“Until You Hit Rock Bottom There’s No Support”: Contradictory Sources and Systems of Support for Mothers Experiencing Homelessness in Southwestern Ontario Academic Article uri icon

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  • Nurses are vital community advocates and uniquely situated to support mothers experiencing homelessness. The purpose of this study was to examine the multidimensional nature of social exclusion in the lives of mothers experiencing homelessness in Southwestern Ontario. This article reports findings from one segment of a larger study that critically examined the sociopolitical context, health needs, exclusionary and inclusionary forces, and strategies of resistance demonstrated by mothers experiencing homelessness. Central to the women’s experiences of mothering while homeless were their interactions with “the system.” The contradictory nature of these systems was categorized into four subthemes: (1) “Until you hit rock bottom there’s no support,” (2) “It’s just not enough”: Insufficient support, (3) “Help comes with a price”: Support with surveillance, and (4) “Every shelter is so different”: Organizational philosophies impacting support. The contradictory nature of the system created an illusion of support, but in mothers’ lived realities, it perpetuated experiences of exclusion in spaces ironically designed to enhance inclusion. Implications for nursing practice include action the macro-, meso-, and microlevels. Nurses can advocate for Housing-First initiatives and evidence-informed approaches to poverty reduction while recognizing the system-level barriers to health and providing respective, compassionate care.


  • Benbow, Sarah
  • Forchuk, Cheryl
  • Gorlick, Carolyne
  • Berman, Helene
  • Ward-Griffin, Catherine

publication date

  • September 2019