What is this research about?
This research project was designed during a period of concurrent crises; across Canada, nearly 6000 youth experience homelessness on a given night. The COVID-19 pandemic also presented a serious threat to the health and safety of youth experiencing homelessness and the workers who serve them.
Given the potential for future pandemics, it is important to not only understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth experiencing homelessness and staff in Toronto, but also the ways the sector contributed to addressing the crisis. The aim is to generate recommendations to prevent youth homelessness, inform future pandemic responses, and shift the response to youth homelessness in Toronto towards more collaborative and preventative initiatives.
What did the researchers do?
The researchers conducted this study in two phases. First, researchers interviewed 45 youth and 31 staff from four downtown shelters/hotels for youth experiencing homelessness in Toronto. They also conducted seven interviews with stakeholders, including representatives from municipal governments and local advocates. Here, the aim was to learn more about their experiences during the pandemic and insights into preventing youth homelessness.
In the second phase, surveys were administered to 93 staff and 76 youth across the four agencies. Youth were asked about their experiences during the pandemic (such as mental/physical health, boredom, loneliness, sleep, and discrimination) and their preferences for housing. Staff, however, were asked about their experiences with organizational support, burnout, mental/physical wellbeing, and their reflections on collaboration and prevention initiatives in the sector.
What did the researchers find?