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Alpaca your bags, the SPRINT Project's Dr Tidmarsh heads to Canada

Updated: May 9


I was privileged enough to fly the SPRINT Project flag all the way to Canada earlier this year (Feb-March 2024) as part of my ESRC funded Postdoctoral Fellowship. I visited Carleton University and it’s Centre for Urban Youth Research in Ottawa followed by the University of Saskatchewan’s Community-University Institute for Social Research to present on work from our community-based project with St Basils and learn more about youth homelessness.


There has been so much to reflect on following a lot of knowledge exchange and learning from some very interdisciplinary perspectives beyond sport psychology.


I’ve been trying to write this blog for a couple of weeks now, mostly sitting with lots of reflections and new knowledge, wondering how to approach the blog. The recent release of Greater London Authority CHAIN statistics revealed that 4118 people were seen rough sleeping in the capital city between January and March 2024, shockingly, a third higher than the same period last year, and inclusive of 367 young people (under 25 years of age), proved a pivotal moment to finally get the experience into a blog.



 


Presenting and learning at Carleton University and the University of Saskatchewan


I had a fantastic time in Ottawa where I was hosted by Prof. Jacquie Kennelly and Cihan Erdal. Prof. Kennelly runs the Centre for Urban Youth Research, and the team’s interdisciplinary expertise across social sciences was an excellent opportunity for me to expand my current understanding of youth homelessness. I gave two talks whilst visiting at Carleton:


1) A community-based health and wellbeing approach to youth homelessness: Policy brief knowledge exchange forum. This event focused on current work translating learning from my PhD into a policy brief on strengths, and arts-based approaches as part of a community health and wellbeing approach to the youth homelessness crisis. This talk was actually recorded so if you want to watch and find out more you can do so by heading over to the video on Youtube.

 

2) Beyond walls: Exploring Experiences of Home Through Creative Methods

This talk was delivered in the beautiful Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre in downtown Ottawa and focused on the creative and participatory arts-based methods my current work has taken to explore experiences and public perceptions of homelessness through poetry. If you’re interested to see the future work related to this project, stay tuned via the blog for information on the release of the poetry e-book coming this June (2024).







After some short (by Canadian standards!) internal flights I headed over to the University of Saskatchewan, where I had the pleasure of being hosted by Prof. Isabel Findley and Dr Sarah Buhler from the Community-University Institute for Social Research. Time in Saskatoon was such an experience, my first blizzard and -40C (it turns out your eyelashes do freeze in this temperature!). Even with these conditions life continued on, and we had a fantastic event “Community Update on Housing and Homelessness Research” where I was invited to give a keynote talk providing a broad overview of MST4Life™, before focusing on the strengths-based process evaluation work from my PhD and the poetry work as part of my current post-doc. There were other talks throughout the day covering a variety of topics (Financialised landlords and evictions, subsidised rental housing mapping project, Canada housing survey, health social and economic outcomes, and the rental development program and social policy change).


CUISR Research Assistant Nazanin Jannati (Community Health and Epidemiology PhD candidate) documented the CUISR Community Update on housing and homelessness (February 26, 2024) using digital art.





 


We like to model our strengths-based and wellbeing approaches to the delivery in our presentations too. You can see an example here from the presentations I gave in Canada where I help provide opportunities for skill development and use in self-regulation strategies, and specifically here emotional awareness. Which one are you feeling like?





 

 

What struck me most during my time in Canada and from learning from a variety of academics, community-partners, and organisations as well as those with lived experience, is that whilst there are some stark contrasts between UK and Canadian homelessness (such as cultural considerations with regards to indigenous peoples), there were also a large number of similarities:


  • Homelessness continues to rise overall, including youth homelessness.

  • Financial insecurity and inequality continue to be significant contributing factors.

  • Housing precarity is exacerbated by inappropriate legal systems.

  • Stigma faced by those experiencing homelessness is present in both society and in systems.


Sadly, it is evident that the (youth)homelessness crisis is a global one, that must be tackled from across all systems, interdisciplinary approaches, and working together with communities using strengths-based approaches. Evidence from MST4Life™ demonstrates the benefits of such approaches and how co-designed, and co-delivered interdisciplinary programmes can support young people experiencing homelessness to achieve positive short and long-term outcomes. The ability to be aware of and develop further mental skills is of benefit to so many beyond the world of sport psychology. Take a look at our Toolkit trilogy and see if they could be of benefit to you and your organisation too.



 


Making use of mental skills myself!


I was in Canada for just over 3 and ½ weeks, as I was also able to take some annual leave to visit family that live out there whilst I was away. For a flying fearing 29-year-old with 7 flights in this time-period, a 10km-race in the snow and driving on the other side of the road making use of mental techniques and skills became a fundamental part of pre-departure planning and my time in Canada.





Most commonly I used either breathing techniques or grounding techniques to manage nerves in the present moment, like during take off or landing. I also used organisation and “What if, then I will..” planning to help with things like driving on the other side of the road. Spending lots of time in my growth zone meant that at weekends I was able to enjoy some downtime and get involved in seeing Canadian wildlife, dog sledding and ice skating too!


How could you make use of some of these mental techniques and skills for an upcoming trip you have?



 


Thank you to my wonderful hosts whilst I was out in Canada and to the ESRC for funding this knowledge exchange opportunity through my postdoctoral fellowship.



 

Image credit: Dr Grace Tidmarsh & Nazanin Jannati.

Written by Dr Grace Tidmarsh, ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow “A Community-based health and wellbeing approach to the UK youth homelessness crisis”.



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