The Homelessness Initiative is a jointly funded, community-based research initiative which has awarded two $25,000 grants to projects studying homelessness and recommending new and innovative solutions to the problem.

“We are proud to be partnering with the Region of Waterloo to support this critical community priority,” said Sandra Banks, Vice-President of University Relations at the University of Waterloo. “At Waterloo we strive to connect our researchers with community partners to help find innovative, safe and sustained housing solutions."

“The number of people currently experiencing homelessness in Waterloo Region is unprecedented,” said Ryan Pettipiere, Director of Housing Services, Region of Waterloo. “Similar to many communities across Canada, we are seeing the effects of poverty, mental health issues, rising housing costs and impacts of the opioid crisis, first-hand in Waterloo Region. Our partnership with the University of Waterloo is a key initiative to help understand more about the complexities of homelessness and to find innovative approaches to end homelessness.”

The first research project, awarded in spring 2022 and titled Transitional tiny house prototype, is jointly led by Waterloo Architecture Associate Professor Adrian Blackwell, Associate Professor Martine August, and Professor John McMinn.

“There are a limited number of existing examples of tiny homes used as transitional housing to combat homelessness in Canada,” said McMinn. “This multi-stage research project is working to build on best practices to develop a transitional tiny home community designed for the environmental, social and policy priorities in the Region of Waterloo.” 

The second project was awarded in late October to Waterloo Professor Brian Doucet. His team will focus on centering the lived experiences of unhoused people in researching and proposing solutions to the homeless crisis. The work is part of a long-standing partnership between Doucet and the Social Development Centre of Waterloo Region. This project will develop a series of short- medium- and long-term solutions to address the growing issue of homelessness, where the populations directly impacted will play a crucial role in developing and implementing policy responses. This will be done by centring unhoused residents themselves, including conducting interviews with their peers.

“While there is a growing realization that lived experiences of affected communities need to be incorporated into planning and policy decision-making, all too often, this involves merely inviting marginalized individuals into existing conversations, while the underlying power relations remain static,” said Doucet. “Therefore, socially-just solutions must move beyond simply talking about lived experiences, towards a framework that recognizes the knowledge and agency of unsheltered residents and asserts their rights to regain control over the systems that shape their lives.”

The research teams will keep in close contact with the Region of Waterloo to ensure that proposed solutions will be ready to implement as soon as possible.

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