Completed Research

Expiry of Operating Agreements: Study of an Emerging Social Housing Issue in Ontario

The study was conducted in the winter and spring of 2016. It aims to understand the nature and scope of the issues relating to the expiry of operating agreements, including the origin, context and precipitating factors, potential and actual consequences, challenges, and short-term and long-term solutions to reduce or mitigate the effects of the expiry of operating agreements. The study generated information leading to a better understanding about the political, financial, regulatory/legal, organizational, social and community dimensions of the issue. The study provides information about the needs and responses of housing service providers regarding the ongoing and emerging need for subsidized housing in the community.

Homelessness and Food Insecurity: An Exploratory Study in an Urban Community of Northern Ontario.

Researchers with Poverty, Homelessness and Migration conducted a project about food insecurity, food deprivation and hunger faced by absolutely homeless individuals and those who are at-risk of homelessness (e.g., pending eviction) in the City of Greater Sudbury. This study sought to understand the nature of food insecurity/deprivation and hunger experienced by homeless or near homeless individuals. We also explored circumstances or factors contributing to food insecurity, responses of the homeless persons and broader community in meeting the food needs of the former, and potential solutions to reduce and eliminate food insecurity and hunger faced by this vulnerable population. The study generated information leading to a better understanding about the basic human rights to necessities of life.

Period Prevalence Count of Homelessness in Sudbury

In collaboration with the City of Greater Sudbury, researchers from Laurentian University conducted a study on homelessness in Sudbury and outlying areas Wednesday, 28 January 2015 to Tuesday, 3 February 2015. The objective of the project was to collect information about homeless and near homeless individuals who are accessing services in the City of Greater Sudbury. The results will be used for service planning for the next 5 years. The study will also enable the community to gain a better understanding of the issues related to forms of homelessness including absolute and at-risk individuals, periodic and episodic homelessness. The results of the study are available to local agencies, local government, and the general public through a report that will be presented in a community forum.

We used the same data collection tool that we had used in prior research in Sudbury for 9 period prevalence studies as well as the studies we conducted in Timmins and Hearst (2011), North Bay and Moosonee (2012) and Cochrane (2013).

Click here to view the report. This report is available in English only.

Interprofessional Student-Led Clinic

A student-led clinic (SLC) is a mode of healthcare delivery in which students plan and carry out health services under the direct supervision of licensed practitioners. Various other disciplines within have utilized this model to offer services while also providing students with learning opportunities—these include law, pharmacy, nursing, dentistry and physiotherapy. Survey results on 111 student-run medical clinics in the USA showed that most students were motivated by a desire to serve poor people, to spend time with patients, and to learn clinical skills. SLCs in Canada often operate in a manner that embodies values such as health equity, student leadership and inter-professionalism (IP). The incorporation of the IP approach is beneficial in that student learning can be multi-directional such that students benefit from others at different stages of learning, from varied disciplines, from licensed professionals and from the people who access services.

Students in the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, on the East and West campuses, initiated projects to examine the feasibility of establishing inter-professional clinics. The project in Sudbury was conducted in collaboration with the Centre for Research in Social Justice and Policy. It focused on an identified a gap in health services for poor and homeless people in the downtown core. A needs assessment was initiated in 2014 to examine stakeholder perspectives related to a proposed inter-professional clinic serving poor and homeless people in downtown Sudbury. The needs assessment project involved the completion of 64 individual interviews with consumers (n=26), students (n=14), agency staff (n=10), educators (n=9) and potential host agencies (n=5).

Perceptions of Former Borgia Street Residents

Researchers with Laurentian University studied the views of former Borgia Street residents. The emphasis was on understanding the views and experiences of former residents of the area that was demolished in the 1970s. In particular, we were interested in understanding issues related to poverty, homelessness and migration. The study was intended to provide information leading to the development of programs, policies and changes that will support poor and homeless people more effectively.

Understanding and addressing family homelessness in a northern community-Timmins

Carol Kauppi, Henri Pallard, Arshi Shaikh, Emily Faries, Brian MacLean, Jorge Virchez, Marie-Luce Garceau, and Suzanne Lemieux, Laurentian University of Sudbury, 2014.

Carol Kauppi et al. examined the causes of family homelessness in a smaller urban centre (Timmins, Ontario) and assessed the capacity of these communities to meet the unique needs of this population, particularly with respect to children. Many community partners expressed concerns about the rising trend of family homelessness in smaller urban centres affected by specific economic challenges and identified a need for in-depth research in this area. The report fills a research gap by making use of a particular case study, the City of Timmins, for which there already exists a database of family homeless counts.
Show table of contents
What was involved in this study?

