Alberta's urban homelessness research capacities: a comprehensive environmental scan from 1990 to 2010.
Article Type: Report
Subject: Homelessness (Environmental aspects)
Mixed methods research
Authors: Burns, Katharina Kovacs
Richter, Solina
Pub Date: 12/22/2011
Publication: Name: Canadian Journal of Urban Research Publisher: Institute of Urban Studies Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 Institute of Urban Studies ISSN: 1188-3774
Issue: Date: Winter, 2011 Source Volume: 20 Source Issue: 2
Topic: Event Code: 290 Public affairs
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Canada Geographic Name: Alberta; Alberta Geographic Code: 1CANA Canada; 1CALB Alberta
Accession Number: 296951973
Full Text: Abstract

An Alberta environmental scan was conducted to identify homelessness research, research expertise and capacity in Alberta and particularly seven urban centers, between 1990 and 2010. Mixed methods were incorporated, combining published and grey literature searches with surveys for homelessness-related researchers and community and government agencies/organizations. The project had six main deliverables, explored and developed in parallel, to ensure cross referencing of the data gathered:

1. Registry of Alberta Homelessness Researchers

2. Inventory of Homelessness Networks

3. List of Researchers and Community/Government Representatives interested in the proposed Alberta Homelessness Research Network

4. Annotated Bibliography of Published Homelessness Research Literature

5. Annotated Bibliography of the Grey or Unpublished Literature

6. Gaps and Challenges in Homelessness Research

From the analysis of the findings, several recommendations and conclusions were made, including the need to link researchers through an Alberta Homelessness Research Network and have them research identified gaps in homelessness knowledge, practices and policies.

Keywords: homelessness research, homelessness researchers, capacity for homeless research, homelessness research gaps, homelessness research challenges, homelessness research networks

Resume

Un survol environnemental albertain a ete mene pour identifier l'expertise ainsi que la recherche et la capacite de recherchesur le sans-abrisme en Alberta (plus particulierement dans sept centres urbains) de 1990 a 2010. Des methodes mixtes ont ete incorporees, combinant des recherches d'identification de la litterature publiee et de la litterature grise avec des sondages menes aupres de chercheurs et d'agences/ organisations communautaires et gouvernementales axes sur le sans-abrisme. Le projet avait six principaux elements livrables qui ont ete explores et developpes en parallele de sorte a assurer la verification de concordance des donnees recueillies:

1. Registry of Alberta Homelessness Researchers

2. Inventaire des reseaux sur le sans-abrisme

3. Liste des chercheurs et des representants communautaires / gouvernementaux interesses au reseau propose, le Alberta Homelessness Research Network

4. Bibliographie analytique de la litterature publiee sur la recherche portant sur le sans-abrisme

5. Bibliographie analytique de la litterature grise ou non publiee

6. Lacunes et defis de la recherche sur le sans-abrisme

A partir de l'analyse des resultats de recherche, plusieurs recommandations et conclusions ont ete faites, dont le besoin de relier les chercheurs au moyen d'un reseaualbertain de recherche sur le sans-abrisme et d'obtenir que ces chercheurs identifient les lacunes des savoirs, des pratiques et des politiques sur le sans-abrisme.

Mots cles: recherche sur le sans-abrisme, chercheurs sur le sans-abrisme, capacite de recherche sur le sans-abrisme, lacunes de la recherche sur le sans-abrisme, defis de la recherche sur le sans-abrisme, reseaux de recherche sur le sans-abrisme

Introduction

"You don't know what you don't know" (Anonymous)

What do we know about research conducted with people who are homeless? What do we know about research on homelessness issues in Alberta between 1990 and 2010? What do we know about the researchers who coordinated the various research studies in Alberta? The research with people who are homeless and about their homelessness experiences do exist in Alberta as it does across Canada. Researchers conducting studies with people who are homeless or on homelessness issues in Alberta or across Canada are known to one another; or at least, researchers are generally aware of who is doing what research and on what specific aspects or topics of homelessness. Publications in peer-reviewed journals and presentations at local and national conferences help with networking amongst researchers and with dissemination of results and experiences. The various Internet Homelessness Hubs also bring researchers and those interested in the research, together, to interact and share experiences, best practices and challenges, and to collaborate on other relevant research.

