Toward Understanding Homelessness: The 2007 National Symposium on Homelessness Research. Consumer Integration and Self-Determination in Homelessness Research, Policy, Planning, and Services. Implications of Consumer Involvement in Research, Policy, and Planning

09/01/2007

Ethics and social justice argue for a prominent role for consumers who have experienced homelessness in research, planning, and policy-making, and a descriptive literature documents a large expansion of such roles. Qualitative accounts of experiences of consumers in these arenas make a persuasive case that, with adequate support, consumer involvement produces both benefits for consumers and improvements in research and policy.

  • Individual-Level Impacts on Consumers
    • With appropriate support, participation in research, planning, and policy offers consumers practical benefits (employment, skills) as well as personal growth and improved self-confidence.
  • Implications for Research, Policy, and Planning Processes
    • Effective consumer involvement in research, policy, and planning requires organizational support to address barriers, avoid tokenism, and authorize consumer decision-making.
    • When supported, integration of consumers adds to the relevance, validity, and sensitivity of homelessness research, service planning and policy making.
  • Implications for Ending Homelessness at a Population Level
    • Local consumer advocacy groups have pressed for the structural interventions (e.g., affordable housing) necessary to end homelessness at a population level. Consumer voices can make a unique contribution to leverage what must ultimately be a broad collaborative effort to restructure the systems that have thus far failed to do this.

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