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Research report

Shelters for homeless men

The objective of this thesis is to describe the different ways in which homeless shelters provide support and services for homeless men. In today's context where prevailing standards discourage close relationships between the contemporary individual and institutions, how do shelters maintain homeless men in a street lifestyle, while offering them tools to "get off the street" and "pushing" them out of the institution? Given the central role of shelters to the lives of these men, and the significant changes made to their intervention practices over the decades, we wished to describe, understand and explain the multiple solutions offered to homeless men through different forms of support.

The work done in homeless shelters is essential to the survival of this population.

The work done in homeless shelters is essential to the survival of the homeless population. However, shelters are not provided with the means to do this work. They look after a marginalized population who must be taught, among other things, to respect common social norms, to be independent and to assume responsibility, without having the resources to do so.

Using a set of theories on social institutions and a new institutional program, we set out to understand what is expected of people today when it comes to their relationships with institutions. With the help of our data, we constructed three ideal types of recourse to shelters, which correspond to three types of behaviour.

This research was conducted between July 2008 and February 2009 in Montréal's three main shelters for homeless men: the Old Brewery Mission, Welcome Hall and Maison du Père, which currently receive nearly 500 men daily. Not all homeless men use shelters, but these men formed the basis of our observations. We began the investigation with a period of direct observation to familiarize ourselves with the specific environment found in shelters. For eight months, we divided about fifteen hours a week between the three shelters, alternating evenings in order to gain a complete picture of the activities, daily routines, etc.


Main researcher: Carolyne Grimard, Université du Québec à Montréal

Original title: Les refuges pour hommes itinérants : lieux de passage ou d'encrage? Analyse du réseau des organismes communautaires comme solution sociopolitique à l'itinérance

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