Project Spotlight: Researching Peer Support Networks for Youth Experiencing Homelessness, and Identifying the Need for Such an Initiative in Peterborough
Host organization: A Way Home Peterborough
Researcher: Marissa Taylor (Sociology)
The project: The purpose of this community-based research project is to gain a better understanding of the needs of homeless youth and the role of peer support and system navigation in Ontario, as well to identify the need for a peer support initiative in Peterborough Ontario’s homelessness services.
Research question(s): How have peer support programs been implemented in other communities in Ontario? What are the best and promising practices that guide and operate successful peer support programs? What are the training aspects and procedures of peer support workers?
Methods: Marissa peer support networks by first conducting an environmental scan of peer support organizations working with homeless youth within Ontario. She then conducted three structured telephone interviews with individuals working within the aforementioned network.
Findings: Marissa found that peer support is an effective intervention for helping homeless youth navigate services within the community. Key recommendations have emerged in response to the themes that have been identified throughout Marissa's research. The feasibility of developing such a peer support program for homeless youth is largely dependent on organizational preparedness which is broken down into three parts: (1) network for funding bodies; (2) develop specific policies and procedures; (3) develop hiring and recruitment methods; (4) develop a system for identifying youth; (5) develop a low barrier approach; and (6) develop a system of evaluation.
Impacts: Given how high the prevalence of youth homelessness is in Peterborough, a peer support initiative in this city has the potential to contribute to lowering these numbers.
In March 2019, Marissa's project won the Provost Award at our Celebration of Community Research. Congratulations, Marissa!