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Holistic Housing Access for 2SLGBTQ+ Adults

06 Jun 2024

Guest Author


This past April, sessions at the 2024 CHRA National Congress delved into pressing issues facing Canada’s housing and homelessness sector. Speakers Naheed Hosan and Anne-Marie Parent of the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation joined us to discuss their ongoing research project, Queer Identity and Housing: Co-designing Holistic Housing Access with 2SLGBTQ+ Adults in Canada. Read on to learn more.



The Social Research and Demonstration Corporation is a mission-driven, Canadian charitable non-profit with over 30 years’ experience providing high quality research and evaluation support for evidence-informed decision-making.

SRDC’s  study, Queer Identity and Housing: Co-designing Holistic Housing Access with 2SLGBTQ+ Adults in Canada, is being conducted in partnership with the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (COH) and Mentor Canada and is funded by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). This ongoing two-year research project will be completed in March 2025.

The goal of the study is to determine how best to ensure more 2SLGBTQ+ adults can access holistic supports that enable them to thrive in housing by identifying potential solutions that can be co-designed by people with lived experience, housing stakeholders, and policymakers at all levels of government.

This comparative case study explores facilitators and barriers to 2SLGBTQ+ adults accessing holistic housing from emerging adulthood to old age. The partners previously conducted a similar study focused on youth,  mapping queer and trans youths’ journeys through housing and related services. Youth and service providers co-designed and validated the findings, which included a queer housing continuum prototype and actionable solutions.


The gap

Homelessness and housing insecurity among 2SLGBTQ+ adults and older adults has received less attention in the research and policy spheres than that of 2SLGBTQ+ youth.

The study’s literature review showed that:

  • Emergency shelters often operate on the gender binary, which can be distressing for transgender adults who may not feel comfortable accessing segregated services.
  • Discrimination based upon sexual orientation and/or gender identity is a prominent cause of homelessness among 2SLGBTQ+ adults.
  • Older 2SLGBTQ+ adults are concerned about encountering homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in housing, with some older adults going “back into the closet.”

Initial key informant interviews revealed that:

  • Many 2SLGBTQ+ adults are focused on survival, safety, acceptance, and sense of community/social connection in the face of intolerance, hostility, violence, and misinformation.
  • Early adulthood can be a difficult period for 2SLGBTQ+ folks to navigate, particularly for youth leaving care – many young adults would benefit from ‘bridge’ housing options.
  • Older 2SLGBTQ+ adults have pressing needs related to end-of-life considerations, wills, and medical directives, and being ‘out’ in spaces like long-term care.
  • There is a lack of funding and resources for queer and trans-serving organizations, and discrimination and exclusion facing queer folks who try to access mainstream services.
  • 2SLGBTQ+ adults face the combined effects of rising rent, renovictions, and discrimination from landlords and neighbours, and a lack of tenant protection.
  • Intersectionality is a key concern – there are multiple levels of discrimination 2SLGBTQ+ adults might experience, including racism and ableism.


Identifying communities for the comparative case study

The research team adopted a case study methodology for this study because contextual considerations influence the unique facilitators and barriers that 2SLGBTQ+ adults experience across the housing continuum.

The team set out to broadly study the housing experiences of queer and trans adults, some living in communities with relatively high availability of 2SLGBTQ+ housing and housing-adjacent services (typically urban centres), and others living in communities with relatively low availability (typically rural areas).

The team generated a list of factors likely to influence housing inequities experienced by 2SLGBTQ+ adults in any given community, which included:

  • The availability of existing data and the feasibility of collecting new data.
  • The extent to which local elected officials and community leaders engage in active advocacy on housing/homelessness and/or 2SLGBTQ+ community well-being, the existence of a local housing/homelessness strategy, and existing tenant rights protections.
  • The availability of and ease of access to local services.
  • Demographics, population trends, the community’s population density and the potential to engage Indigenous community members, newcomers, and other groups.
  • Local labour market conditions, rental vacancy rates, housing supply/cost ratios, cost of living, and poverty rates.
  • The visibility and strength of the queer and trans community, e.g.: queer-identified neighbourhoods, queer-owned businesses, pride events, representation in public office, supportive public attitudes/opinions, and the availability of 2SLGBTQ+-specific resources.
  • Overall community well-being including mental and physical health, social cohesion and responsibility, physical safety and security, community connections, etc.
  • The extent to which local housing and 2SLGBTQ+ stakeholders are identifiable and reachable and their capacity to contribute to research.

With this list of factors in mind, the team landed on two communities for the comparative case study: Saskatoon and Halifax and their surrounding rural areas.


Saskatoon and Halifax

Saskatoon (sâskwatôn; ᓵᐢᑿᑑᐣ) and Halifax (K’jipuktuk) are both considered mid-sized cities, but their housing landscapes are quite different. Halifax is currently facing an acute rental housing shortage, seeing shelter costs rise and vacancy rates drop dramatically in recent years, while rental costs in Saskatoon are considered to be favourable compared to other cities in Canada – although that affordability has started to slip.

Saskatoon has numerous local organizations offering support for 2SLGBTQ+ people including organizations such as OUTSaskatoon, USSU Pride Centre at the University of Saskatchewan, Queer Seniors of Saskatchewan, 2 Spirits in Motion Society, and Saskatoon Two-Spirit Society Inc.

Innovative initiatives have been developed in terms of queer housing in Saskatoon, such as Pride Home (OUTSaskatoon), a residential facility for 2SLGBTQ+ youth aged 16-21, which aims to contribute to the holistic well-being of youth in a dynamic and evolving community. However, one of the key findings from a Needs Assessment and Community Report on Queer Older Adults in Saskatchewan found that 50 percent of survey participants still expressed zero confidence in their ability to find assisted living or long-term care choices that will welcome and accept their identity as 2SLGBTQ+ individuals (Loewen et al., 2023).

According to the 2021 Census, Halifax was the second-most gender-diverse city in Canada, behind only Victoria. 2SLBGTQ+ people in Halifax are represented in the business community and in prominent local organizations. Halifax Pride has year-round events and their webpage includes resources for newcomers and refugees in Halifax who identify as 2SLGBTQ+. The South House, a full-time gender justice centre, offers resources such as workshops, educational programs, and referrals to support community members.

In both cities, 2SLBGTQ+ people make up a disproportionate number of the homeless population and there are research and statistics available to support the team’s research. Engaging with active 2SLGBTQ+ communities in these cities is imperative for ensuring the research project's relevance, accuracy, and ethical considerations in addressing the unique challenges and needs of 2SLGBTQ+ adults.


Next Steps

The research team is working on co-developing study instruments for data collection and submitting an ethical review application. Next, they will conduct interviews with 2SLGBTQ+ adults, local housing and 2SLGBTQ+ stakeholders, and decision-makers.

We look forward to getting an update from the team on the study’s findings and recommendations.


Want to learn more or interested to participate in an interview? Connect with Naheed Hosan and Anne-Marie Parent of the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation.

This post was written in collaboration with session speakers Naheed Hosan and Anne-Marie Parent and the SRDC team working on this project.