What is not known is how much research has actually been conducted on homelessness in Alberta and on what issues or priority homelessness areas. It is also not known with whom in the community or other sectors the researchers worked, what approaches they used in their studies, as well as what the results or outcomes were, or their impacts, on people who are homeless. In addition, it is not known if and how the research findings were disseminated and applied in various settings, to address homelessness issues one-by-one or systemically. It is not known what and where the gaps and challenges are with regards to homelessness interventions and solutions and related research. There is no Alberta homelessness research plan, but is one needed? These various questions and unknowns were posed for an environmental scan by The Alberta Homelessness Research Consortium (Alberta Secretariat for Action on Homelessness 2010) whose role is to build provincial capacity to coordinate and conduct research that supports the objective of ending homelessness in Alberta through the sharing of knowledge and opportunities. They facilitate collaboration amongst Albertans who work in diverse sectors or areas related to homelessness and who have important expertise and experiences which contribute to various pieces of the homelessness puzzle. The Consortium is affiliated with the Alberta Secretariat for Action on Homelessness whose overall goal is to end homelessness in 10 years. The Government of Alberta approved A Plan for Alberta: Ending Homelessness in 10 Years (2008) and established the Alberta Homelessness Research Consortium to follow through on strategies and informing policy development and sharing best practices.

The purpose of the environmental scan was to identify research expertise, establish the scope of homelessness-related research capacities in Alberta, and identify gaps in knowledge that could be targeted for future research initiatives (Alberta Homelessness Consortium 2010). More specifically, the scan was to provide an overview of homelessness-related research and researchers as it pertained to seven cities within Alberta--Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Red Deer. This included the appropriate ministries of the Alberta Government and relevant departments of each municipality, as well as community agencies and organizations which were identified as providing services to people who are homeless, and evaluating or assessing the impact.

The significance of the study relates to the needs of the broader community and government organizations, local and national, to better understand what homelessness research and evidence exists which can support the advocacy and service efforts of community service providers and government decisionmakers. These latter groups are the users of the research evidence generated within the community context and with people who live the experience of physically being without a home or who are identified as the homeless. It is also about the supports and services needed by those who are homeless, to get out and stay out of homelessness. The statistics and evidence, including active annual or bi-annual counts of people who are homeless, their stories and experiences of being homeless, support needs and other information gathered through research initiatives, are all evidence of various forms, and are valuable and usable data. Exploring these various aspects of homelessness research and the researchers behind them, is what this study and paper are about.

Methodology

Identified with the Alberta Homelessness Research Consortium, the environmental scan project had six main deliverables identified:

1. Registry of Alberta Homelessness researchers

2. Inventory of Homelessness Networks

3. List of Researchers and Community/Government Representatives interested in the proposed Alberta Homelessness Network

4. Annotated Bibliography of Published Homelessness research Literature

5. Annotated Bibliography of the Grey or Unpublished Literature

6. Gaps and Challenges in Homelessness research

Each deliverable was explored and managed individually in terms of methodology/approach and presentation. However, overlap of approaches for some of the deliverables was practical and logical. Generally, mixed methods approaches were incorporated, combining Internet or specific website searches with surveys for homelessness-related researchers and for community and government agencies/organizations, as well as semi-structured phone interviews to confirm or clarify the information gathered through the literature or surveys.

Two structured survey tools (one for researchers and one for community/government representatives) were developed and sent out by email to all identified researchers and community/government contacts. The specific survey tool used to gather information from researchers included questions on demographics, their specific research focus on homelessness and with people who are homeless, who they collaborate with, location of research, grant funding, perceived or identified gaps and challenges, homelessness research network affiliations and their interest in being part of an Alberta-wide network if one was established. Similar and additional questions in a survey were posed to community and government representatives. The questions focused on demographics/contact information, their involvement in conducting or contracting research and with whom, connecting with researchers or assisting, focus of research if relevant, producing research and other homelessness reports, possible publications, links to publications and reports on their website or other places, identifying or perceiving gaps and challenges in homelessness research, affiliation with homelessness research networks and interest in being part of Alberta-wide network, if one was established.

