Every year the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH) holds a conference to equip stakeholders within the homelessness sector with the inspiration, tools, and training to prevent and end homelessness.

This year, Raising the Roof’s very own, Jenny Lam – Project Manager of Community Initiatives – will be taking part in the conference as one of the presenters.

Jenny Lam

Jenny Lam

She will present the results of her qualitative research study at the conference. This study explores frontline shelter staff’s perspectives on the use of shelters – an emergency response – as a strategy in addressing homelessness. This qualitative study was conducted with 13 frontline shelter staff working in adult shelters across Toronto, Canada. (You can find a brief abstract of Jenny’s presentation below).

This session will be of most interest to the frontline staff, as well as other professionals in the homelessness sector who are working to prevent homelessness. Her research illustrates that the efforts to prevent homelessness does not exclude those working in emergency response roles. Overall, findings from this study will inform homelessness prevention stakeholders on the steps needed to promote a cross-sectoral shift towards prevention.

To learn more about this study, be sure to catch Jenny’s session within the COH (Canadian Observatory on Homelessness) stream!

Abstract: “Emergency Response vs Prevention: Shelter Staff Perspectives on Shelter Effectiveness”.

“As Talley and Timmer (1992) eloquently put it, “If we intend to address homelessness, we must not allow ourselves to mistake another problem – the creation of a dependent and controlled client population in the shelter system – for the solution.” According to the literature on homelessness, the current response to homelessness heavily relies on the provision of emergency services, such as shelters, day programs, and soup kitchens. In recent years, however, there has been a shift towards thinking about the prevention of homelessness.

Homelessness prevention is not only humane, it is also cost-effective. Studies have found that individuals who are experiencing homelessness typically have higher levels of health care usage, and consequently incur higher healthcare costs. Additionally, approximately $350,000 can be saved within the criminal justice system each time an individual is prevented from being homeless (Gaetz, 2012).

Evidence undoubtedly exists to support the argument for preventing rather than responding to homelessness. However, is academic evidence enough to promote this widespread shift towards prevention? In an attempt to answer this question, I turn to shelter staff – those directly working in shelters and operating on the opposite end of the prevention spectrum – to understand their views on shelters and its role in addressing homelessness.”