Inside the Open Door: Considerations of Inclusivity Among Women Accessing an Open Door Housing Service in Canada

The provision of shelter to individuals experiencing homelessness creates a 24/7 community of co-living in which the common denominator uniting members is lack of housing. Women of all ethnic, racial, religious, cultural backgrounds, as well as members of 2SLGBTQ+ communities, find themselves co-living in the shared and often challenging transitional space. As services have shifted to “open the door” to provide more inclusive access to services, little attention has been paid to the experiences of diverse communities within co-living spaces. Questioning the assumption that shared loss inherently binds a community of homelessness service users to a common identity, this research asks: what discourses of heterogeneity of service users emerge in descriptions from women experiencing homelessness of their trajectories through transitional housing servicesto stable housing? Interviews were conducted with 33 service users in a women’s transitional housing service between 2016-2018 in Montreal, Canada. Data collected over two waves of semi-structured interviews focused on service usage, homelessness histories, transitional programs experiences, and well-being, featuring 33 and 12 interviews, respectively. Qualitative thematic analysis revealed several instances of participants reflecting on the challenges and benefits of engaging with the heterogeneity of individuals in the space: reflections centered on the unsuitability of services, mental health and substance use, gender identity, as well as a sense of solidarity. In addition to an unexplored complexity associated with inclusive transitional housing user experiences, this analysis underlines a desperate need for refined perspectives on inclusive service policies.

Publication Date: 
Journal Name: 
International Journal on Homelessness
Montreal, Quebec