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Safe Haven

Safe Haven: The Story of a Shelter for Homeless Women

Rae Bridgman
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Safe Haven
    Book Description:

    In this groundbreaking work, urban anthropologist Rae Bridgman, in careful and intimate detail, explores the perspectives of the women who work and live at Savard's, a unique shelter for homeless women. Bridgman uses the design and development of Savard's - a housing model developed by women for women - as an opportunity to document the project's original vision and what happened once it opened. There are few rules at Savard's. Women may come and go as they wish, and referrals to other services are made only when a woman has indicated interest in taking action on her own behalf. It is a model that aims to provide a safe haven for the chronically homeless.

    The study traces the evolution of this type of shelter, providing qualitative research and useful analysis for academics, policy-makers, service providers, and activists. Based on many hours of participant observation as well as interviews and staff records,Safe Havenpresents a distinct picture of the chronically homeless and those on the frontlines of this lifesaving service.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7953-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Notes to the Reader: The Ethics of Research in a Safe Haven
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 3-15)

    This book is about women and homelessness. It tells the life history of Savard′s, a shelter for chronically homeless women in Toronto. More than four years of fieldwork bring Savard′s story to life. The book speaks about the hopes, dreams, and fears of the women I met during the research. These are women who have survived the streets. These are women who have worked for years in the city′s shelters and dropins. These are women who have worked together to build a safe haven for homeless women.

    How did this research begin? What methods were used? What approach did I...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Reach Out
    (pp. 16-24)

    The fragments beginning this chapter are drawn from my fieldnotes. They are inspired by anecdotes from front-line workers about longterm homeless women they have known or moments witnessed during my fieldwork.

    What is it like to do street outreach with chronically homeless women? Chapter 2 answers this question. Outreach to the most marginalized women living on the streets of Toronto - the Resource Group identified this as essential, in order for Savard′s to accommodate these women. The need for long-term, intensive, and flexible outreach to homeless people living on the street was recognized in the 1996 report,Metropolitan Toronto Mental...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Shelter Women
    (pp. 25-44)

    Why are there homeless women? Why can we not help all the homeless women? Why do we need Savard′s?

    The title for the third chapter carries a certain ambiguity. The choice is deliberate, for it draws attention to two vantage points: one focuses on chronically homeless women, themselves, and the conditions under which they live their lives. The other considers the perspectives of those who would help their homeless sisters and have tried to give them solace and shelter. For there are many approaches to providing shelter and support for homeless women.

    ′Shelter Women′ synthesizes themes from the literature on...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Safe Haven: The Vision
    (pp. 45-59)

    ′Safe Haven: The Vision′ explores initial planning discussions and decisions about the nature of the Women Street Survivors Project. Those working on the project conceived of it as a radical alternative to current paradigms of shelter provision for chronically homeless women in Toronto. They were knowledgeable about the limitations of other shelters, programs, and funding arrangements, and drew collectively on years of experience in ′the sector.′

    This chapter explores the vision - the questions, debates, and uncertainties. ′Whom are you not able to serve, and why not?′ How could women with a history of violent behaviour be helped, when they...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE By Design
    (pp. 60-76)

    On 10 March 1995, during a Resource Group meeting about the design of Strachan House (the larger building of which Savard′s is a part), the architects brought preliminary drawings, outlining rough ideas for the building′s design. In the ′tour′ of the first floor plans, the architect pointed to an area at the easternmost part of the building and heard some reactions:

    Architect: This white area here - that′s the area for the street survivors. There′s nothing drawn yet, because we don′t really have any ideas. We′re still working on what it′s going to be like, so it′s left out at...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Come Inside
    (pp. 77-100)

    This chapter simulates one week′s worth of entries written by Savard′s staff in the daily logbook. It is summertime. Savard′s has been open approximately a year and a half at the time of the entries. Notes for each day span two twelve-hour shifts. Names of staff are not recorded for each shift, as is usually done, in order not to deflect attention from the residents and their rhythms. While there are approximately ten full-time staff, relief staff also cover shifts on a fairly regular basis.

    I have simulated the entries in order not to compromise confidentiality for residents or staff,...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Natural Progression
    (pp. 101-127)

    This chapter begins with the words of two Savard′s front-line workers. The first was interviewed after the project had been open one and a half years. The second quotes another staff member, interviewed when the project had been open for almost three years. Keeping in mind, ′You can′t operate with the same principles,′ this chapter explores shifts in the operation of Savard′s, as staff worked daily with the original vision - ′that we recognize is ragged around the edges, whose boundaries shift and change, and one that requires the vision and knowing of others to patch together′ (Schneekloth 1994:302).


  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Long Road from the Street
    (pp. 128-140)

    Many of the women who live at Savard′s have had intermittent contact with Toronto′s shelter system, but ′chose′ to live on the streets. Some are barred from other shelters, or placed on contracts that limit their hours of stay, because of their aggressive or ′irrational,′ even bizarre behaviours. They are also excluded from existing supportive housing for the same reasons that they are not welcome in the hostels. Following are three profiles of women who came to live at Savard′s during the time of my fieldwork. These women were struggling to survive on the streets with limited, if any, options...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 141-146)
  14. References
    (pp. 147-156)
  15. Index
    (pp. 157-161)