Telling stories of homelessness



Those who work with the homeless deal with people who face many challenges. Homelessness frequently goes hand in hand with substance abuse, mental health problems and integration difficulties.  Homelessness is also a field in which it is difficult to establish recognized best practices, due to the lack of a critical mass of similar cases.

These principles provide health care providers and social workers with access to innovative practices, and will also be used to train future workers in the field. 

In an effort to determine best practices, Roch Hurtubise, a professor with the School of Social Work at Université de Sherbrooke, worked with seven teams specialized in working with the homeless in Sherbrooke, Montréal, Laval and Gatineau. Together, they wrote fifty practice stories for a project entitled "Il était une fois… des récits de pratique en itinérance" ["Once Upon a Time… Stories of homelessness practice"]. An analysis of these stories gave rise to a series of principles for interventions relating to issues such as the importance of the homeless person's social network and the degree of expectation attached to a particular intervention.

These principles provide health care providers and social workers with access to innovative practices, and will also be used to train future workers in the field. The stories and their analyses are available (in French only) on the website of CREMIS (Centre de recherche de Montréal sur les inégalités sociales et les discriminations), in the section "Savoir d'interventions en itinérance", an initiative that won the Association québécoise d'établissements de santé et de services sociaux (AQESSS) Mission Universitaire prize in 2014.

The project is of benefit to homelessness workers wishing to continue to document best practices and transmit their knowledge, and has helped researchers to redefine their research practices and identify new issues regarding interventions addressing homelessness.