Guidelines for Conducting Research with People who are Homeless

York University has formulated policies for conduct of research involving human participants. This policy applies to all Faculties and the Libraries of the University. This policy is intended to serve as joint protection for the researcher, the study participant and the University in order to ensure attention to various rights and responsibilities of the respective parties to the research endeavour. The Human Participants Review Committee (HPRC) is responsible for ensuring that research involving human participants is consistent with the guidelines set by the University.

The Senate of York University affirms that researchers must respect the safety, welfare, and dignity of human participants in their research and treat them equally, fairly, and not as a means to an end. The University values the academic freedom of its researchers, and the ethics review process shall not unfairly censor researchers who support unorthodox views. However, academic freedom is complemented by the requirement to respect the rights of human participants. The University's principal reference is the Tri-Council (SSHRC, NSERC, CIHR) Policy Statement (TCPS): Ethical Conduct For Research Involving Humans.

The following guidelines for conducting research with people who are homeless have been developed in acknowledgment of the need for continuing interpretation and refinement of applicable policies to account for changes in research methods, contexts and cultures. Guidelines for conducting homelessness research have been developed in recognition that: a) people who are homeless are by definition a marginalized population that routinely experiences exploitation, and thus are in need of special considerations, and that b) certain sub-populations of the homeless (street youth, the mentally ill, for instance) may present special challenges for research and as a consequence require added protections. These guidelines have been developed in an effort to not only protect human participants, but to ensure that research with people who are homeless is conducted in a respectful manner that recognizes the special circumstances endured by people without housing. The following guidelines are in place to ensure respectful encounters with people who are homeless, minimize risk to research participants and are in keeping with the cardinal principles of ethics in research.

These guidelines complement and build on those outlined by York University’s Human Participants Review Committee, the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans, and the Government of Canada’s Ethical Guidelines for Conducting Research Involving Homeless People (2004).

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