“We have a roof over our head, but we have to eat too": Tracing the impact of shifting foodsapes on health and wellbeing from homelessness to supportive housing
Background: People facing extended periods of homelessness, whose daily routines are often highly structured around securing basic necessities, exhibit a remarkable degree of agency and resilience procuring food. Within this geography if food acquisition, what happens in and along the way also becomes deeply embedded in complex social and spatial processes – or foodscapes. Purpose: By exploring people’s shifting foodscapes during the transition from homelessness into permanent housing, this study aims to shed light on how daily activities involving food can impact a person’s sense of health and wellbeing. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten people enrolled in scattered-site independent and congregate living arrangements in Kingston, Ontario between November 2016 and March 2017. Observational research was also executed at eleven local charitable food providers. Data was coded using low inference, line-by-line coding and analyzed using through a constant comparative method. Results: The findings of this exploratory study indicate that people are now able to store, prepare, and consume food at home. This increased ability to eat when, where, and to a certain extent what they want has had a positive impact on their overall sense of health and wellbeing. However, other effective makers of wellbeing that are enacted along people’s everyday routines and activities within an urban landscape, such as the social and spatial process underpinning the act of acquiring and consuming food, remain largely unaddressed within the intervention. Furthermore, re-investment in ending homelessness continues to rely on the status quo system of insufficient, inadequate, and undignified charitable stop gaps as a solution to hunger. Implications: Understanding this contested and contradictory geography of food is critical to support people during the transition from homelessness into housing. The process of housing participants without addressing food simply creates new circuits of dependence and marginalization that continue to inadequately meet people’s basic needs in a dignified way.