Finding safety: A pilot study of managed alcohol program participants' perceptions of housing and quality of life



Pauly B, Gray E, Perkin K, Chow C, Vallance K, Krysowaty B & Stockwell T (2016) Finding safety: A pilot study of managed alcohol program participants' perceptions of housing and quality of life. Harm Reduction Journal, 13 (1), Art. No.: 15.

Background: There is a higher prevalence of alcohol use and severe alcohol dependence among homeless populations. The combination of alcohol use and lack of housing contributes to increased vulnerability to the harms of substance use including stigma, injury, illness, and death. Managed alcohol programs (MAPs) administer prescribed doses of alcohol at regular intervals to people with severe and chronic alcohol dependence and homelessness. As a pilot for a larger national study of MAPs, we conducted an in-depth evaluation of one program in Ontario, Canada. In this paper, we report on housing and quality of life outcomes and experiences of the MAP participants and staff. Methods: We conducted a pilot study using mixed methods. The sample consisted of 38 people enrolled in or eligible for entry into a MAP who completed a structured quantitative survey that included measures related to their housing and quality of life. All of the participants self-identified as Indigenous. In addition, we conducted 11 in-depth qualitative interviews with seven MAP residents and four program staff and analyzed the interviews using constant comparative analysis. The qualitative analysis was informed by Rhodes' risk environment framework. Results: When compared to controls, MAP participants were more likely to retain their housing and experienced increased safety and improved quality of life compared to life on the streets, in jails, shelters, or hospitals. They described the MAP as a safe place characterized by caring, respect, trust and a nonjudgmental approach with a sense of family and home as well as opportunities to reconnect with family members. Conclusions: The MAP was, as described by participants, a safer environment and a home with feelings of family and a sense of community that countered stigma, loss, and dislocation with potential for healing and recovery. The MAP environment characterized by caring, respect, trust, a sense of home, "feeling like family", and the opportunities for family and cultural reconnections is consistent with First Nations principles for healing and recovery and principles of harm reduction.

Severe alcohol use; Alcohol dependency; Homelessness; Housing first; Managed alcohol programs; Harm reduction; Alcohol harm reduction;

Harm Reduction Journal: Volume 13, Issue 1

Publication date31/12/2016
Publication date online09/05/2016
Date accepted by journal21/01/2016
PublisherBioMed Central

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Professor Bernadette Pauly

Professor Bernadette Pauly

Honorary Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences