The built environment – the physical setting such as buildings and urban spaces in which people live, work and play – can positively or negatively affect people’s lives. This research project will examine how the built environment affects the social inclusion and well-being of people experiencing homelessness. The research will review design, architectural and building construction practices and processes. The project aims to better understand how these affect the users of transitional housing, permanent supportive housing and shelters and their unique needs.
3 Key Goals
Develop a better understanding of the unique needs and experiences of people living in various living environments, such as shelters, permanent supportive housing and transitional housing.
Identify development practices and design strategies that address the needs of people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
Share knowledge about inclusive and supportive development practices that contribute to the well-being of people experiencing homelessness.
Project scope and expected outcomes
Designing a supportive living environment
The housing crisis and the global pandemic have made millions of people more vulnerable, including those experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Existing research suggests that the well-being of these people is positively or negatively affected by the surrounding “built environment.” However, little research focuses specifically on the characteristics of living spaces and services that best meet the occupants’ needs.
This research aims to fill that knowledge gap, reviewing how to design supportive and inclusive living environments in 3 phases through 3 case studies.
The first phase focuses on understanding the experiences and needs of people with lived experience in shelters, permanent supportive housing, and transitional housing, conducted using an approach called Photovoice. This phase also reviews the effects of architectural practices on the occupants.
Data collection will take place in 4 stages.
- The first stage examines the physical characteristics of buildings including dimensions, openings and materials. It will also gather information on the functions of the various spaces.
- In the second stage, the team will observe the sites and record how occupants use them.
- The third stage will collect testimonials from people experiencing homelessness.
- During the fourth stage, the team will interview staff and social workers to understand their perceptions of the sites.
The second phase will gather feedback from architecture and development professionals who have designed projects for people experiencing homelessness. It aims to document the successes and challenges in the design process and identify development practices and key strategies that meet occupants’ needs.
The third phase aims to develop tools and knowledge transfer activities, including training and a public display. This will raise awareness about the experiences of people experiencing homelessness and share inclusive and supportive development practices and projects.
Better meet housing needs
The research findings will:
- develop guidelines for designing quality living environments for people experiencing homelessness
- make recommendations to stakeholders in the homeless community on how to better meet housing and emergency services needs
See more examples of projects funded through the National Housing Strategy Research and Planning Fund.
Activity Stream: Program of Research
Title of the Research:Inclusive planning to support people experiencing homelessness
Lead Applicant:Architecture Without Borders Quebec (AWBQ)
Project Collaborators / Partners:
- School of Social Work (UdeM)
- School of Design (UQAM)
- Centraide of Greater Montreal
- Centre de recherche en responsabilité sociale et écocitoyenneté (CERSÉ)
- Mouvement pour mettre fin à l’itinérance à Montréal (MMFIM)
- Réseau des personnes seules et itinérantes de Montréal (RAPSIM)
- Société d’habitation et de développement de Montréal (SHDM)
Get More Information:
Contact CMHC at RPF-FRP@cmhc-schl.gc.ca or visit the Research and Planning Fund webpage.
Search CMHC’s Housing Knowledge Centre for more information and updates about this research project.