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 Service Delivery


Consumer employment has increased notably in homeless services as well as in self-help and consumer-operated programs for mental health consumers. Outcome studies show peer service delivery is effective and distinctive, but requires appropriate institutional support.

  • Implications for Service Recipients
    • With adequate support and accommodation, peer staffing in homelessness programs is as effective as traditional services in helping service recipients spend less time homeless.
    • Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) programs are expanding opportunities for consumer staffing, but as yet there is no research evaluating the effects of these programs on homelessness or other outcomes.
    • New research on consumer-operated services shows that recovery-related program features are associated with improved well-being; but the research was not designed to examine effects on homelessness.
  • Implications for Service Processes and for Homeless Service Systems
    • Consumer-provided services share distinctive emphases (e.g., respect, support, and agency) and a work culture emphasizing support and less use of authority to leverage compliance.
    • Integrating consumer staff into traditional settings requires providing preparation, support, and supervision and addressing boundary issues, stigma, and discrimination.
  • Implications for Ending or Preventing Homelessness at a Population Level
    • Consumer-staffed and consumer-run programs have not typically focused on the system-level changes required to end homelessness at a population level.

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