The elusive goal of social integration: A critical examination of the socio-economic and psychosocial consequences experienced by homeless young people who obtain housing Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • OBJECTIVES: The objective of this study was to provide an insider perspective on the experiences of nine formerly homeless young people as they transitioned into independent (market rent) housing and attempted to achieve meaningful social integration. METHODS: The study was conducted in Toronto, Canada, and guided by the conceptual framework developed for the World Health Organization by the Commission on Social Determinants of Health. A critical ethnographic methodology was used. Over the course of 10 months, the lead author met every other week with nine formerly homeless young people who had moved into their own homes within 30 days prior to study recruitment. RESULTS: Unaffordable housing, limited education, inadequate employment opportunities, poverty-level income, and limited social capital made it remarkably challenging for the young people to move forward. As the study progressed, the participants' ability to formulate long-range plans was impeded as they were forced to focus on day-to-day existence. Over time, living in a perpetual state of poverty led to feelings of "outsiderness," viewing life as a game of chance, and isolation. CONCLUSION: Rather than a secure, linear path from the streets to the mainstream, study participants were forced to take a precarious path full of structural gaps that left them stuck, spinning, and exhausted by the day-to-day struggle to meet basic needs. Despite their remarkable agency, it was almost impossible for the participants to achieve meaningful social integration given the structural inequities inherent in society. These observations have implications for practice, policy, and research.

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publication date

  • February 2018