Adele Hinds, Isabelita Shotunde, Owen Valente, Milos Zekanovic,
The idea behind the shared partnership with the Centre for Social Innovation was to bring together a collective group of experts to dissect the issue of hygiene on the streets and provide viable solutions. Then, to answer the question of what shelter staff members may regard as barriers for homeless populations from accessing hygiene facilities in the City of Toronto. Mobile showering units that could be transported around the city to the most vulnerable locations where homeless individuals could access clean water, was the ultimate goal throughout this project.
Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Toronto’s unhoused population is extremely vulnerable to the virus due to their lack of accessibility to hygiene products and facilities. The Homelessness and Hygiene project entails providing necessary resources, specifically pertaining to hygiene, to Toronto’s homeless population in order to minimize their risks of contracting and spreading COVID-19. In light of this, the goal was to find viable solutions that would eventually be able to provide long-term support for unhoused individuals and give them access to showers via mobile showering units.
Research was conducted by having a focus group with participants, Subject Matter Experts (SME's) who were selected by our partner agency, Centre for Social Innovation. This controlled group of individuals were suitable to participate in our focus group because their expert knowledge of those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, were able to provide us with current trends, ideas, as well as myths about unhoused people. We used qualitative data analysis to help us uncover emerging themes, and filtered all themes through colour coding which allowed us to more accurately understand how the homeless population could in fact benefit from having mobile showering services on the streets of Toronto.
SME's suggested that location was important, and having the mobile showering units within walking distance from encampments would be beneficial for this project to succeed. The SME's also suggested that in order for the showering units to get started, trained staff would need to be secured; trained to assist on issues such as substance abuse, mental health awareness, and first aid. Another suggestion by the SME's was factoring in the timing that the showers would be available; considering what are peak hours that coincide with other businesses in the area, as well as what may be the best operating times for unhoused individuals who are working. Also, community awareness was highly suggested by the SME's if these mobile units were to go ahead. Lastly, the SME's believed that having a social enterprise aspect included would be good; example provided was to have meal kits circulated at time of showering.
Having the community "buy-in" is extremely important for initiatives like these. The SME's advised that there is significant push-back from communities, for example NIMBY-ism. The best thing would be to conduct future surveys, and have homeless people participating would give a stronger understanding of exactly which locations they would prefer to have this kind of initiative set up, as well as discovering best hours. In order to have this initiative realized, it needs to be a joint effort, from experts, the City of Toronto, and those who are homeless. SME's concluded that an element of basic human dignity was being able to take a shower, and there was an obvious consensus on this.
Tonya Surman - Centre for Social Innovation, Gneev Nagi - Collaborator with CSI, Focus Group Participants (SME's), Christine McKenzie - Professor
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