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Exploring Low-barrier, Gender-focused Approaches to Housing

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About the Research Project

This training is intended to mobilize research knowledge from This is Not Home, a community-based, participatory research project that brings together gender-focused, low-barrier drop-in programs serving multiply-marginalized women (cis and trans) and gender-diverse people experiencing homelessness and housing precarity from across Canada.

Program managers, front-line staff, member-researchers (women and gender-diverse people with lived experience of homelessness and housing precarity) and program participants from each research site all played vital roles in our partnership.

The project aims to learn from the models of practice and service-delivery informing gender-specific, low-barrier drop-in programs, and from the lived expertise of the women and gender-diverse people who access these programs at all levels of the project.

Why a Drop-in Service Model?

Drop-ins and resource centres frequently provide services for multiply-marginalized women and gender diverse people. The project team recognized that many drop-ins successfully provide inclusive services to this population.

This is Not Home set out to understand what makes drop-ins successful and what works for the people that they serve. The research sites serve women (both cis and trans), two-spirited, non-binary and gender-diverse individuals. Participants of these sites often access them as an alternative to co-ed drop-ins and shelters.

Mainstream shelters are often not safe or appropriate for women and gender-diverse people. These spaces are becoming more accessible but in many places, appropriate services are still not available. Drop-in spaces are informal settings that are generally more accessible though not all are safe and inclusive for gender-diverse people. All shelters and drop-ins should be low-barrier and gender-focused to maximize inclusion and safety and successfully serve a diverse population including women and gender-diverse people.

Drop-in programs typically serve marginalized groups. They may be connected with housing and homeless services, but drop-ins serve other groups or communities as well. They are located in community centres, recreation hubs and women’s centres. They provide a range of services to address basic needs such as food, showers and laundry. They may offer programming and access to health and social services. They may appear similar to walk-in clinics but there is usually more focus on social connection and building community.

Participants appreciate that these spaces “feel like home” particularly when mainstream shelter and housing services did not feel welcoming or meet their needs.  

Participants referred to drop-ins as being homey or familial, using terms like “home base,” “feels like home,” “home away from home,” and ”like family” (TINH, 2021). 

Project Team

This is Not Home brought together a diverse range of stakeholders who had expert knowledge on gender-specific drop-in spaces. Women, both cis and trans, along with gender-diverse individuals with lived expertise on homelessness and housing, played key roles throughout all levels and phases of the project as expert advisors, project staff, member-researchers and as participants.


Aoife Mallon, Sistering (Toronto), project lead, research site
Emily Paradis, research lead


Manisha Rampersad
Madelyn Gold
Alison Armstrong
Kate Allan
Jeanette Blair
Mary Vaccaro
Kaitlin Schwan


Sistering (Toronto, ON)
My Sister’s Place (London ON)
Willow’s Place, Mission Services (Hamilton ON)
Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre (Whitehorse YK)
West Central Women’s Resource Centre (Winnipeg MB)
Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre


Atira Women’s Resource Society
Campaign 2000
DisAbled Women’s Network (DAWN) Canada
Yukon Status of Women

And other advisory and knowledge translation partners with subject matter and policy expertise


Aja Mason, Yukon Status of Women Council
Jolene Wilson, West Central Women’s Resource Centre
Louise Blakey, My Sister’s Place
Victoria Hajny, Willow’s Place, Mission Services
Michelle Lee, Willow’s Place, Mission Services
Madelyn Gold, Sistering


Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (Hub Solutions)
Institutes for Research and Development on Inclusion and Society (IRIS)

This is Not Home Project Summary