The participants (researchers, government representatives and community representatives) were identified and/or recruited through various means. Many of the researchers were identified and known through The Homeless Hub Network (Calgary Homelessness Foundation 2010 or affiliated with community services and academic institutions. Nineteen were initially located in this manner, and others were provided through word-of-mouth, or found while searching the literature and conference sites. The government representatives were linked with one of the seven urban centers (Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Red Deer) or the Provincial ministry responsible for The Alberta Homelessness Secretariat. Community representatives were located through various websites for each urban center or provided through snowballing via word-of-mouth.

While literature and network searches were being conducted, emails with a covering introduction letter and the appropriate researcher or community/government representative survey went out to all researchers and community and government contacts. Follow up phone interviews were made with select key community and government informants identified either by the Alberta Homelessness Research Consortium members or through survey responses and other contacts made in conjunction with the study.

Results and Analysis

The following results and analyses provide details about each of the six deliverables as well as an analysis of research activities in the seven urban centers in Alberta.

1. Registry of Alberta Homelessness Researchers

A web-based search was conducted of all Alberta based post-secondary institutes for researchers involved in homelessness-related research. The literature search and survey responses also revealed additional researchers. Initial internet searches of Alberta homelessness researchers identified about 19 through the Calgary Homeless Foundation Research Network. Others were located through word-of-mouth or other websites including with universities for a total of 29 homelessness-related researchers. The survey responses of researchers confirm and support the information obtained on each researcher found on either a homelessness research network or their organizational or personal websites. Most homelessness research interests of the researchers focus on four topic areas, thematically identified as youth homelessness, homeless women, discourse and homelessness and health and service delivery.

2. Inventory of Homelessness-Related Networks

Local, national and international networks were searched for on the Internet, as well as through key documents identifying homelessness research networks or 'hubs'. The searches were conducted using core search terms and expanding searches through other terms and specific websites. The core search terms included "homelessness research hubs," homelessness research networks," "homelessness researchers," "homelessness research collaborations," "homelessness research coalitions," "researching the homeless hubs/networks/collaborations/ coalitions," and "homelessness research communities." Additional terms were added with these core terms--Alberta specific, Canada, Global/international, as well as each of the seven cities in Alberta (Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, Red Deer, Fort McMurray, Medicine Hat and Grande Prairie).

A total of 70 homelessness-related research networks, hubs, coalitions and collaborations were found with eight being locally situated or in Alberta, 23 being national or Canadian, and 39 being international or located in other countries. Table 1 (a) provides the local or Alberta homelessness research networks. Table 1 (b) provides a list of the national or Canadian networks, and Table 1 (c) contains a large list of international networks or sites containing networks.

Each network/hub/coalition/collaboration was described briefly in terms of the homelessness research focus and purpose, goals, and research sharing. The networks were generally clustered by their functionality related to homelessness research and related activities for and with researchers. For example, some networks were specifically focused on housing research while others were more general on homelessness research. There were some as specific as dealing only with children or youth homelessness, domestic violence and homelessness, or veteran homelessness research. In Alberta, there is one main homelessness research HUB or network located within the Calgary Homeless Foundation site. The others were more focused on advocacy or social issues. The same analysis was found to hold for national and international networks. The latter HUBs were actually supported by specific academic institutions or community organizations, and were embedded within their websites. This made it difficult to locate them. An additional challenge for locating these networks or HUBS, was that very few called themselves 'networks'. Some were coalitions or collaborations.

3. List of Researchers and Community/Government Representatives Interested in Alberta Homelessness Network

Each of two surveys targeted to researchers and to community/government representatives contained a question specifically focused on the individual's interest in becoming a member or being affiliated with a proposed Alberta homelessness research network. A second question was posed regarding the respondents' expectations from such a network. From the responses, it was clear that the researchers liked to be affiliated with networks while community people did not necessarily perceive this as important for their work with people who are homeless or dealing with homelessness issues. Of the 17 out of 29 researchers who responded to the surveys, 15 indicated their interest in being affiliated with an Alberta-based homelessness research network. Of 44 out of 107 community and government representatives who responded to the survey and emails, 29 indicated that they would like to be affiliated with an Alberta homelessness research network. Included in this list are municipal government representatives who responded to the survey and were spoken with on the phone. These latter were interested in being affiliated, primarily to access researchers for conducting research and also for the various study results.

4. Annotated Bibliography of Published Homelessness Research Literature

The Web of Science Database (linking all data bases) was searched for the period of 1990 to 2010. The search history used was as follows: Homeless * or vagrancy or tent city OR immigrants or single people, or women, or families, or street youth, or working poor, or seniors or mentally ill. 1662 references included the search terms. Individual searches of each research-author's website, was also done to ensure all of their relevant homelessness publications were captured. Survey responses from the researchers also referenced their publications.

Based on the publication searches, 24 articles were identified and selected to be included in this study. Ten articles reflected on studies conducted with homeless youth; three of the articles focused on homeless women issues; three on discourses related to homelessness issues; and eight on health and service delivery. Most (19 of the 24 articles) were written within a five-year time span between 2005 and 2010. Figure 1 shows this trend in the number of articles published over this latter time span, with most (or five in total) in 2009. Prior to 2005, there were very few articles published. No articles were published between 1990 and 1998. Three were published in 1999, and one article per year from 2000 to 2005.

An additional search was conducted to identify all Master's and PhD homelessness-related studies that were conducted at Alberta Universities during the period 1990--2010. This list of students was added to the literature document. Twenty-one Master's and/or PhD studies on homelessness had been completed at the Universities of Calgary and Alberta in this timeframe.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

5. Annotated Bibliography of the Grey or Unpublished Literature

The Grey or unpublished literature (reports, papers, briefing notes and others), were searched using two different approaches (Internet and specific municipality or organizational websites), to ensure that the search was as thorough and comprehensive as possible. All grey literature was screened for selection based first on the range of years between 1990 and 2010, and then on a core set of search terms followed by a set of screening criteria established for this project. The core search terms applied to the internet search sites included using "Alberta homelessness research," "Alberta homelessness research reports," "Alberta homelessness research studies," "Alberta homelessness reports," "Alberta homelessness assessments or plans." This revealed some general homelessness reports for Alberta including within the provincial and municipal governments. This was followed by an advanced search conducted with each of the seven cities including municipality or city websites, homelessness committee sites, and community organizations identified to be providing services to people who are homeless. Other sources included specific links to documents provided by survey respondents, as some reports were not located on public sites.

Based on the types of documents which appeared on Internet searches, the challenge encountered was determining what constituted research and research-related reports or documents in reference to the purpose of this study. In discussion with the Alberta Homelessness Research Consortium, It was decided to go with a broad or flexible definition and description of 'research' and 'research-related', as this would provide the diversity in documents needed for this environmental scan, particularly in describing the gaps and challenges with homelessness research. The screening criteria for document inclusion included: research study reports (e.g. those completed by researchers at universities or through contracts or by community representatives), community assessments or plans with various research elements contained, homeless counts, program and service evaluations, progress reports containing statistics or other evaluation outcomes, homelessness profiling and other types of documents which contain research information or which were based on research results.

