Repairing the Holes in the Net was a 2-year, multilevel action research project designed to inform the development of culturally appropriate and gender-specific services for northern women who are homeless or marginally housed and who face mental health and substance use concerns. The study was designed to learn about the barriers and supports experienced by homeless women in the North when accessing mental health care, shelter, housing and other services; and to inform the work of northern service providers and policy advocates in a position to implement adjustments in their praxis.
This article describes the trajectories of women's service access and their ideas for service improvement from 61 qualitative, semi-structured interviews conducted with homeless women in Whitehorse, Yukon (YT), Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (NT), and Iqualit, Nunavut (NU).
Unresolved trauma, poverty and social exclusion, inability to find and maintain housing and ineffective services emerged as interconnected and multifaceted challenges related to women's service engagement. In the face of these challenges, women displayed significant resilience and resistance, and offered important ideas for service improvement.
The 4 interconnected systemic challenges identified in the research, coupled with specific ideas for change cited by the resilient homeless women interviewed, offer points of entry to improve service policy and delivery. Implementing trauma-informed approaches emerged as a key example of how access to, and quality of, services could be improved for homeless women in the North.