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Transition from Homelessness Study

“I can’t remember the last time I was comfortable about being home”: lived experience perspectives on thriving following homelessness

Carrie Anne Marshall, Brooke Phillips, Julia Holmes, Eric Todd, River Hill, George Panter, Corinna Easton, Terry Landry, Sarah Collins, Tom Greening, Ashley O’Brien, Marlo Jastak, Rebecca Ridge, Rebecca Goldszmidt, Chelsea Shanoff, Debbie Laliberte Rudman, Alexandra Carlsson, Suliman Aryobi, Jessica Szlapinski, Rozelen Carrillo-Beck, Nicole Pacheco, Shauna Perez & Abe Oudshoorn

Received 12 Jul 2022, Accepted 01 Feb 2023, Published online: 20 Feb 2023




Strategies for preventing and ending homelessness are frequently measured by their effectiveness on indices of tenancy sustainment. To shift this narrative, we conducted research to identify what is needed to “thrive” following homelessness from the perspectives of persons with lived experience in Ontario, Canada.


Conducted in the context of a community-based participatory research study aimed at informing the development of intervention strategies, we interviewed 46 persons living with mental illness and/or substance use disorder [n = 25 (54.3%) unhoused; n = 21 (45.7%) housed following homelessness] using qualitative interviews. A subsample of 14 participants agreed to engage in photovoice interviews. We analysed these data abductively using thematic analysis informed by health equity and social justice.


Participants described experiences of “living in a state of lack” following homelessness. This essence was expressed through four themes: 1) housing as part one of the journey to home; 2) finding and keeping “my people”; 3) meaningful activity as critical for thriving following homelessness; and 4) struggling to access mental health supports in the context of challenging circumstances.


Individuals struggle to thrive following homelessness in the context of insufficient resources. There is a need to build on existing interventions to address outcomes beyond tenancy sustainment.

‘We stick people in a house and say okay, you're housed. The problem is solved’: A qualitative study of service provider and organisational leader perspectives on thriving following homelessness

Carrie Anne Marshall PhD., OT Reg. OntBrooke Phillips CYWJulia Holmes MSc. OT, OT Reg.(Ont.)Eric ToddRiver HillGeorge PanterCorinna Easton PhD. (c), OT Reg.(Ont.), PhD. (c)Terry Landry MSc. OT, PhD. (c)Sarah CollinsTom GreeningAshley O'BrienMarlo Jastak B.A. CriminologyRebecca Ridge B.A.Rebecca Goldszmidt BScChelsea Shanoff DMA, MSc. OT (c)Debbie Laliberte Rudman PhD., OT Reg.(Ont.)Alexandra Carlsson MSc. OT, OT Reg.(Ont.)Suliman Aryobi BScShauna Perez BAAbe Oudshoorn PhD., RN

First published: 21 September 2022


Research aimed at identifying and evaluating approaches to homelessness has predominately focused on strategies for supporting tenancy sustainment. Fewer studies focus on strategies for enabling thriving following homelessness, and the perspectives of service providers and organisational leaders (SPOL) on this topic are rare. We conducted this study in the context of a community-based participatory research project in two cities in Ontario, Canada. This research was aimed at identifying the strengths and challenges of existing supports in enabling thriving following homelessness, followed by co-designing a novel intervention alongside persons with lived experience of homelessness (PWLEH) and SPOL. The current study presents the findings of interviews conducted in 2020–2021 with SPOL in organisations serving PWLEH. We interviewed 60 individuals including service providers (n = 38; 63.3%) and organisational leaders (n = 22; 36.7%) using semi-structured qualitative interviews. Interviews were conducted and recorded on Zoom to align with physical distancing protocols associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Recordings were transcribed verbatim and analysed abductively informed by the lenses of social justice and health equity. The essence of our findings is represented by a quote from a research participant: ‘We stick people in a house and say okay, you're housed. The problem is solved’. This essence was expressed through five themes: (1) stuck in a system that prevents thriving, (2) substance use as an important coping strategy that prevents tenancy sustainment and thriving, (3) the critical importance of targeting community integration following homelessness, (4) incorporating peer expertise as imperative and (5) people need to be afforded options in selecting housing and services following homelessness. Our findings indicate that SPOL envision possibilities of thriving following homelessness yet are embedded within a system that often prevents them from supporting individuals who are leaving homelessness to do so. Research, practice and policy implications are discussed.

Experiences of transitioning from homelessness: a systematic review and meta-aggregation of qualitative studies conducted in middle to high income countries

Carrie Anne MarshallCorinna EastonBrooke PhillipsLeonie BolandRoxanne IsardJulia HolmesChelsea ShanoffKieran HawksleyTerry LandryRebecca GoldszmidtSuliman AryobiPatti Plett & Abe Oudshoorn

Received 10 Jun 2022, Accepted 20 Oct 2022, Published online: 15 Nov 2022​


Several systematic reviews have synthesized studies exploring the experience of homelessness. No known reviews have synthesized findings of studies exploring experiences of transitioning to housing following homelessness. To address this gap, we conducted a systematic review and meta-aggregation of qualitative evidence using the methodology developed by the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) following PRISMA guidelines. Of 8559 titles and abstracts screened, we included 57 studies in our meta-aggregation, and generated six synthesized findings: 1) trying to move on but facing ongoing individual and structural barriers; 2) home as a launching pad for self-discovery and emotional and spiritual growth; 3) social connection as a fundamental and often unmet need; 4) having housing that is the right fit and enables a sense of safety and avoidance of trauma; 5) meaningful activity as facilitating community integration and the journey home; and 6) the meaning of having services that are effective, caring, and responsive to the person. Our findings suggest that leaving homelessness is a complex process that does not immediately end with attaining a tenancy. Future research designed to understand the experiences of leaving homelessness for racialized and Indigenous persons, women leaving domestic violence, and persons identifying as 2SLGBTQ2 + are needed.

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