Factors Contributing to Becoming Housed for Women Who Have Experienced Homelessness
Nemiroff, Rebecca, Aubry, Tim, Klodawsky, Fran, Canadian Journal of Urban Research
This longitudinal study examined physical integration, defined as becoming rehoused, of women who were homeless at the study's outset. Participants (N = 101) were recruited at homeless shelters in Ottawa and participated in two in-person interviews, approximately two years apart. A predictive model identifying factors associated with becoming rehoused and achieving housing stability was developed from previous empirical research and tested. Being accompanied by dependent children and having access to subsidized housing predicted being re-housed at follow-up. This research represents the first longitudinal study examining exits from homelessness in a sample of Canadian women. The findings suggest that providing financial resources is essential to helping women who have experienced homelessness to become physically integrated in their communities. In addition, it is suggested women who are unaccompanied by children would benefit from more intensive services.
Keywords: homelessness, housing, community integration, women
Cette etude longitudinale a examine l'integration physique dans la communaute, un concept qui fait reference au relogement des femmes qui etaient sans-abri au moment de commencer l'etude. Les participants (N= 101) ont ete recrutes dans les refuges pour sans-abri a Ottawa et ont participe a deux entrevues a deux, a environ deux ans d'intervalle. Un modele predictif identifiant des facteurs associes au processus de relogement et a la realisation de la stabilite du logement a ete elabore a partir de recherches empiriques anterieures; le modele a aussi ete teste. Etre accompagne par des enfants a charge et avoir acces a un logement subventionne prevoyait le relogement au moment du suivi. Cette recherche constitue la premiere etude longitudinale examinant les issues de l'itinerance, au sein d'un un echantillon de femmes canadiennes. Les resultats suggerent que de fournir des ressources financieres est indispensable pour permettre aux femmes qui ont vecu l'itinerance a devenir physiquement integrees dans leurs communautes. En outre, il apparait que des femmes qui ne sont pas accompagnees d'enfants pourraient beneficier de services plus intensifs.
Mots cles: itinerance, logement, integration communautaire, femmes
Homelessness is a growing problem in Canada, and one that is garnering increasing attention in both the research literature and public consciousness (Gaetz, 2010; Hulchanski, Campinski, Chau, Hwang and Paradis, 2009). Recently, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing described the situation in Canada as a "national crisis" and noted that women are among those who are particularly vulnerable to difficulties associated with inadequate housing (United Nations, 2007).
People who are homeless may be disaffiliated from the mainstream of society and often face barriers to becoming reintegrated in their communities. Clapham (2003) points out the importance of housing in allowing the normal activities of living, for example work and family life, to occur. Breese and Feltey (1996) argue that becoming homeless means the loss not only of housing, but also of the role of housed citizen and fully-functioning member of society.
This study examined predictors of becoming housed for women who have experienced homelessness from the perspective of community integration. Research to date investigating successful exits from homelessness leading to physical integration in the community have been conducted exclusively in the United States, with much of it conducted in the 1990s. The objective of the present study was to examine which factors contributed to women leaving homelessness in a Canadian context in the 2000s.
Homeless Women and Families
Homeless women, whether alone or with children, face a diverse set of challenges, including physical illness, low levels of education, unemployment, victimization, (Buckner, Bassuk and Zima, 1993; Fisher, Hovell, Hofstetter and Hough, 1995) and, frequently, histories of family disruption and violence in childhood (Farrell, Aubry, Klodawsky, Jewett and Petty, 2000; Shinn, Knickman and Weitzman 1991; Shinn et al., 1998). Women who are homeless report higher levels of psychological distress and mental health problems than homeless men (Roll, Toro and Ortola, 1999). Women who are unaccompanied by children are more likely than women with dependent children, but less likely than single men, to report substance abuse difficulties (Farrell et al.; Roll et al.; Zlomick, Robertson and Lahiff, 1999). Homeless women report higher levels of social support than do homeless men (Farrell et al.), but may also have less work experience and fewer work skills (Roll et al.). Women with dependent children appear to experience the fastest and most stable exits from homelessness. In contrast, women who are unaccompanied by children, while more likely than men to exit homelessness, are also more likely to experience repeated episodes of homelessness (Piliavin, Wright, Mare and Westerfield, 1996; Zlomick, Robertson and Lahiff).
Social Role Valorization theory (SRV) focuses on the importance of social roles to community integration. According to SRV, those who hold valued social roles are more likely than those who do not to get "the good things in life," including access to material goods, needed services, and decent housing, as well as respect, acceptance, positive relationships, and integration into valued activities and social functions. Those who hold devalued roles are likely to receive the opposite: poorer quality food, housing, clothing, education, and health care, work others do not want, violence and brutality, scapegoating, rejection, separation, segregation, and exclusion (Thomas and Wolfensberger 1999).
Although SRV theory was developed to conceptualize community integration of people with developmental disabilities, it can be easily applied to people who are homeless. Homeless individuals are placed in roles devalued by society; they have fewer opportunities and less access to material goods than most people, and are frequently victimized. Being cast in devalued roles limits homeless people's access to valued roles, such as that of a worker, parent, or competent person. Thus, they often remain in devalued roles, which, in turn, reinforces the low value society ascribes them. Individuals may begin to identify with these negative roles, thus becoming further entrenched in the culture of homelessness and devaluing themselves (Farrington and Robinson 1999, Grigsby Baumann, Gregorich and Roberts-Gray 1990, Snow and Anderson 1987).
Several facets of community integration have been identified in the literature. Aubry and Myner (1996) identified three facets of community integration. Social integration includes normative interactions with community members, and the size, diversity, and support provided by individuals' social networks. Psychological integration is a sense of belonging in the community. Aubry and Myner (1996) defined physical integration as participation in the community outside the home. For people who are homeless, physical integration may be defined as being stably housed: to become present in the community is not to become fully integrated, but it is difficult to become re-integrated until a physical presence has been established among the housed population. Storey (1989, cited in Flynn and Aubry, 1999) argued that for individuals with disabilities, physical integration is the "necessary first step for other forms of integration" (p. 276).
Little previous research has examined becoming re-housed following homelessness from the perspective of community integration. No empirical studies were found examining the community integration of a non-clinical sample of people who have experienced homelessness; however, one research group has investigated the community integration of people with severe mental illness who have experienced homelessness. These authors found that having more choice in housing and living in scattered, independent housing, rather than institutional settings, were associated with higher levels of both social and psychological integration (Gulcur, Tsemberis, Stefancic and Greenwood, 2007). Participants reported that being housed was a normalizing experience; they described feeling "normal" and "part of society" as a result of being housed (Yanos, Barrow and Tsemberis 2004).
Becoming housed may be the first step toward becoming integrated in the community. Guest and Stamm (1993) found that finding housing and work were the first priorities of individuals moving to a new city. It is also important that housing be stable in order for individuals to become truly integrated in the …
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Publication information: Article title: Factors Contributing to Becoming Housed for Women Who Have Experienced Homelessness. Contributors: Nemiroff, Rebecca - Author, Aubry, Tim - Author, Klodawsky, Fran - Author. Journal title: Canadian Journal of Urban Research. Volume: 19. Issue: 2 Publication date: Winter 2010. Page number: 23+. © 2000 Institute of Urban Studies. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.
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