Based on the searches and some email responses from community and government representatives, 822 documents were initially selected and screened of which 260 were selected based on the flexible criteria identified in the methodology. A total of 232 documents (study reports, city reports, plans, assessments, and others) were scanned or read and summarized for the Annotated Bibliography. The documents were also assessed for general themes and aligned accordingly as follows:

I. Community Perspectives of the Homeless and Homelessness (8 documents)

II. Counts/Assessments of People who are Homeless (30 documents)

III. Facilities and Services for People who are Homeless (10 documents)

IV. Housing and Homelessness (68 documents)

V. Immigrants and Homelessness (3 documents)

VI. Planning and Plans to End Homelessness (28 documents)

VII. Prevention of Homelessness (1 document)

VIII. Progress and Annual Community Analysis of Homelessness (33 documents)

IX. Referencing Homelessness (19 documents)

X. Social and General Profiling of Homelessness (11 documents)

XI. Women and Homelessness (2 documents)

XII. Youth Homelessness/Homeless Youth (9 documents)

XIII. Homelessness Research Plans and Directories (3 documents)

XIV. Homelessness Community Service Resource Guides and Inventories (7 documents)

As can be noted from the count of documents for each theme, the grey literature is predominantly about reports related to housing and homelessness, community progress analysis with housing, and homelessness plans, particularly with plans to end homelessness. Most of the documents (223 of 232) were written between 2000 and 2010. There were four documents with no date identifier. Figure 1 illustrates the trend of when homelessness grey literature reports were written and/ or published. It is worth noting that between 1990 and 2010 there was more grey literature produced than articles published. The majority of grey reports were written from 2006 to 2010, with 52 reports written in 2007. All of these reports were written and based on the escalating 'ending homelessness' lever which started with government announcements in 2006/2007. After 2007, there was a noticeable decrease in the number of reports, with only 28 reports written.

In addition to these themed research document summaries, the bibliography also contains an additional 'Miscellaneous' section which contains homelessness research plans and resource/service guides and directories. These latter were included in the bibliography because of the criteria applied for 'what is research' and since they have incorporated a lot of consultations and research information scanning to develop their comprehensive documents. These documents include three Alberta or related research plans and directories and seven community services and resource guides and inventories.

6. Gaps and Challenges in Homelessness Research

The various data gathered through surveys with researchers and community/government organizations, as well as from scholarly publications and the grey literature, were read specifically for any identified gaps and challenges related to homelessness research areas, methodological and other approaches with participants who are homeless or with community/government agencies, and other research-related issues or considerations. These identified gaps and challenges were summarized for researchers, community/government agencies and the literature (both published and grey) in Table 2. As indicated in the table, common themes across all three sources was "intervention effectiveness," "data and information on homelessness," and "specific populations." Themes which were unique to researchers included "rural homelessness" and "Inclusion of people who are homeless." The literature presented with three unique themes--"Best practices in prevention of homelessness," "addressing poverty" and "community engagement in homelessness plans." The theme "coordination of research elements" was mentioned by researchers and government/community representatives, but was not mentioned in the literature as a gap or challenge.

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

Two of the gaps identified were 'data and information on homelessness' and 'coordination of research elements'. Both could be analyzed from the perspective of the seven urban centers. Ml the data gathered for the seven centers clearly indicated that Calgary and Edmonton, the two largest centers in Alberta, have the most homelessness research capacity in terms of numbers of researchers, community services involved with the homeless, and the most published and grey literature. Gaps and challenges were very similar for both of these centers. Where the real gap can be said to exist, is with the other five urban centers. The one comparison of the seven centers which demonstrates differences in research outcomes and clearly shows the two large centers compared with the other five, are the numbers of published articles and grey reports. Figure 2 shows the trend for all seven urban centers as well as an 'other' and 'governments' category.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Although this environmental scan of Alberta-based homelessness researchers, research studies and related documents, is fairly comprehensive, the scan and resulting deliverables should be considered as preliminary baseline information and updated annually for reporting purposes. This scan provides a unique portrayal or profile of what homelessness-related research has been conducted in Alberta and specifically within the seven cities, including by which researchers, and for what purpose. Considering the large volume of community-based research conducted, not much of this has been published in peer-reviewed journals or other sources. This is something which researchers working with community and government agencies can easily rectify. The information contained in the grey literature provides some key information which should be shared with a broader audience than only those accessing these documents on specific organizational websites or through the Internet. The vast amount of information in these published and grey reports should be analyzed for common trends in services, programs, health or other needs of people who are homeless, further research questions, and possible interventions or solutions for homelessness issues, and preventing or ending homelessness. This information would be of value to researchers, community services and governments in their follow up research or decision making regarding services and policies. This transfer and translation of the evidence is part of Knowledge Translation (Graham et al. 2006) a practice which is needs to be reinforced in each study conducted and with each study proposed. Through the translation of the evidence gathered, there is a better chance of it being utilized by the users of the knowledge or evidence which in this case could be researchers, community and government people, as well as people who are homeless.

