Addressing Homelessness Stigma: Finding Ways to Help Individuals to Thrive Following Homelessness

Dr. Carrie Marshall stands at the forefront of a critical mission: supporting the well-being of individuals experiencing homelessness. With a deeply rooted passion for social justice and human rights, Carrie’s journey into this field began during her studies in Occupational Therapy, where she encountered a glaring gap in the support systems for those transitioning out of homelessness. Motivated by a desire to make a tangible difference, she embarked on a mission to understand and address the multifaceted challenges faced by this group of people.

Reflecting on her journey, Carrie says, “I started in my PhD working on helping to identify how to support people to transition to housing following homelessness. What we know is that when people are housed following homelessness, their psychosocial well-being isn’t necessarily improved…I realized that when people get a home after being homeless, they still often feel lonely or like they don’t fit in.” This realization served as a catalyst for her research, driving her to explore innovative solutions to enhance the lives of people who have experienced homelessness.

Carrie’s groundbreaking work led to the development of the Peer-to-Community model, a holistic initiative that combines peer support and occupational therapy to facilitate the integration of individuals into their communities following homelessness. Rooted in the principles of empowerment and community building, this model has shown promising results in helping participants rebuild social networks and regain a sense of belonging.

“I believe that community integration is essential for individuals transitioning out of homelessness,” Carrie asserts. “The Peer-to-Community model provides a supportive framework for individuals to reconnect with their communities and rebuild their lives with dignity and respect.”

Beyond her research endeavors, Carrie is committed to countering the stigma surrounding homelessness—a pervasive issue that often exacerbates the challenges faced by those experiencing homelessness. Recognizing the power of education and awareness, she launched the “At Least Five Ways” initiative—an innovative campaign aimed at empowering youth and young adults to challenge stereotypes and foster empathy through creative expression.

Explaining the inspiration behind the campaign, she says, “One thing that holds people back from integrating into their communities following homelessness is the stigma associated with having experienced homelessness. By empowering young people to engage in dialogue and raise awareness, we hope to spark meaningful change in societal perceptions.”

The “At Least Five Ways” initiative invites participants to create animated videos highlighting innovative approaches to reducing stigma and promoting understanding. Through these videos, participants share personal experiences, challenge stereotypes, and offer practical solutions to address homelessness stigma. By fostering empathy and understanding, Dr. Marshall believes that we can create a more inclusive and supportive environment for people rebuilding their lives after experiencing homelessness.

As Carrie continues her research and advocacy efforts, her commitment remains steadfast. With every project, she strives to make a meaningful impact and advocate for the rights and dignity of individuals experiencing homelessness. Through collaboration, education, and empathy, she believes that we can create a more just and inclusive society for all. Dr. Carrie Marshall’s work serves as a beacon of hope, inspiring positive change and paving the way for a brighter future for generations to come.

Here are some papers directly related to this work:

Marshall, C.A., Holmes, J., Todd, E., Panter, G., *Plett, P., *Easton, C., *Perez, S., Landry, T., Collins, S., Jastak, M., Murray, R., *Goldszmidt, R., Rudman, D., Carlsson, A., Oudshoorn, A. & Forchuk, C. (2024). Co-designing the “Peer to Community (P2C) Model”: an intervention for promoting community integration following homelessness. International Journal on Homelessness. In press.

Marshall, C., *Cooke, A., *Bengall, J., Holmes, J., Aryobi, S., Phillips, B., Lysaght, R. & Gewurtz, R. (2024). “It’s like your days are empty and yet there’s life all around”: A mixed methods, multi-site study exploring boredom during and following homelessness. PLOS One.

Marshall, C., Phillips, B., Holmes, J., Todd, E., Hill, R., Panter, G., *Easton, C., Landry, T., Collins, S., Greening, T., O’Brien, A., Jastak, M., Ridge, R., *Goldszmidt, R., *Shanoff, C., Laliberte Rudman, D., Carlsson, A., Aryobi, S., *Szlapinski, J., *Carrillo-Beck, R., *Pacheco, N., *Perez, S., Oudshoorn, A. (2023). “I can’t remember the last time I was comfortable about being home”: lived experience perspectives on thriving following homelessness. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, 18(1), 2176979. [Contribution: 75%; IFR 2.179; Citations: 0]

Marshall, C., *Easton, C., Phillips, B., Boland, L., Isard, R., Holmes, J., *Shanoff, C., *Hawksley, K., Landry, T., *Goldszmidt, R., Aryobi, S., *Plett, P. & Oudshoorn, A. (2022). Experiences of transitioning from homelessness: A systematic review and meta-aggregation of qualitative studies conducted in middle to high income countries. Journal of Social Distress and Homelessness. Online ahead of print. 1-22.

Marshall, C.A., Phillips, B., Holmes, J., Todd, E., Hill, R., Panter, G., *Easton, C., Landry, T., Collins, S., Greening, T., O’Brien, A., Jastak, M., Ridge, R., *Goldszmidt, R., *Shanoff, C., Laliberte Rudman, D., Carlsson, A., Aryobi, S., *Perez, S. & Oudshoorn, A. (2022). ‘We stick people in a house and say okay, you’re housed. The problem is solved’: A qualitative study of service provider and organisational leader perspectives on thriving following homelessness. Health & Social Care in the Community. Online ahead of print.

Marshall, C., Boland, L., Westover, L., Marcellus, B., Weil, S. & Wickett, S. (2020). Interventions to address community integration in homeless persons: A systematic review. Health and Social Care in the Community, 26(8), 1843-1862.