Identifying shelter and housing models for older people experiencing homelessness

July 26, 2021

Canham, S.L., Walsh, C.A., Sussman, T., Humphries, J., Nixon, L., & Burns, V.F. (2022). Identifying shelter and housing models for older people experiencing homelessness. Journal of Aging and Environment, 36(2), 204-255doi:10.1080/26892618.2021.1955806


Full Article

Limited research has identified the types of shelter/housing and supports for the growing population of older people experiencing homelessness (OPEH) and the extent to which existing models align with their needs. To redress this gap, we conducted an environmental scan and three World Café workshops to identify and characterize shelter/housing models for OPEH in Montreal, Calgary, and Vancouver (Canada). Fifty-two models were identified and categorized into six shelter/housing types based on the program length of stay and level of health and social supports provided onsite: (1) Emergency, transitional, or temporary shelter/housing with supports; (2) Independent housing with offsite community-based supports; (3) Supported independent housing with onsite, non-medical supports; (4) Permanent supportive housing with onsite medical support and/or specialized services; (5) Long-term care for individuals with complex health needs and; (6) Palliative care/hospice, offering end-of-life services. Models that met the unique needs of OPEH had coordinated supports, social and recreational programming, assistance with daily tasks, and had a person-centered, harm-reduction approach to care. This typology of shelter/housing models offers a basis from which local and regional governments can audit their existing shelter/housing options and determine where there may be gaps in supporting OPEH.