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Exhibit features faculty research on youth homelessness

Feb 8, 2019
Guylaine Spencer

Naomi Thulien at exhibit

Dr. Naomi Thulien, an assistant professor in the McMaster School of Nursing, is one of seven leading scientists whose research is on display at a temporary art exhibit in downtown Toronto. The exhibit, “Redirecting the Future: The Intersection of Health and Poverty”, features five interactive installations and runs at Brookfield Place (181 Bay Street) from February 7-14.


exhibit poster

The installation for Thulien’s study “Transitioning Youth Out of Homelessness” consists of a giant cardboard box shelter filled with hash marks (denoting days/years passed). It symbolizes how life on the streets can be a prison sentence due to the lack of transitional supports. Guests will enter the shelter and listen to an audio story of a young person who has experienced homelessness. In addition to the displays, the program features two special events: a fundraising campaign launch on February 7 and a pop-up “Meet the Scientist” event on February 13 where researchers will field questions from the public.  

Thulien’s research project is funded through a grant from the St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation, which is hosting this exhibit and related events. She describes the research study as “The very first of its kind. We will follow 24 young people who are no longer homeless and are living independently. While we will provide all participants with rent supplements, half will also receive mentorship from an adult. We will then measure the effectiveness of each type of support.”

Of the 24 young people in the study, six will come from Hamilton, six from St Catharines and 12 from Toronto. “All of them will receive rent subsidies for two years,” says Thulien. “Participants from Hamilton and St Catharines will get $400 per month and participants from Toronto will get $500 a month. The premise is that it’s not just about getting these young people housed. They also need some social support. It’s a randomised control trial. Half of these young people will be randomly assigned to an adult mentor who will meet with them in person at least once a month for two years. In between those monthly ‘coffee chats’, we are asking the mentors to touch base once a week, either through text or phone. We’ll do a combination of qualitative interviews and quantitative assessments. The overall aim of the study is to look at meaningful socioeconomic integration.”

In addition to the research that the team plans to do, Thulien also hopes to produce a documentary film, depending on funding. “It would be great if we can follow a few young people over the two years and see what a difference a mentor and/or rent subsidies might make. This would be as a social advocacy piece to let people know how challenging it is for young people who are trying to leave homelessness.”

Although this is a small pilot study, “Our dream is to look at what we have learned and try to scale this up across Canada. It will depend on how much money we raise,” says Thulien.

For more information about the exhibition and campaign, see


Unique study examines deeper needs of formerly homeless youth


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