To achieve its objectives, the report
  • Reviewed relevant literature to provide context for the findings and to establish benchmarks by which to measure best practices.
  • Analyzed a database containing information on homeless persons to identify the incidence and characteristics of family homelessness in northeastern Ontario, and in particular, Timmins, Ontario.
  • Surveyed service providers to determine the existing services offered to homeless persons with children, the capacity of the current service system, and the gaps in the services.
  • Interviewed 30 affected parents, including 18 Aboriginal, six Anglophone and five Francophone participants, to determine the factors leading to family homelessness.
  • Conducted focus groups with parents and service providers to identify possible solutions.
What are the key findings?

The research found that:

  • Families with dependent children constituted two-thirds of homeless persons in Timmins.
  • Women made up 81% of homeless parents or guardians, while Aboriginal parents or guardians were overrepresented at 36%, despite comprising only 7.7% of the total population of Timmins (2006 census).
  • Structural factors, such as unemployment, low wages and lack of affordable and appropriate housing, are the major reasons for homelessness or near homelessness. This reflects the boom-and-bust business cycle in Timmins, which is primarily influenced by the mining industry that is susceptible to uncertainty regarding the demand for metals. Other reasons include racism, domestic violence, and drug abuse.
  • Homelessness has an adverse impact on both parents/guardians and children who report experiencing negative effects on their mental and physical well-being.
How can family homelessness be addressed?

The authors make several recommendations to address family homelessness in the community of Timmins, Ontario, a smaller urban centre. This includes:

  • Enhancing services and developing strategies specific to families in the areas of housing supports, employment, education, addictions, domestic violence, mental and physical health, and basic necessities, which are important in preventing and reducing homelessness.
  • Training agency staff on issues related to homeless parents, such as their needs and sensitivities.
  • Working directly with Aboriginal communities to develop culturally appropriate services and to address some sensitivities surrounding family homelessness.
  • Creating additional safe and affordable public and private sector housing, as well as providing resources for shelters to serve homeless families in the short-term.



Presentation summary
Experiences of trauma amongst homeless people often differ from the general population in terms of the types, severity, number and cumulative effects. Yet there has been limited research on this issue that has involved homeless or formerly homeless people living in the northern, rural or remote communities of Ontario. Moreover, engaging in art or craftwork has been well documented as a successful form of expression and method of communication when used by traumatized individuals or those with mental health issues; yet there has been little published work examining art as a healing tool for homeless or formerly homeless persons. This study used a narrative approach with two formerly homeless men, enabling them to tell their narratives of trauma and to describe and illustrate the art-based approaches which they have used in coping with traumatic experiences. The participants’ narratives demonstrated resiliency and revealed the varied forms of art and craftwork that were effective as methods of healing. Their descriptions of traumatic experiences while they were homelessness, combined with explanations of their exposure to arts and crafts, also revealed individual and cultural influences on their artistic work. The study describes the benefits of engagement with art and craftwork by the participants. Increased awareness about art-based healing methods is useful to formerly homeless people exposed to traumatic events and can assist communities to improve programs and services in response to disclosures of emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual suffering.

Service in the Military and Housing/Homelessness

Purpose of the study: This study aimed to understand the experiences of people who have served in the military and the nature and reasons for housing issues and homelessness among this group. The study also focused on the service use, needs and barriers for military service person(s) living with issues relating to this project. The aim of this study is to provide information that will support military service person(s) living with housing challenges more effectively and develop solutions to prevent and reduce housing challenges .

Community Survey—Cochrane, July-August, 2013

A door-to-door survey was conducted to determine how many people were experiencing poverty or were at risk of becoming homeless. The study’s results were presented to the community. Community members participated in drafting recommendations for future action.

Click here to view the report. This report is available in English only.

A Supportive Housing Complex for Older Adults in Iroquois Falls

Researchers at Laurentian University studied a’ supportive housing model for older adults in Iroquois Falls by reviewing the processes involved in the conceptualization and actualization of the housing complex. They measured the benefits of the supportive housing arrangement on the residents and community. The researchers were particularly interested in exploring the collaborative processes, including legal and regulatory frameworks, involved in establishing a community-driven housing complex with integrated home care, health care and social services for older adults. The findings of the study are useful in informing ongoing community impact assessments and a development of similar supportive housing complexes for special-need populations in other communities.

Women’s and Men’s Narratives, 2012 to 2015

The national crisis of homelessness in Canada has been studied extensively from a positivist perspective with notably fewer constructivist approaches. Studies have primarily sampled visibly homeless youth and men in capital cities most often situated in the south resulting in definitions based largely on male experiences. The prevalence, risk factors, and health consequences are known yet statistics have failed to capture the significant aspects of hidden homelessness among northerners. Despite the expected national growth in homeless among older adults and vast northern Canadian landscape, the experiences of older women and men in a northern context have been largely neglected. Understanding of their experiences is needed to illuminate the intersections of age, gender and northern place and to convey their meanings of home, homelessness, life problems, and health.

