Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Cheryl Forchuk


Background and Purpose: Mothers experiencing homelessness in Canada are faced with unique challenges in achieving health. The purpose of this two-phase study was to critically examine the socio-political context, health needs, exclusionary and inclusionary forces, and strategies of resistance demonstrated by mothers experiencing homelessness.

Methodology: This study falls under the critical paradigm informed by the theoretical perspective of intersectionality. Methodologies employed included critical narrative and critical discourse analysis. Data were collected at various homeless shelters and programs that provide services for women and mothers who are homeless in Southern Ontario. A purposive sample of women experiencing homelessness, and service providers participated in the study. Participants chose between individual and group interviews, based on their preference and comfort. In phase two, a critical discourse analysis of Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy was conducted. Phase two provided further context to research participants’ narratives and insight in the current political will to address their needs.

Findings: Mothers (n=26) ranged from 18-58 years of age with an average age of 27.4 years. On average women had 1.6 children; the majority of children were under 5 years of age. Nineteen women self-identified as having or have had a mental illness. All service provider participants (n=15) were working with women who experienced homelessness. Based on study purpose and philosophical underpinnings, four overarching themes were identified: (a) exclusion from safety; (b) stigma: public surveillance and discrimination; (c) contradictory sources and systems of support; and (d) internal impacts of exclusion. Within phase two of the study, findings revealed that the needs of homeless mothers were not adequately represented or addressed in the policy, nor were their experiences of social exclusion. Instead gender invisibility, neoliberal, and individualistic approaches to poverty reduction were dominant with minimal identification of timelines, concrete plans, and evaluation strategies.

Conclusions: The findings united individual realities with the macro structure of policy shaping the experiences of health, social exclusion, and homelessness for mothers. Implications for nursing practice, education, research, and policy with regards to the socio-political context of health, social exclusion, and resistance of mothers experiencing homelessness are identified.

Keywords: homelessness, mothers, health promotion, nursing, critical narrative, critical discourse analysis, social exclusion, intersectionality

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