Roles of Research in Ending Homelessness
By providing the knowledge needed to inform planning and develop solutions, research is an important contributor to ending homelessness. Gaetz (2012) has identified three roles of research in ending homelessness:
- Conceptual includes work to clarify concepts and definitions that help in creating shared meanings or understandings of important concepts. This can be hugely helpful in guiding policy and practice. For example, the Canadian Homeless Research Network recently released a Canadian Definition of Homelessness to assist with guiding the conduct of research such as facility and homeless counts as well as shared understanding of those impacted.
- Instrumental research refers to original research which can span a range of questions and methodologies that answer priority research questions. Such research is usually undertaken to fill a specific gap in understanding and add to the overall knowledge base for ending homelessness. There are many of examples of this kind of research including determinants of homelessness among youth, evaluation of transitional housing, health needs of homeless people.
- Symbolic research involves using research results to legitimate and sustain arguments, strategies and positions. Such research includes translation of existing research into a format that is usable to policy makers, service providers and others. This involves the practical application of data to move forward the requirements of an organisation and satisfy the demands of funders and decision makers.
These research types are not mutually exclusive of each other and often are used as building blocks to action, for example by moving from conceptual to practical. Furthermore, they encompass a range of research methods and designs. These include both qualitative and quantitative methodologies.