Learn more about low-barrier drop-in programs designed for women and gender-diverse participants. The "This is Not Home" project has uncovered insights through studying the models, practices and effects of these programs. These findings pave the way for proposing effective strategies to meet the housing and other complex needs of women and gender-diverse people. The findings highlight recommended solutions to address the challenges faced by cisgender, transgender and gender-diverse individuals who experience higher rates of homelessness and barriers to accessing services.
3 Key Findings
Gender-specific low-barrier drop-in programs help reduce isolation, promote social inclusion and community and offer essentials like food, showers, laundry and Wi-Fi. From March to August 2020, 6 drop-in organizations recorded 32,600 visits and provided more than 100,000 meals and 7,000 snacks.
Most of those surveyed identified as living with some sort of disability, having survived abuse and trauma and having experienced homelessness. Indigenous respondents were overrepresented.
Due to COVID-19, drop-in sites experienced increased demand for their services. Half of the participants reported experiencing mental health symptoms and more than two-thirds had feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Project scope and expected outcomes
Safe homes for women and gender-diverse people
This project documented the experiences of women and gender-diverse people who use low-barrier drop-in programs, the role played by these programs and how they offer accessible services. Since the project happened during COVID-19, it highlighted the effect of the pandemic on these programs, staff and participants.
The project had 6 objectives:
- Foster collaboration among drop-ins, people facing homelessness, researchers and sector experts.
- Document what makes low-barrier drop-ins accessible.
- Trace housing and homelessness paths and explore approaches to resolving issues.
- Understand the barriers participants face and how drop-ins support housing stability.
- Develop tools, programs and policies that improve access to housing and supports.
- Share the findings with housing and homeless sector providers and housing policymakers.
Guiding principles for ensuring the right to housing
The project formulated recommendations to safeguard the right to housing for women and gender-diverse people. In terms of organizational policy and practices, the research team’s advice includes:
- Improve accessibility: Enhance the accessibility of services, shelters, and housing programs.
- Flexible requirements: Minimize common requirements such as curfews and fixed entrance times.
- Rights-respecting approaches: Advocate for approaches that respect people's rights and avoid treating them as problems.
- Community-focused initiatives: Foster inclusion, safety and community within organizational practices.
Policy Recommendations for local and provincial governments
The project offers advice for policy change, urging local and provincial governments to consider the following initiatives:
- Funding initiatives: Allocate resources for low-barrier, gender-focused housing, shelters and services.
- Social assistance rates: Increase social assistance rates and enhance access to disability support.
- Tenant support enhancement: Improve tenant supports to ensure greater housing stability.
- Inclusive decision-making: Include the perspectives of women and gender-diverse people in policy decisions.
- Shelter hotel programs: Expand shelter hotel programs, incorporating supports such as harm reduction and meal programs.
Recommendations for the federal government and the National Housing Strategy
The project proposes specific recommendations for the federal government and the National Housing Strategy, advocating for:
- Ending homelessness: Commit to ending homelessness by 2030 and align programs accordingly.
- Gender-based data collection: Collect and track gender-based data to assess National Housing Strategy outcomes.
- Leadership role: Take a leadership role with provinces, territories and municipalities in the collective effort to end homelessness.
- Rapid Housing Initiative: Expand the Rapid Housing Initiative to accelerate housing solutions.
- Supporting transition: Support the ability of low-barrier, gender-focused organizations to transition from homelessness services to providing housing.
Making safe, dignified housing a reality
The project produced:
- a report
- a self-guided training resource for service providers and policymakers
- a set of infographics
- “Fast Facts” sheets
Research products were shared online, through press releases and at conferences.
This research is a stepping-stone to the next stage at the same 6 research sites. “Creating Home Together” will work to create housing that realizes the vision of safe and dignified homes for all women and gender-diverse people.
Activity Stream: Research Project
Title of the Research: This is Not Home: Learning from low-barrier drop-ins serving women and gender-diverse persons
Lead Applicant: Sistering – A Woman’s Place
Project Collaborators / Partners:
- My Sister’s Place
- Willow’s Place
- A Safe Place
- West-Central Women’s Resource Centre
- Downtown East Side Women’s Centre
- The Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre
- Mission Services
- Canadian Mental Health Association Middlesex
Get More Information: