A $326,436 SSHRC research study aims to improve Canada's Housing & Homelessness System
September 25, 2023
Dr. Lesley Bikos, Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology / Criminology at King’s, and Dr. Jeffrey Preston, Associate Professor in the Disability Studies department at King’s, are co-recipients of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Grant of $326,436. The grant, Modelling Permanent Supportive Housing into Canada’s Housing and Homelessness System, is to drive both policy and practice in order to save lives.
“What I love about this project is its connection to community and the centering of those with lived / living experience, and those in the community who provide services,” says Dr. Bikos. “The project’s focus on equity, human rights, dignity, community-led care, and a housing-first model are vital for transformative change.”
Dr. Preston agrees with her observations. “As Canada moves forward with strategies to reduce experiences of homelessness, it is critical that we provide best practices, grounded in research, to better plot an equitable pathway forward,” says Dr. Preston.
The study is being led by Prof. Abram Oudshoorn, Associate Professor at The Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing at Western University.
In addition to Dr. Bikos and Dr. Preston, the diverse research team includes six co-applicants from Western University: Dr. Yolanda Babenko-Mould, Dr. Susana Claudia Caxaj, Dr. Jason Gilliand, Dr. Carrie Anne Marshall, and Dr. Sara McLean as well as Dr. Roula Kteily-Hawa from Brescia University College. In addition, the research team includes a Community Health Nurse and Western University PhD student, Christine Garinger, and community collaborators from Indwell, Steven Rolfe and Natasha Thuemler.
Indwell provides a range of supportive housing to more than a thousand households in southwestern Ontario. It currently operates four supportive housing sites in the London area, offering different levels of care with different pathways into service. The collaborative research study will track 236 Indwell-supported households over a period of five years, with a focus on resident-level outcomes like service usage, length of tenancy, and wellbeing.
The research team hopes to answer five critical questions:
- What works and does not work in rehousing those with highest needs?
- What is the long-term impact of permanent supportive housing for those with highest needs?
- How is supportive housing best delivered?
- What are the real and perceived barriers that contribute to the implementation and sustainability of permanent supportive housing models?
- What are the differential impacts for residents of differing support levels within affordable housing?
These research questions align with the areas of focus for the King’s faculty on the project says Dr. Preston.
“I was invited to join the team to bring my accessibility policy expertise, to help think through structural barriers that limit access for disabled people, and to apply a critical disability studies lens to the data analysis and recommendations generated by the work,” he says. “I think this speaks to the diverse team of researchers brought together. From the academics to the community workers to the participants in the study, we all bring important insights and knowledge to better understand and think through a complex problem. I don’t think we could realistically find equitable and functional solutions without this type of diverse interdisciplinary team.”
The researchers plan to share their findings in a variety of ways, including academic articles, policy reports, conferences, podcasts, and social media. The goal is to reach as many people and sectors as possible.
“The findings will be shared with folks with lived / living experience of homelessness, including those who participate in the work, policy makers, government representatives, community service providers who work with unhoused community members, the wider community, and academics,” Dr. Bikos says.
A former police officer, Dr. Lesley Bikos has taught at King’s since 2018. Her current research interests include combining critical criminology and sociology to interrogate the Canadian criminal justice system from an intersectional feminist lens. She teaches numerous courses, including Crime and Society, Policing Mental Illness, Critical Approaches to Policing, Another World is Possible, and Qualitative Methods.
Currently on research sabbatical, Dr. Jeffery Preston has taught at King’s since 2017. His work focuses on the intersection of disability, subjectivity, biopower and culture. He is an active teacher-scholar, teaching Intro to Disability Studies, Disability and Pop Culture, and Memes & Dreams: Disability Online.