The Registry of Alberta Researchers is primarily associated with the Universities of Calgary and Alberta. With researchers concentrated in two of the seven cities, primarily because of university locations and factors such as access to numbers of people who are homeless, there needs to be more research capacity building amongst community and government staff to conduct research or collaborate with researchers from academic institutions. In turn, trained researchers need to partner more closely with community and government in all seven cities, but particularly Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Red Deer. It is advised that more interdisciplinary and cross-sector research teams conduct research in homelessness because of its complexity and challenges. The community engagement or participatory approach recommended with this type of research should enable more collaboration amongst different disciplines and community groups. Mentoring and involving students in this area is also recommended. The challenge seems to be getting more junior researchers involved. The number of post-graduate students who have completed theses in homelessness areas is surprisingly high based on the registry of Masters and PhD students, but their continuation into a career path as an academic or scholarly researcher in homelessness is not evident. This is an opportunity that should be pursued to not only build the networks of researchers or research teams within the province, but also facilitate more research in the five smaller urban centers in Alberta and in rural communities as well.

Having an Alberta-wide network on homelessness research will provide opportunities for increasing collaboration to conduct more diverse research and build more research capacity with students and community or government staff in all seven cities of Alberta. The search for local, national and international networks revealed many more than originally expected, but the terminology is a challenge as not all homelessness researcher groups are called networks. Some are hubs; others are coalitions or collaborations. These networks are not easy to find as they are often embedded in organizational websites. This needs to change so that researchers or others wanting to access homelessness researchers or other related information can do so expeditiously.

Although all the networks searched and included in the inventory for this project have homelessness research as their main theme, they vary in terms of different specialty areas of homelessness such as for housing or health or women or youth. If an Alberta Homelessness Research Network is planned, it needs to be planned appropriately with research themes and other relevant information, and be an independent entity with its own website. This would make the network and its website more of a usable resource to researchers and others--for information sharing, collaboration on teams or grants, funding opportunities, program/service access and so on. There needs to be some incentive to joining and being part of the network than just having one's name on a site. Interest by researchers as well as community and government representatives in being part of an Alberta-based homelessness research network was evident. This is worthwhile pursuing with those who have expressed interest.

The annotated bibliographies are a large part of this project and are those reports which are key to homelessness information and planning. These should be published in different journals or other sources. The two comprehensive annotated bibliographies of published and grey literature will be a good resource of information for many homelessness stakeholders in Alberta and elsewhere. The topics or themes under which the literature aligns are important to note, particularly since these could be thought of as areas of high priority for service planning or funding or other initiatives. The predominant reports include "housing and homelessness" (68 documents out of 232), "progress and annual community analysis of homelessness" (33 documents), homeless counts and assessments (30 documents), and "planning and plans to end homelessness" (28 documents). The remaining documents fall under 11 other themes. Table 2 provides the years when most published and grey literature appeared on the topic of homelessness. Although the search was taken from 1990 to 2010, the majority of both published and grey literature appeared after the turn of the 21st century, with grey literature becoming more prevalent from 2000 onwards, while published articles slowly started to appear around 2004. Research and related publications on homelessness had a late start in Alberta!

