Although the Positive Spaces Healthy Places (PSHP) study is over, its effects continue to ripple through the health and housing systems. A new article by the PSHP team — Not Just “A Roof over Your Head”: The Meaning of Healthy Housing for People Living with HIV — has been published in Housing, Theory and Society. A qualitative analysis of the housing experiences of 48 HIV-positive people living in Ontario, the article illustrates the dynamic interconnection between health, housing and other social factors, including:
- Housing cost: Many people living with HIV are forced to choose between safe and affordable housing; eligibility requirements for the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), coupled with low wages from part-time or temporary work, can create a sense of being “stuck” in inadequate housing, and unable to save for the future.
- Housing stability: Homelessness and transient housing emerged as a major theme, with some participants moving as many as five times a year; reasons for the frequent moves include lack of space, high rent, HIV-related stigma, and housing discrimination.
- Housing safety: Unsafe housing can include spaces that are poorly maintained, overcrowded, or located in neighbourhoods known for violence and crime; they can also include spaces where there is stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV. Families find it especially challenging to find housing in spaces that are safe and appropriate for their children.
- Social isolation: People living with HIV who feel unsafe at home report withdrawing from socialization and, in some cases, taking extraordinary measures to hide their HIV status, which may interfere with accessing support, either from government services or the community.
Additionally, our Evidence-Based Practice Unit has launched a five-year evaluation project involving six agencies that provide supportive housing. The goal: create an assessment tool that provides the feedback necessary develop more effective programs.