UBC Theses and Dissertations
Residential alternatives for women on Vancouver’s skid road Angell, Corinne Lois
Unattached women with problem backgrounds are repeatedly using crisis related services in Vancouver's skid road. These services consist of emergency shelter accommodation, counselling, and housing referral. The women requiring these services have an urgent problem locating and maintaining stable, long-term housing. Such women are usually between the ages of 19 and 55 years and live without spouses, dependents, or other significant attachments. They are likely to be physically, mentally, or socially handicapped, and unable to support themselves. Most of them are defined by social service and health agency workers as "hard-to-house" in most private market housing. Members of this group have personal problems characterized by psychiatric difficulties, mental instability, and drug and alcohol problems. Their present residential environment and the lack of suitable residential alternatives, exacerbate their problems, causing extreme psychological and often physical hardships. Agency workers express urgent concern that, while the provision of emergency services may temporarily stabilize a client, the constant moves and the repetition of these services is not only therapeutically disruptive, but does nothing to meet the clients' long-term needs. As most of the target group is unable to cope with independent living and requires 2n>-hour living supervision, the need for residential care is perceived as a remedy. There is evidence that the occurrence of deinstitutionalization has added to the numbers of skid road residents by releasing ill-prepared patients or inmates of institutions into the community. Hotels and rooming house operators express concern over a hard-to-house population who are burdensome. Mental health professionals have expressed concern over the lack of residential alternatives available to former mental patients in Vancouver. The recent trend in the care of deinstitutionalized mental patients in North America, point to the provision of supportive housing. This is housing which provides social supports designed to assist the resident in coping with daily living while integrating into the community. The purpose of this thesis was to investigate the nature of these women's housing problems in their current residential environment; to discover their dissatisfactions and requirements with regard to housing; to examine the supply of residential options; and to explore the - type of residential alternatives that would be most suited to their needs. Three data sources were used: skid road agency workers and their clients experiencing housing related difficulties; key informants in the community involved in the provision of social housing and residential care programs; and the mental health literature. Interviews with agency workers and their clients found that hotel and rooming houses are highly inappropriate living arrangements for the subject group. Several conditions related to the skid road residential environment were found to render unattached woment especially vulnerable to physical and sexual assault and other forms of harrassment. These conditions included poor security; limited supervision; discrimination; as well as the fact that women are a minority population. The interviews also found that women prefer safe, secure, self-contained suites or sex-segregated bathrooms and toilets. The inventory of residential options in Vancouver revealed that most were unsuitable, and of those considered suitable, the supply was extremely inadequate. The mental health literature suggests that residential programs encouraging independent living, have been successful for other populations with characteristics similar to those of the target group. This thesis recommends further study of the population, their capabilities, and the extent to which they can be rehabilitated, as well as/'the necessary support services required, to be followed by the initiation of a pilot project. The thesis also recommends that skid road hotels and rooming houses be improved in ways that would reduce the hardships imposed on unattached female residents.
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