chelseaskanes 2019 cropThis research was carried out in the winter of 2019 by Chelsea Skanes for London's Centre of Hope and Fanshawe College. This blog post presents the key findings of her research. To access the full research paper, click here. For the research poster, click here.

Canada’s population is aging at a rapid pace(1). This demographic trend has highlighted gaps in service provision, particularly to those experiencing homelessness. There is little to no documentation or research that has been conducted on older adults experiencing homelessness and their knowledge and/or experiences of long-term care.

As Canada's population ages, more people over 50 are experiencing homelessness for the first time(2). People over the age of 50 stay longer in shelters than people under 50(3). It has been shown that longer shelter stays cause negative health and social experiences(3), while shorter stays in emergency shelter has a positive social and financial impact on society(4). Better knowledge of housing and support options may reduce length of shelter stays.

Research was conducted at the Salvation Army Centre of Hope (COH) in London, ON using semi-structured interviews exploring participant experiences in emergency shelters and knowledge of long-term care. Research found there was a general lack of knowledge of long-term care and confusion around the differences between a “retirement home” and a “long-term care” facility. Participants had both positive and negative experiences within shelter, often rooted in how they were treated by shelter staff and other residents. There was a unanimous desire for independence from participants.

Although the results from this research cannot be generalized due to a short research period and small sample size (n=3), this initial look at gaps in knowledge of housing options and support indicates future studies should collect a wider range of data in order to better understand the knowledge and needs of population.

Next steps include researching experiences of people who have transitioned from shelter to long-term care, knowledge of shelter staff on long-term care, knowledge of long-term care staff on homelessness, as well as the creation of additional resources and education sessions for emergency shelter staff and residents. Additionally, future projects could draw upon similarities and differences between emergency shelter and long-term care in education. Ultimately, research and education should aim to allow people to be better informed and feel independent when making housing choices.


  1. Statistics Canada. (2018). Seniors. Retrieved on 8 Jan 2019 from
  2. 2. McDonald, L., Dergal, J., Cleghorn, L. (2007) Living on the margins: older homeless adults in Toronto. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 49(1-2), 19-46.
  3. Homeless Prevention, Neighbourhood, Children, and Fire Services, City of London (2018). London’s emergency shelters progress report: 2011-2017.
  4. Gaetz , S., Donaldson, J., Richter, T., Gulliver , T.(2013). The State of Homelessness in Canada 2013. Toronto: Canadian Homelessness Research Network Press.

Skanes, Chelsea. (2019). Navigating the System: Older Adult Perceptions on Emergency Shelter and Long-Term Care in London, Ontario. Gerontology Inter-Professional Practice Capstone Project. Fanshawe College.


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