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Homeless Granted a Crucial Voice Thanks to Trent-Led Research Project

Homelessness to Home Project has lived experience of homeless at its centre

If you want to understand homelessness with the goal of eradicating it, talk to the homeless. This may seem like an obvious approach, but has not been the typical model, until now, that is, thanks to Dr. Cyndi Gilmer, an associate professor with the Trent/Fleming School of Nursing.

“Folks are starting to listen to those with lived experience but this has not been the norm,” says Professor Gilmer, who has volunteered for, and worked with, the Port Hope Green Wood Coalition for the past 10 years.

“We tend to ask the professionals working in the area what they believe based upon their experience working with folks rather than those who have actually lived it. For one thing, it is not easy to access the homeless population. They are, by the very nature of the challenging circumstances, transient; are often distrustful of intent; and some have mental health or addiction issues that make it somewhat harder to connect.”

Through the resulting Homelessness to Home Project, Professor Gilmer interviewed 19 people in the Cobourg/Port Hope/Northumberland County region with lived homelessness experience with the goal of sharing their insight with people who have decision-making control as it pertains to funding.

A Trent Team Approach

Trent Psychology associate professor Brenda Smith-Chant, along with coalition members, assisted in the collection of the shared experiences, and Trent Nursing and Psychology students assisted with interviews and data analysis.

“These roles occurred only after students took the time to get to know folks in the community, either through course hours doing a clinical placement with the coalition or by attending community dinners,” Prof. Gilmer explains.

“In participatory action research, those who have lived experience are research partners and not simply participants to be studied. It has been very important to those of us involved that this human face be acknowledged, respected and celebrated.”

At present, Prof. Gilmer is working with Trent Sociology assistant professor Kristy Buccieri, studying homelessness in the City of Kawartha Lakes and compiling lived experiences from that region similar to what was done in Northumberland County.

Prof. Gilmer praises Trent for its “support for doing community research and the ability to partner with other disciplines to do so.”

Learn more about the Trent/Fleming School of Nursing.

Posted on August 27, 2018