PITCH: Peer Support & Homelessness: What Makes it Work?
Peers have shared experiences of phenomena such as mental ill health, addiction, and homelessness. Homelessness services are increasingly utilising peers in their models to support people experiencing homelessness. While there is extensive literature on peer-support in general, few studies focus on the potential change mechanisms that might underpin this intervention, particularly regarding homelessness. This study aims to utilise expert opinions to identify common viewpoints on components involved in effective peer-support.
Forty-three statements were developed from previous literature that broadly describes elements involved in peer-support. Forty experts (20 peers and 20 professionals) ranked the statements into a hierarchy. Using a Q Methodology approach to factor analysis, the study was done in two stages: 1) first order analysis to identify shared viewpoints within each participant group and 2) second order analysis of stage 1 results to identify common viewpoints held across participant groups.
Stage 2 analysis resulted in three differing viewpoints; the dominant viewpoint asserts that effective peer-support is rooted in experiential knowledge, where peers build unique, trusting relationships to provide clients with a different level of support. The results highlighted different types of peer-support and defined a new one: a unidirectional, mentorship-type of intentional peer-support.
This research helps us to bring definition to a broad and undefined area. Peers are often utilised in various health systems without consideration to the type of support that is given. By providing clarity on the type of support that peers provide, we are better able to evaluate the outcomes of this intervention and ensure optimal effectiveness.