Where’s the Disconnect? Exploring Pathways to Healthcare Coordinated for Youth Experiencing Homelessness in Toronto, Canada, Using Grounded Theory Methodology

About 900 youth experiencing homelessness (YEH) reside at an emergency youth shelter (EYS) in Toronto on any given night. Several EYSs offer access to healthcare based on youths’ needs, including access to primary care, and mental health and addictions support. However, youth also require healthcare from the broader health system, which is often challenging to navigate and access. Currently, little is known about healthcare coordination efforts between the EYS and health systems for YEH. Using grounded theory methodology, we interviewed 24 stakeholders and concurrently analyzed and compared data to explore pathways to healthcare coordinated for youth who reside at an EYS in Toronto. We also investigated fundamental parts (i.e., norms, resources, regulations, and operations) within the EYS and health systems that influence these pathways to healthcare using thematic analysis. A significant healthcare coordination gap was found between these two systems, typically when youth experience crises, often resulting in a recurring loop of transition and discharge between EYSs and hospitals. Several parts within each system act interdependently in hindering adequate healthcare coordination between the EYS and health systems. Incorporating training for system staff on how to effectively coordinate healthcare and work with homeless populations who have complex health needs, and rethinking information-sharing policies within circles of care are examples of how system parts can be targeted to improve healthcare coordination for YEH. Establishing multidisciplinary healthcare teams specialized to serve the complex needs of YEH may also improve healthcare coordination between systems, and access and quality of healthcare for this population.

Publication Date: 
Journal Name: 
Qualitative Health Research