The purpose of this study was to understand the stories of older women living in hidden homelessness in a northern Ontario population centre. Their stories uncover the intersections of age, gender, and northern place. In addition, they express varied definitions and meanings of home, being homeless, life problems, and health. This knowledge adds to the dearth of available evidence and address significant gaps in the literature.

A post-colonial feminist lens and narrative inquiry were selected as culturally appropriate and congruent with storytelling and the research purpose. Participants were women and men, at least 50 years of age, who have experienced hidden homelessness and live in the near-northern urban setting selected. Up to five serial interviews were conducted with each participant in a mutually decided place that is considered safe, private and comfortable. Individual, face-to-face, unstructured, digitally recorded interviews were used to encourage storytelling. The researcher maintained field notes of observations, memos, and reflexive journals. Qualitative data analysis included the feminist relational approach of focusing on the voice of the participant and the dynamic process of thematic narrative analysis which is based on a strong social constructivist epistemology. A codebook based on the key concepts of gender, northern context, home, homelessness, life problems and health were constructed during the initial analysis and expanded to include those meanings that emerge specific to each story. Findings can inform future research, direct lay and multi-disciplinary practice, and potentially inform policy decisions.

Video Screening

A documentary film exposes the reality of homelessness and living circumstances of poverty

These presentations feature free screenings of The Will to Live and Cree Narratives: a documentary video and several short films. The half-hour documentary explores the life of George Stephen who struggled with homelessness for 20 years. The short digital stories were made by Cree people living in Sudbury and Moosonee, Ontario who share their life experiences. These stories address the complexity of struggles with homelessness and poverty amongst Cree people in northern Ontario.

Documentary Film

Through the lens of Wayne Neegan, we are introduced to George Stephen, a Cree man from the James Bay who lived homeless for over twenty years. George’s story reveals the complex issues surrounding poverty, homelessness and migration and sheds light on how these problems are compounded by Canada’s lingering colonial history. By sharing his remarkable story of resilience and transformation, George shows how his will to live allows him to change his life circumstances and to help others on the street.

Community Survey—Moosonee, July-August, 2012

A door-to-door survey was conducted to determine how many people were experiencing poverty or were at risk of becoming homeless. The study’s results were presented to the community. Community members participated in drafting recommendations for future action.

Social Inclusion Project

This project examines the relationship between poverty and social inclusion. Social inclusion involves the participation of marginalized groups, such as psychiatric survivors, in the social and economic benefits of society. The Social Inclusion study was conducted by a team of researchers from the community at Laurentian University in collaboration with Lawson Health Research Institute at Western University. The purpose of the study was to understand the inter-relationships between poverty and social inclusion for people who have experienced forms of mental illness. Approximately 100 people in northern Ontario with experiences of poverty, homelessness and mental illness participated. People were contacted after 1,2, and 3 years for repeat interviews.

Flood Mitigation Policy

Floods are the most frequent natural hazards in Canada; they are extremely costly in terms of property damage and have adverse social and health impacts on affected people. In Canada, the issue is particularly severe among many First Nations which face annual flooding and evacuations due to the geographic location of their communities. In addition to psychological and financial costs associated with flooding and displacement, there is a grave reality of damage to housing and infrastructure in these communities (Wilson, 2012).

Kashechewan, a First Nation community, situated in the low lands of James Bay region in northern Ontario, has reported issues of annual flooding, evacuation and displacement over the past several years. This study was designed to explore the intersecting issues of flooding and displacement encountered by Kashechewan First Nation from an environmental justice perspective and to propose sustainable, viable, and long-term policy options to break the annual cycle of flood hazard and the associated consequences. The environmental justice framework remains largely underutilized for policy development in Canada; hence the practicum addressed this knowledge gap. The study intended to bring the perspectives of community members to the forefront and to encourage civic participation in the development of flood hazard mitigation policies. The perspectives of community members, as reflected in a previous study by Emily Faries (2007) as well as in the narratives of key informants, were incorporated throughout this study to inform the policy analysis processes. Key informants included Grand Chief Stan Louttit and Deputy Chief Leo Friday, both of Mushkegowuk Council. Leo Friday was a former Chief of Kashechewan First Nation.

The policy study explored the historical and ongoing colonial processes associated with the current issue of flooding, the magnitude of the flood hazard, current flood hazard management policies and programs operating in Kashechewan First Nation and the policy solutions devised by different jurisdictions within and outside Canada. The environmental justice lens revealed an undercurrent of ongoing environmental colonialism, oppression, and racism embedded in the issue of flooding encountered by Kashechewan First Nation.