The gaps and challenges identified by researchers, community and government representatives and the literature (both published and grey) provide perspectives about where there needs to be more data and knowledge generation, or about areas of homelessness that need to be validated and supported through research such as the impact of interventions to end or prevent homelessness. The one area identified to have major gaps and challenges is the 'coordination of research elements' which includes the capacity of researchers as well as community/governments, approaches to research with people who are homeless, and others. This is a capacity building issue and one that requires resources, collaboration and organization of many stakeholder groups. One suggestion to address some of this is to utilize what exists or has been initiated, such as an annual Homelessness Forum where research expertise and studies are identified, information is shared, and potential capacity building workshops or opportunities could be made available. Each of the gaps and challenges under the identified themes needs consideration, but there also needs to be prioritization and planning around homelessness research and research capacities over the next year to five years if any changes are to be seen in this area of research development, implementation and utilization. This latter could be viewed as a start for an Alberta Homelessness Research Agenda. Consideration should include not only scholarly researchers' priorities for homelessness research but also the research priorities of community-based and government representatives. More interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral homelessness research is also needed as well as province-wide with the seven cities. This would assist with more of the needed information sharing, dissemination and knowledge transfer amongst all homelessness stakeholders.

In conclusion, it is hoped that the information in this report will facilitate exploration of more collaboration between academics, government and community organizations to support urban and rural community-based homelessness research in Alberta. This extensive environmental scan has not been done previously in Alberta or any other province in Canada. At this stage, if we ask what is known about homelessness researchers in Alberta, their research and other homelessness-related initiatives, we would be able to provide some concrete evidence from this environmental scan. The information gathered provides a large diverse baseline of Alberta homelessness research and research-related data and information from 1990 to 2010 which can be used to guide further research or guide decisions regarding homelessness programs, services and policies.

The findings for this study can also be thought of as the starting point for exploring collaborative homelessness research in Alberta and with other researchers across Canada. Since there is no other study like this one in Canada, this study will be of interest to other researchers and stakeholders who currently participate in homelessness research or are users of the information and evidence provided in such studies. Decision makers should also be encouraged to be supporters of or become collaborators in the research within their local or provincial settings to guide the production of relevant research questions and the kind of evidence needed to support decisions concerning funding or development or sustainability of homelessness initiatives including programs, services, Housing First or others. The benefactors of this research and the broad engagement of interdisciplinary stakeholders in these types of research activities within the homeless community exploring strategies to prevent or end homelessness, are the people who are homeless or close to potentially becoming homeless. "To be successful [in ending or preventing homelessness], we must first understand homelessness" (Calgary Homeless Foundation 2010). To understand homelessness, research must become a key component of the 'ending homelessness plans' provincially and with the seven urban centers in Alberta, and also of the Alberta Homelessness Research Agenda.

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to acknowledge the Alberta Homelessness Research Consortium for the contract and the support throughout the study. Acknowledgement also goes out to Homeward Trust for funding the contract and to all the participants in the study including homelessness researchers, community organizations and municipal governments n the seven cities of Alberta (Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, Fort McMurray, Red Deer, Grande Prairie and Medicine Hat).

References

Alberta Secretariat for Action on Homelessness. 2010. Alberta Homelessness Research Consortium. Edmonton: Government of Alberta Housing and Urban Affairs. Link available at housing.alberta.ca/742.cfm.

Alberta Secretariat for Action on Homelessness. 2008. A Plan for Alberta: Ending Homelessness in 10 Years. Edmonton: Government of Alberta.

Alberta Homelessness Consortium. 2010. Contract Opportunity: Environmental Scan of Homelessness-Focused Research in Alberta since 1990. Edmonton: Alberta Secretariat for Action on Homelessness.

Calgary Homelessness Foundation. 2010. Calgary Homelessness Foundation's Research Network. The Homeless Hub Network--Doing Research. Link available at http://homelesshub.ca/Doing Research/.

Calgary Homeless Foundation. 2010. Research page. Link available at http://www.calgaryhomeless.com/default.asp?FolderID=3173.

Graham, I. D., Logan, J., Harrison, M. B., Strauss, S. E., Tetroe, J., Caswell, W., and Robinson, N. 2006. Lost in Knowledge Translation: Time for a Map? The Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions. Volume 26, pp. 13-24.

