Families First Research Project

A team from the Centre for Research on Educational and Community Services from the University of Ottawa, the City of Ottawa and Pinecrest-Queensway Community Health Centre are working together on a research study of the Families First program. Led by the University of Ottawa research team[1], this two year project is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The Families First program is intended to be a response to the significant increases in the number of homeless families and the length of their stays in Ottawa shelters since 2006. In 2010 alone, 832 different families found themselves in family shelters, with an average stay of 72 days. These families suffer from recurring cycles of social marginalization; poor health and poverty which too often make maintaining stable housing seem a difficult or even impossible task. In addition to its primary goal of addressing Ottawa’s homelessness issue, Families First provides a very significant research opportunity. Homeless families, particularly in Canada, have received relatively little research attention compared with homeless individuals. The Families First Research Project runs alongside the main program and is dedicated to studying this innovative intervention in action

The focus of the research will be on families who are homeless, living in the Family Shelter system in Ottawa (either at one of the Family Shelters or in an off-site motel as part of the Shelter system) and transitioning to permanent housing in the community.  The research team will try to learn more about what it is like for families who experience homelessness, what difficulties they face and which initiatives are and are not helpful to them as they make their transition into permanent housing.

The study will also try to learn more about how the Families First program design is helping families in the critical transition from shelter to permanent housing to ensure more stability and support to families in their integration to the community. The research study’s conclusions will help the University, the Shelters and the Families First program understand how to best help families who have experienced homelessness.


[1] The study team includes John Sylvestre (principal investigator), Tim Aubry and Catherine Lee from The Centre for Research on Educational and Community Services (CRECS) at the University of Ottawa , along with Madeleine Anderson,  Research Coordinator.