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Discovering promising practices to support aging-in-the-right-place for older persons experiencing homelessness: Highlights from a regional world café
Humphries, J., Canham, S., & Mahmood, A. (2020, Spring). Discovering promising practices to support aging-in-the-right-place for older persons experiencing homelessness: Highlights from a regional world café. Simon Fraser University Gerontology Research Centre. https://www.sfu.ca/content/dam/sfu/grc/stories/grc-news/GRC-News-Spring-2020
Featured in the Simon Fraser University Gerontology Research Centre Spring 2020 Newsletter. Read the full issue here.
The numbers of older adults experiencing homeless is on the rise in Canada, yet housing options that support the varied and often complex needs of this population are scarce.
The numbers of older adults experiencing homeless is on the rise in Canada (Gaetz, Dej, & Richter, 2016), yet housing options that support the varied and often complex needs of this population are scarce (Serge & Gnaedinger, 2003). To address this important gap, Drs. Sarah Canham and Atiya Mahmood have teamed up with researchers at the University of Calgary, McGill University, and Université du Québec à Montréal and secured Phase 1 funding for a Partnership Development Grant to build inter- and intra-city capacity between the housing and health sectors in Montreal, Calgary, and Vancouver. With a team of 8 co-applicants, over 25 community partners, and persons with lived experience of homelessness across three cities, the aim is to learn from each context in order to identify, evaluate, and scale up promising practice models that prevent and address later-life homelessness.
This one-year grant, funded through a joint initiative of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), responds to a call from Canada’s National Housing Strategy [https://www.placetocallhome.ca/] to better meet the housing needs of all Canadians. One key priority of the National Housing Strategy is housing for those in greatest need, which includes older persons experiencing homelessness.
Project tasks include an environmental scan of existing promising practice housing models that support aging-in-the-right-place for older persons with lived experience of homelessness (PWLEs) in Montreal, Calgary, and Vancouver, as well as a scoping review of the literature on supportive housing practices for older PWLEs. Additionally, a World Café is being conducted in each city to bring together shelter/housing, service, and health providers with older PWLEs to have discussions about promising practices that have been identified through the environmental scan.
A World Café is a participatory research method that brings together a group of people in an informal, café-like setting to have an open and creative conversation, to share collective knowledge, ideas, and insights, and to gain a deeper understanding of the subject and the issues involved (Brown, Homer, & Isaacs, 2009). The Vancouver-based World Café was held on June 6, 2019 at the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society. Using structured, casual conversation, participants engaged in discussions on promising practices that support aging-in-the-right-place for older PWLEs in Metro Vancouver. Participants first ‘discovered’ what currently exists, then ‘dreamed’ about what could exist, and then brainstormed on how to ‘design’ solutions and ensure that these become ‘destiny’. Thirty-six participants attended the 3-hour workshop – 18 providers and 18 older pwles.
Workshop participants built upon and critiqued the promising practices identified in the preliminary environmental scan and highlighted other promising practices not yet identified. pwle perspectives were critical to these discussions as they spoke to the experience of being a program participant or living in the housing models that were the topics of discussion. Bringing together providers and pwles widened the breadth of insights and enhanced the opportunity for collaboration and networking. Based on evaluations of the workshop, participants’ feedback was positive. One attendee reported, “I loved the fact that people are wanting to make a difference in helping, or ideas that can be useful.” Another participant commented, “There are a lot of people that have had similar situations and are dealing with same problems. If we work together we can change the way homelessness is perceived and make positive changes.”
Two additional World Cafés are scheduled for this Fall – one in Montreal and one in Calgary – and we look forward to coming together as a team this November in Edmonton at the Canadian Association to End Homelessness Conference. To follow along with project progress or for a copy of the most recent project newsletter, please contact the Vancouver Research Assistant Joe Humphries, at firstname.lastname@example.org.