Preventing and reducing harms of substance use in homeless shelter programs

Funding body: Vancouver Foundation, Develop Research Grant

Background: Emergency shelters provide low threshold shelter to those who are currently using substances as well as barring substance use by residents to support those who seek to avoid substance use. Under current provincial guidelines, BC shelters are expected to provide harm reduction supplies for those using substances. They also provide abstinence based supports for those who do not use substances. The issues related to substance use in shelters are complex and the shelter population is diverse. Both shelter staff and residents have identified the need to do things differently. Our research question is: What are the issues and challenges related to substance use in a shelter setting and what are strategies for addressing the harms of substance use and promoting health? We are answering this question using an overarching community based approach to research that involved the conduct of qualitative interviews and focus groups with shelter staff and residents to better understand the issues related to substance use and the implementation of harm reduction strategies in this setting.

Progress to date: Data collection and analysis were completed in 2016.  One publication has been produced and is in press, with another publication currently in progress.  Findings have also been shared via academic conferences and community presentations.