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Improving service provision for people experiencing homelessness

June 5, 2014

The Centre for Research on Inner City Health has released a report, Un/Helpful Help and Its Discontents: Peer Researchers Paying Attention to Street Life Narratives to Inform Social Work Policy and Practice, which examines services from the perspective of the people who use them.

In it, people experiencing homelessness and using mental health services describe what they find helpful, and what they don’t. It contains some important insights for health care, social service providers and policy-makers.

The study found that people who are homeless and accessing mental health services often experience a gap between available services and their needs.

The study by the Centre, part of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, found that people who are homeless and accessing mental health services often experience a gap between available services and their self-identified needs. People sometimes find it necessary to self-identify as having a mental health condition in order to receive certain types of services.

However, their primary challenges involve discrimination, trauma and oppression. They are adversely affected by poverty and report a disconnect between what they are looking for (i.e. housing, money, work, a phone, someone to talk to) and what they receive (a psychiatric label, experiences of stigma, professional distance).

A lack of economic resources and the experience of harassment and discrimination negatively affect individuals’ mental health. Identified recommendations for service provision are offered in the summary report.

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