless people with housing first, followed by other needed headshot of Paula Goeringservices, to ending homelessness and new ways of thinking about transitional housing. Gaetz believes the Foyer model has the potential to become a highly effective housing model that could significantly impact both short-term and long-term outcomes for youth.

Paula Goering

At the seminar, Professor of Psychiatry Paula Goering of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine and cross-appointed to the Faculty of Nursing, Institute of Medical Science and the Department of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation will discuss the early outcome findings of At Home/Chez Soi – the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s $110-millon research demonstration project. Funded by Health Canada, it provides housing and supports to people who are homeless and living with serious mental health issues, based on the Housing First approach.

Goering, who is also an affiliate scientist at the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health, is the research lead for At Home/Chez Soi, which has been implemented in five cities across Canada – Moncton, N.B., Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver.

Recent evidence based on one-year outcomes of 2,149 participants show that Housing First improves the lives of those who are homeless and have a mental illness, and makes better use of public dollars, especially for high-service users.

Professor Valerie Tarasuk of the Department of Nutritional Sciences and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, the event’s third speaker, will focus on food insecurity and community responses to it and problems of headshot of Valerie Tarasukhunger. “Problems of hunger and food insecurity are integral to homelessness, but these problems are also common among individuals and families with insufficient income to maintain housing and meet other basic needs,” says Tarasuk.

Valerie Tarasuk

In most communities, the only resources available to people unable to meet their food needs independently are food banks and meal programs, she says. “Our recent inventory of charitable food provisioning in Victoria, Edmonton, Toronto, Quebec City and Halifax highlights the massive, ever-expanding nature of these efforts, but it also reveals their limited capacity to respond effectively to problems of unmet food need.”

Tarasuk will look at some of the key barriers and opportunities for a more effective community-based system of food supports. She currently leads a large, interdisciplinary program of research designed to identify effective policy interventions for the reduction of household food insecurity across the country. In addition, she has examined meal services in Salvation Army shelters and analyzed population survey data to elucidate the health, nutritional and socio-demographic correlates of household food insecurity.

For more information, visit the City Institute at York University website or The Homeless Hub.