Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Science




Oudshoorn, Abe

2nd Supervisor

Forchuk, Cheryl



BACKGROUND: Family homelessness is a growing issue in Canada. Families have been reported as the most rapidly increasing population of emergency shelter users. The purpose of this study was to understand the experiences of family homelessness in A mid-sized Canadian city and, in particular, the role that gender plays in these experiences.

METHODS: This project was a secondary analysis situated within a critical theoretical perspective. The data for this study, consisting of 4 focus groups, 36 family member participants interviews, and 10 shelter staff members interviews, was extracted from a primary study that focused on diversion from family homelessness. Qualitative thematic analysis was utilized to understand how gender plays into the experience of family homelessness. Data was managed and themed with the assistance of Nvivo software.

RESULTS: Four themes were generated from the data related to the experience of family homelessness with a focus on gender: 1) scarcity of resources; 2) relationship breakdown; 3) living with precarious mental health; and 4) a common experience. The first three themes reveal distinct differences between men and women on their pathways into homelessness, where the last theme highlights that during times of extreme crisis and housing loss, men and women who are parenting undergo very common experiences and challenges related to meeting housing needs and supporting their children.

CONCLUSION: Pathways into homelessness and gendered, and it was noted in this analysis the unique challenges that mothers face in regards to poverty, conflict and mental health. Therefore, services need to be geared to support the unique needs of women and mothers. Conversely, in the crisis of homelessness, housing and basic needs are priorities for all parents, and therefore more supports are required to ensure the rapid return to stable and affordable housing with supports as necessary.

Keywords: Family, homelessness, gender, shelter, secondary analysis, critical social theory.