Gaining Ground, Losing Ground: The Paradoxes of Rural Homelessness

Cheryl Forchuk, Phyllis Montgomery, Helene Berman, Catherine Ward-Griffin, Rick Csiernik, Carolyne Gorlick, Elsabeth Jensen, Patrick Riesterer


The study examined rural housing and homelessness issues and looked at similarities and differences between rural and urban areas. It involved a secondary analysis of focus group data collected in a 2001-06 Community University Research Alliance study of mental health and housing. The findings highlight concerns regarding the lack of services, which can precipitate a move from a rural to an urban community. Inadequate transportation services often posed a challenge to rural residents attempting to access services. Many participants preferred rural living but felt they had to choose between residing where they wanted to and having access to essential services. In some cases entire families were uprooted in pursuit of services. Once in an urban environment, rural participants had ongoing difficulty obtaining employment, housing, and services, which in turn led to disappointment in their new environment. The primary reason given for entering the shelter system was lack of alternatives and supports. Increased services need to be allocated to rural communities so that a health promotion and illness-prevention model of care can replace the current emphasis on crisis management.

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