Katharina Kovacs Burns

Health Sciences Council

University of Alberta

Solina Richter

Faculty of Nursing

University of Alberta
Table 1 (a): Listing of Homelessness Networks * located Locally in
Alberta. (* Network was not the only term round with the searches;
others include hub, coalition and collaboration).

Local (Alberta) Networks
Alberta Housing Coalition

Calgary Community Land Trust

City of Calgary Community and Neighbourhood Services Research
on Affordable Housing and Homelessness

Calgary Homeless Foundation

Edmonton Social Planning Committee

Housing Registry Network

Public Interest Alberta

Table 1 (b) Listing of Homelessness Networks * located Nationally
(across Canada). (* Network was not the only term found with the
searches; others include hub, coalition and collaboration).

National (Canadian) Networks

* Alliance to End Homelessness    * Timeless Individuals & Families
                                      Information System
* Canadian Council on Social      * Housing Again
    Development
* Canadian Housing & Renewal      * London's Community Plan on
    Association                       Homelessness
* Centre for Urban & Community    * National Homelessness
    Studies, University of            Initiative
    Toronto
* Community Plan on               * Preventing Homelessness in
    Homelessness & Housing in         Peel Program in Ontario
    Winnipeg
* Ending Family Homelessness      * 25 in 5 Network
    Network
* Federation of Community         * Pandemic Planning
    Municipalities                    Homelessness Network
* Grad Networks on                * Great Victoria Coalition to End
    Homelessness                      Homelessness Society

Table 1 (c) Listing of Homelessness Networks * Located Internationally.
(* Network was not the only term found with the searches; others include
hub, coalition and collaboration).

                       International Networks

Australian Housing and Urban       National Coalition for the Homeless
Research Institute                 National Coalition for Homelessness
Affordable Housing Institute       Veterans
Australia Homelessness             National Coalition on Black Civic
Information Clearinghouse          Participation
Brooking Institution               National Health Care for the
Business Action on Homelessness       Homeless (HCH) Council
Center for Community Change        National Housing Law Projects
Chronic Poverty Research Centre    National Law Income Housing
                                      Coalition
Coalition on Human Needs           National Mental Health Association
Community-Led Infrastructure       National Network for Youth
Finance Facility                   National Neighbor Coalition
Family Promise                     The National Law Center on
FEANTSA                               Homelessness and Poverty
Habitat for Humanity               National Policy and Advocacy Council
Housing Assistance Council         National Student Campaign Against
Joseph Rowntree Foundation         Hunger
Homeless International             National Rural Housing Coalition
National Alliance of HUD Tenants   Oxford Hub
National Alliance to End           Projects for Assistance in
Homelessness                          Transition for Homelessness
National Association for the       Technical Assistance Collaborative
Education of Homelessness          U.S. Department of Housing and
Children and Youth                    Urban Development
National Clearinghouse on          U.S. Interagency Council on
Families and Youth                 Homelessness
National Coalition Against
Domestic Violence

Table 2: Summary of themes of homelessness research gaps and
challenges, as identified by Alberta researchers, government
and community representatives and the published and grey
literature.

THEMES                       RESEARCHERS   COMMUNITY/
                                           GOVERNMENT
                                           REPRESENTATIVES

Intervention Effectiveness   Yes           Yes

Data & information           Yes           Yes

Specific Populations         Yes           Yes

Rural Homelessness           Yes           No

Accessing Services           Yes           No

Inclusion of Homeless        Yes           No

Coordination of Research     Yes           Yes
Elements

Public Perception or         No            Yes
Attitudes

Best practices
in Prevention of
Homelessness

Addressing Poverty

Community Engagement
in plans

THEMES                       LITERATURE

Intervention Effectiveness   Yes--e.g. cost of
                             homelessness

Data & information           Yes

Specific Populations         Yes--e.g. youth &
                             families

Rural Homelessness

Accessing Services           Yes

Inclusion of Homeless

Coordination of Research
Elements

Public Perception or         Yes
Attitudes

Best practices               Yes--e.g. multiple
in Prevention of             episodes of
Homelessness                 homelessness

Addressing Poverty           Yes

Community Engagement         Yes
in plans
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