Subsequent to the examination of contextual factors and various policy solutions, viable long-term policy alternatives for flood hazard mitigation were developed and analyzed utilizing the environmental justice framework. Recommendations for future policy development were suggested wherein flood hazard mitigation policy initiatives—particularly the relocation of the community to higher grounds—could be integrated with civic engagement and community capacity building, and potentially with broader regional development in the western James Bay area. The role of social workers and social policy analysts in integrated flood hazard mitigation and community development was discussed.


Living On the Outside is a community-based photovoice project. People affected by homelessness were involved as photographers and narrators of their living circumstances. In 2012 and 2013, over 60 absolutely homeless and precariously housed people took photographs of their living conditions and housing in Sudbury, Fort Albany First Nation, Constance Lake First Nation and Cochrane, Ontario. The participants were 30 women and 31 men—Anglophone, Francophone and Indigenous people, between the ages of 18 and 83. In interviews, they explained the meanings behind the photographs they had taken. We have not used their real names; all participant names are pseudonyms.

Each photograph tells its own story about how “sleeping rough” and substandard housing affects the lives and health of participants. The exhibit includes narratives, taken from the interviews, which describe the impact of disordered housing on homeless and near homeless people. The participant photographers show us their emotions, challenges, and strengths which help us to step into their everyday lives. The images reveal hidden aspects of life at the margins of our city.

Digital Story telling

Starting in the summer 2012, PHM gathered digital stories of homeless persons and service providers serving this population. These digital stories focussed primarily on personal challenges and experiences that individuals have faced in their lifetime. Digital stories raise awareness about issues faced by homeless persons and persons at risk of becoming homeless. Digital stories were gathered in Constance Lake First Nation, Moosonee, and Sudbury.

Photo Exhibits – Living on the Outside

A photo exhibit exploring the realities of home

The photographs in this exhibit were created by homeless and near homeless persons in Sudbury, Ontario to show the nature of their living circumstances. Each photograph tells its own story about how “sleeping rough” and substandard housing affect mental health. The exhibit includes narratives about the impact of disordered housing on homeless and near homeless people. The participant photographers show us their emotions, challenges, and strengths which help us to step into their every-day lives. The images reveal hidden aspects of life at the margins of our city.

Community Survey—Hearst, July-August, 2011

A door-to-door survey was conducted to determine how many people were experiencing poverty or were at risk of becoming homeless. The study’s results were presented to the community. Community members participated in drafting recommendations for future action.

Poverty, Homelessness and Migration in Northern Communities: North Bay, Sudbury and Timmins Community Studies

PHM conducted focus groups in Moosonee, Sudbury and North Bay with an emphasis on understanding issues related to poverty, homelessness, transience and migration.Focus groups and/or individual interviews were conducted with people living with homelessness or the risk of homelessness as well as service providers who work with homeless people. The focus groups and interviews were intended to provide information leading to the development of policies and changes that will support homeless people more effectively.

Design Charette

The current study was the first research activity involving new data collection for PHM.The purpose was to explore the housing circumstances, issues, problems and needs of people who were homeless, at risk of being homeless, or precariously housed in Sudbury. We used an approach termed “design charrette”. Design charrettes are workshops that include community members, project team members, research staff and design professionals. The process involved community members in a hands-on workshop that brought together people with differing experiences and backgrounds to explore housing issues and design options for a particular area. The goal of the charrette process was to capture the vision, values, and ideas generated by the participants.

Each design charrette or housing workshop involved a group discussion process and activities in order to gather information that will explore participants’ perceptions of their housing circumstances, conditions and context as well as their visions of ideal housing. A Research Assistant in the final year of a Master’s of Architecture degree took part in the design charrette by creating sketches/drawings and engaging in model-building activities that reflected participants’ perceptions of ideal housing.

Police and Legal Tactics Used in the Regulation of Homeless People

The purpose of this exploratory study is threefold. It examined, first, the experiences of homeless/formerly homeless people with regard to police tactics used to regulate their lives, including the criminalization of certain forms of innocent or life sustaining behaviours (e.g. eating, resting, sleeping, toilet functions). Second, we explored police practices relating to search, seizure, detention and the general treatment of homeless people. The project aimed to gather data for the analysis of what role, if any, certain legal rights guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms play in structuring contact between homeless people and police. In particular, experiences relating to certain categories of legal rights under the Charter were examined, including arbitrary search and seizure, arbitrary detention or imprisonment, and threats, harassment or abuse by police. Third, we consider how experiences with police may be influenced by the gender and cultural background of homeless persons. This study can lead to a better understanding on the part of local authorities, service providers, and homeless people about the fundamental legal rights of homeless people and the development of local strategies for ensuring that the legal rights of homeless persons are respected.