The YWCA of Calgary has unveiled a 64-page report on women’s experience with homelessness. Dr. Christine Walsh, from the University of Calgary Faculty of Social Work, was the lead researcher on the project. Ultimately, she hoped to not only create a list of recommendations for community housing services in the city, but also to shed some light on this experience.
Walsh utilized a unique research methodology called Photovoice to allow the nine women to share their stories. They were provided with digital cameras and photography lessons and asked to capture their stories. The women were residents of the YWCA Mary Dover House, a 100 bed transitional home that offers safe, affordable, and supportive housing to women and children in times of crisis. For 10 sessions, the group came together, shared their photographs and discussed how the images related to their lived experience. Walsh believed photovoice allowed the women to more deeply reflect on the shared experiences over a few months while developing the confidence to tell their stories.
The research confirmed that key elements such as safety, support, time and community must be offered as a package in order to affect change in the lives of women experiencing homelessness. A number recommendations were developed including working to further develop women-only housing and programs, the creation of an informal community by designing communal spaces in the buildings serving the women, and trying to develop mentorship programs where former homeless women could become more involved in the delivery and creation of services. There were also recommendations specifically aimed at the YWCA Housing First Programs including the need to build stronger staff/client relationships and an awareness of the importance of tailored programming for women with a history of trauma, immigrant women and aboriginals.
You can get more information at http://community.ywcaofcalgary.com/