When Homelessness Is Resolved: Understanding the Hard to House and Their Needs

Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Kristen DESJARLAIS-DEKLERK, Medicine Hat College, Canada
Tiara MCCULLOCH, Medicine Hat College, Canada
Medicine Hat, Alberta, has attained and maintained a functional zero level of homelessness. This means that individuals experiencing homelessness are quickly transitioned into housing, effectively solving chronic homelessness as a social problem. However, a small portion of the population, the “Hard-to-House,” has found the housing options unsuitable for their needs and have returned to homelessness. The authors endeavored to assess the needs of this group by conducting seven qualitative, semi-structured interviews that explored the overall quality of the emergency shelter, the needs and priorities of the populace, and individuals’ feelings about the shelter and future programming. A line by line analysis of the participants’ responses yielded four major themes within data. (1) All participants felt they lacked freedom, due to their inability to practice individuality or make choices both in the shelter as well as their community; (2) all participants felt a lack of dignity, emphasizing dehumanizing interactions each experienced in both the shelter and society. (3) Affordability was the main barrier to obtaining suitable housing. (4) Shelter programming could be enhanced through, proximity to transportation and services, and a sense of community and belonging. In an effort to address these needs, permanent supportive housing, which works to address the highly individualistic needs of each resident, was suggested. By offering affordable, supportive housing that works to increase the freedom and dignity of its residents, the program may increase the suitability of housing and quality of life for each individual.